WMU News

Tour of Turkey and seminar series offer unique learning opportunity

Jan. 21, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- History, culture and learning will intertwine in a far-off land during a two-week trip to Turkey May 6-21 and right in Kalamazoo during a companion seminar series that begins Saturday, Jan. 22.

Western Michigan University is sponsoring the tour and related seminar series. A major goal of both activities is to take in all aspects of Turkish traditions and customs from the ancient to the modern. In particular, the two-week trip to Turkey offers a unique learning experience, says Dr. Marlene Breu, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and tour co-coordinator.

"We really want people to learn about the country," says Breu, who specializes in textile and apparel studies. "It's not just a tour like other tours, where you just go around and see one sight and then go to another one. This will give people a totally different perspective than most any other tour they're going to find anyplace."

The tour, sponsored by WMU's College of Education, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and Office of International Affairs, will focus on family life, education and religion; traditional and contemporary textiles and dress; art, architecture and interior design; food and festivities; and nutritional issues for families.

"I think one of the unique things about this tour is the emphasis on the family," says Dr. Margie J. Geasler, associate professor of family and consumer sciences and co-coordinator of the tour. "In addition to family customs and relationships, there also will be a focus on food and housing for families, jobs for families, and the living environment. I think often people go to Turkey and see the

architecture and history. That also will be included on this tour, but in particular how they impact people."

"Instead of just traveling around and looking at the sights, we can actually take the time to really examine what's going on," Breu adds. "We want to help people understand the country."

Tour highlights include viewing Istanbul while cruising the Bosphorus; a visit to the famous Blue Mosque named for its intricate blue tile decoration; a tour of the old city walls and a Byzantine mosaic exhibit in the Chora Museum; trips to museums in Ankara and Konya; a visit to textile and apparel industries in Denizli; a trip to the ancient city of Epheasus; a guided tour of old Ottoman houses; a visit to Bursa, the original capital of the Byzantine Empire and once a center of the silk industry; and much more.

Both Breu and Geasler have visited Turkey before. Breu has conducted research in the country since 1990, often frequenting small villages to talk to people about clothing and textiles.

"Turkish people are known for treating their guests very kindly," Breu says. "I've heard many other people say how hospitable they are and how much they like traveling in Turkey."

Those concerned about recent earthquakes in Turkey can take comfort in knowing that there are no overnight stays in the recent earthquake zone, Breu adds.

The tour is open to both students and the general public.

Cost of the trip is $2,745 with a first deposit of $250 due on Feb. 4. All lodging, meals, tips, in-country travel, museum admissions, travel insurance and instructional materials is included. Airfare to and from Turkey is additional to allow for various points of departure. Tour space is limited to 30 people.

Students who sign up may earn two credit hours by attending the companion seminars on three Saturdays leading up to the tour. The general public also is strongly urged to join the tour and may attend seminar sessions at no charge whether or not they plan to go on the trip.

The Saturday seminars begin Jan. 22 and continue Feb. 5 and 19 and are sponsored by the WMU Visiting Artists Program, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, the College of Education and Haenicke Center for International Studies. All three seminars begin at 10:15 a.m. in Room 3005 of Kohrman Hall.

"We have distinguished guest speakers and experts on different aspects of Turkey coming in," Breu says. "By going through the Visiting Scholars Program, we were able to pay them honoraria to lecture and help prepare students, faculty and members of the community who would like to go on this tour and give them a much better background on Turkey than they might have otherwise."

This Saturday's seminar begins with a session on "Turkey's Ancient and Byzantine Heritage" featuring Dr. Ronald Marchese, professor of ancient history and archaeology at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Other topics this Saturday, along with speakers and times, are "Modern Turkish Republic: 1923-Present" with Dr. Doug Howard, professor of history, Calvin College, 1 p.m.; "Reflections on the Islamic Traditions" with Dr. David Ede, WMU professor of religion, 1:45 p.m.; "The Role of History in Shaping the Contemporary Turkish Identity," panel discussion, 2:40 p.m.; and "Personal Perspectives on Visiting Turkey: Advice and Highlights," panel discussion, 4 p.m.

The Feb. 5 seminar begins with a session on "Relationship Among Turkish Art, Architecture & Interiors" with Dr. Serim Denel, professor of architecture at California Polytechnic State University. Other topics, speakers and times that day include "Women and Modern Turkish Families" with Dr. Barbara Bilge, Eastern Michigan University, 1 p.m.; "The Role of Art & Architecture in Shaping the Contemporary Turkish Family," panel discussion, 2:40 p.m.; and "Personal Perspectives on Visiting Turkey: Advice and Highlights," panel discussion, 4 p.m.

Breu will start the Feb. 19 seminar with a discussion on "Textiles & Apparel in Turkey: Historical Foundation to Modern Industry." Other sessions, speakers and times that day include "Turkish Educational System and How it is Changing" with Dr. Muge Gocek, associate professor of sociology and director of women's studies programs, University of Michigan, 1:30 p.m.; "Food and Fiber: Economic Implications for Turkish People" with WMU instructor Mozhdeh Bruss, 2:30 p.m.; and "Personal Perspectives on Visiting Turkey: Advice and Highlights," panel discussion, 4 p.m.

For more information on the tour or seminar series, call Breu at (616) 387-3434 or Geasler at (616) 387-3715.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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