October 27, 2020
From Lawrence to Laredo: An Academic Sojourn

On Monday, September 14, Emmanuel College Associate Professor of Political Science Petros Vamvakas, Ph.D. embarked on a month-long academic sojourn that began in Lawrence, Massachusetts and ended in Laredo, Texas.

The main goal of the trip aimed to emphasize the importance of small-town America, rather than focus on the large coastal urban centers, far away from the insular bubble of the Northeast urban experience.

The trip was primarily planned around one of the introductory political science courses taught by Dr. Vamvakas, though he noted prior to his departure that, “all three of my courses will benefit [from the trip] and I foresee that other classes and the wider [Emmanuel] community will benefit from this experience as well.”

Travel was done by car as a total of 11 stops were made along the way in eight different states on a route that made up more than 5,000 total miles. Stops were deliberately planned to experience a different geographic area each week with all Dr. Vamvakas’s classes as he taught on the road.

“This was an eye-opening experience, not just for me but for my students,” said Vamvakas.

Vamvakas documented the travel experience in different ways including a video blog, social media updates and photojournalism.

Stops along the way included Chelsea, Mass., Central Falls, Rhode Island, New Haven, Conn., Reading, Penn., Langley Park, Maryland, Robbins, North Carolina, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

As Vamvakas travelled, he and his classes looked at several variables in each city including the population demographic and density, median income, poverty levels, education budget for schools, employment/unemployment rates, food security/insecurity levels, immigration statistics, regional political affiliations, crime rates, and health and services available during COVID-19.

“We found the level of poverty directly correlates to public signs of political support in regards to the presidential race as well as social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter,” said Vamvakas.

Shortly after the trip commenced, Vamvakas shared his findings with the Emmanuel community during an interactive presentation on Zoom that was open to students, faculty, alumni and friends.

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