A group of six Colby-Sawyer students were selected to spend their fall break in Miami for the first Wesson Weekend trip since the COVID-19 pandemic. The trip was led by School of Business & Social Sciences Assistant Professor Christina Perez and School of Business and Social Sciences Professor Randy Hanson. Participants in Wesson Weekend trips are current Wesson Honors students that complete an additional application, and are chosen based on the quality of their applications and level of engagement with the program. The Wesson Honors Program is an initiative that offers students opportunities and resources to further develop intellectual growth and personal leadership. Despite the name, Wesson Weekend trips are usually planned with a four-day itinerary.

Perez chose Miami as a destination so students could learn about diversity, equity and inclusion from multiple perspectives. During the trip, the group visited various areas of Miami to learn about immigration status, socioeconomic disparities, the impact of climate change and the LGBTQ+ community in the city. To prepare for the trip, each student was assigned a particular neighborhood or area in the city. Students conducted preparatory research, and then shared that knowledge with their peers onsite.

“When we visit those areas, the students assigned to that area were responsible for teaching us a bit about its history, culture and popular destinations,” Perez said.

During the trip, the six students, Colby Volkernick ’25, Sara Robinson ’24, Emelia Potter ’25, Courtney Brewster ’25, Destiny Cruz ’25 and Emma Yalmokas ’24, visited several locations throughout the region. Destinations included neighborhoods that display the economic disparities of the area, like Little Havana and Coral Gables, unique ecosystems found in the Everglades National Park and the Redlands and cultural hubs like Wynwood, a popular arts district with a significant immigrant population.

“I researched the Everglades,” Potter, a nursing major from New London, New Hampshire, said. “I learned about the indigenous people and the history of the national park. For me, the trip was a wonderful opportunity to learn about a place that I did not know very much about previously.”

Cruz, of Fall River, Massachusetts, was also particularly interested in the Everglades portion of the trip.

“One of the experiences I really enjoyed was when we went to the Everglades and had a tour both on foot and on water via airboat,” Cruz, who is majoring in forensic psychology, said. “While on this tour, we were educated on the Miccosukee Indian tribe, who has immense history in the Everglades.”

For Brewster, the contrast between the physical environment of Coastal Florida and that of New England was particularly memorable.

“The landscape diversity was one of the biggest surprises for me on the trip because I am so used to the landscape of New England, which does not compare to Miami,” she said, while also reflecting fondly on the variety of local cuisines. “One of my favorite parts of the trip was trying new foods I had never had before specific to Cuban, Mexican and Nicaraguan cultures, which was a tasty way to explore the diversity of Miami.”

However, it was the architecture that made the greatest impression on Volkernick, a business administration major from Rumford, Maine.

“We learned the way that homes need to be built up to prevent flooding,” he said. “We saw this first hand on our walking tour of the Everglades, where a trail was flooded due to rain the previous night.”

As organizer and group leader, Perez said she was pleased with the outcome of the trip, the first hosted by the Wesson Honors program this academic year.

“The trip was very successful and we received some great feedback from the students,” she said.

The next Wesson Weekend trip is planned for the spring semester, with Randy Hanson and Director of the Student Learning Collaborative Caren Baldwin-Dimeo taking students to Mexico.