Through a series of academic sessions and hands-on activities, you will learn about American history, government, and culture to acquire the skills and experiences necessary to understand American history, society and culture.  To this end, we will cover such topics as the U. S. Constitution, the structure of the American government, American foreign policy, and other important aspects of the United States to help you familiarize yourself with American culture and democracy.  We will also focus on the theme of American identity. To the consternation and puzzlement of those living in other parts of the world, citizens of the United States have been obsessed about how to define what it means to be American since the foundation of the country.  This is partially explainable by the fluid nature of the geography and demographics of the United States.  Since the days of the early Republic, elections have often turned on who succeeded in portraying their opponent as un-American.  Minority groups have worked to find their places in American pluralism, and newly arrived immigrants have struggled with, and against, integration and, at times, nativism.  To help you understand this complex phenomenon, we will be reading and discussing touchstone documents throughout the term.

The institute syllabus, calendar, additional course material, and announcements are all posted on the ITD Moodle site for this course. Students will be responsible for consulting the site daily. You can access the site at You will receive your username and password to access the site during the Moodle orientation at the beginning of the institute.

Upon completion of the program, you will gain an understanding of the political system of the United States, including issues surrounding social and cultural identity, the growth and development of American democracy, and United States relations with the rest of the world, particularly Latin America.

The daily schedule will be to convene at 9:30 for an informal discussion of the previous day's activities.  From 10 a.m. to 12:30p.m. students will participate in academic sessions that will consist of lectures and group discussions. Following lunch, students will participate in more lectures, site visits, or leadership training. This broad array of activities will expose students to a variety of institutions and issues found in and confronting Western New York to illustrate points made during the academic sessions, give students a flavor of Western New York as a region within the United States, and help students connect the abstract with the applied. We will conclude each week with a session to reflect on the learning experience and activities of the week and discuss any adjustments to the schedule or curriculum if necessary.

These are some of the topics covered during the academic sessions:

•    Founding America:  An examination of America's Origin Story[ies]
•    The Constitution
•    American Political System
•    Civil War
•    Recreation in America
•    Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity
•    U. S. Economic History
•    U. S. Presidential History
•    U. S. Foreign Policy, with emphasis on the relationship between
     the United States and Latin America

At the end of the institute, students will present about their experience during the SUSI program in Washington, DC. Throughout the institute, students will work together on a 30-minute presentation. In the presentation, students should be sure to answer the following questions: “What difference does this institute make on our lives as student leaders?  What difference will it make to us as future leaders?, and What will you take with you from this experience?” As part of your weekly review sessions, you will be asked to work in small groups on your final presentations.

To help you apply your U.S. experience upon returning to your own community, school and country, the ITD SUSI project is sponsoring a mini-grant competition for four $500 mini-grants available to your Institute.  We will invite you to work alone, in pairs, or in small groups of 3 or 4 to complete a mini-grant proposal to implement a small project upon your return.  Projects must build upon one of the academic, leadership, or cultural themes covered during your Institute program.  Projects that aim to multiply the institute experience by informing other students, faculty, and/or community members about institute themes will receive priority.


Melissa Yaworsky will coordinate the leadership components of the institute.  Our goal with the leadership activities is to provide different leadership formats and venues that will allow you to see the applicability of the academic and community service portions of the institute. Service learning will also be a key component of your experience at St. Bonaventure University.    

The institute includes several activities and day trips that will expose students to important cultural events and sites in Western New York. Students will also watch movies and documentaries to grapple with major cultural transformations in American society throughout its history and today. Finally, students will have a chance to learn about the local culture by interacting with local students, families, and professors.

Some of the local sites you will see during your stay include:

These include:
•    Quick Center for the Arts
•    Chautauqua Institute
•    Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Marin House
•    Delaware Park and Olmstead Park Conservancy
•    Niagara Falls
•    Powwow at the Seneca Nations Summer Festival
•    Seneca Museum
•    A series of films that have been selected to illustrate American culture and
      democracy and prompt discussion.

You will have several opportunities to talk about your own culture with your peers, your mentors, your lecturers, and your local host family over the weekend you will spend with them. You will also participate in a potluck with your host families during your last week in Olean.   

In addition to learning about American life and culture in Western New York, institute participants will also have the opportunity to visit other places in the United States. While in town, you will have a chance to spend time in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, East Aurora, and the Chautauqua Institution. In late July you will travel to Chicago, Ill. In August you will travel to New York City, N.Y. and Washington, D.C.   

Participants will have free time most evenings.  You will have access to a computer lab.  A peer mentor will be available to drive you to local shops and attractions and help you in other ways.  You will also have access to our library, fitness center, and athletic fields.  There is a six-mile paved biking/walking trail that goes through campus.

As a participant of this program, you may not extend your stay in the U.S. beyond August 16, 2014. If family, or friends, want to visit you, we recommend that they visit you at your host institution. You are required to attend all institute classes and site visits; however during free evenings and weekends you may spend time with your visitors. Since not all evenings and weekends are free, please check-in with institute staff before scheduling any visits with relatives or friends. Visitors are responsible for their own accommodations and transportation while visiting you at your institute. You are not allowed to fly or travel long distances to visit family or friends away from your host institute. With the permission of institute staff you may make arrangements to meet with family or friends while on study tour as long as your visit does not conflict with programmed activities and clear contact information of the person, and places you are visiting, are provided.  If you have any questions about visitation policy please consult with your program directors.

Institute participants who meet the requirements of the course will receive a Certificate of Course Completion from St. Bonaventure University. Exams, tests and quizzes will not be used to evaluate your performance. However, to complete the Institute successfully, you must do the following:
•    Attend all scheduled course activities, including lectures, discussions, films, and field trips. Participate in class discussions and exercises. 
•    Complete reading assignments and other assignments as required by the presenters.
•    Complete journal assignments.
•    Prepare a final presentation about your experience during the institute during our final meeting in Washington, D.C.

You will receive more information about each of these activities during your orientation and on your first day on campus.