Teaching and research on the high seas

  • Date

    Wed 14 Mar 18

Diane Holt

An academic from Essex Business School has been updating colleagues and students on her three-month teaching and research adventure on the high seas.

Professor Diane Holt is spending her study leave aboard a ‘floating’ campus as the only UK academic on a study abroad programme on a passenger ship.

Semester at Sea offers students from across the world an alternative to the study abroad trips most universities offer. As part of their degree programmes they spend 14 weeks attending on-board classes, backed up with field trips, impact experiences and immersion into local cultures, which bring life to the subjects they are learning in the classroom.

Professor Holt is teaching modules on supply chain management, leadership and social responsibility, and sustainable and social ventures. She set sail in January and will spend 104 days at sea travelling 25,000 nautical miles and visiting 102 countries across four continents.

Speaking before the trip, Professor Holt said: “This is a really great opportunity for me and everyone on board. We will be visiting places I have wanted to go to for some time – in particular Vietnam and Cambodia, where I will be staying with a family in a local village, visiting temples and learning more about local industry, including mat weaving and coconut processing.

“In Ghana we’ll be learning more about craftsmen who have turned coffin making into an art form and we’ll visit the stingless bee project – a sustainable development initiative in the rainforest. Our study leave programme, which gives academics a break from their teaching and administration responsibilities to further their own studies, is a real strength at the University of Essex. Having the flexibility to do something like this is fantastic and everybody at Essex has been so supportive.

“I’ll be teaching three modules during the voyage, and plan to use time on board to also write up my own research and case studies on social and environmental enterprises, including some I see on the voyage. I expect the field trips to not only broaden my own knowledge which I can then pass down to my students, but my in-country experiences will also prove useful when planning future research projects”.

Professor Holt will also be looking at the supply chain for chocolate – visiting a cocoa plantation and taking it through to where the chocolate is being sold. She’ll see snow monkeys and visit Zen temples in Japan and will learn more about Myanmar’s tribal culture. In South Africa she will be running field visits to social enterprises in the townships and hosting a reception on board ship, the MV World Odyssey.

Semester at Sea is organised by the Institute for Shipboard Education and Colorado State University. There are 550 students, from 35 different countries, and around 100 academic and support staff on the trip, which will end in Germany in April 2018.