Ohio University students gain new perspective in Washington, DC

Published: December 10, 2022 Author: Staff reports

A group of 16 Ohio University students traveled to the nation’s capital for an unforgettable three-day weekend last month. The students, including six veterans, got to hear Vice President Kamala Harris deliver the Veterans Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. They earned two credit hours for participating in the Memorial Voices study away experience in Washington, D.C. In addition to attending the Arlington National Cemetery veterans service, they visited historic monuments and museums and got to explore the city in small groups. 

The group visited memorials for World War II, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Spy Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For senior Jon Kostival, integrated social studies major in the Patton College of Education and a United States Army veteran, the Memorial Voices trip was an opportunity to experience a city and sites he had long wanted to visit. Kostival said the United States Holocaust Museum had a big impact on him, particularly as a social studies major. 

“The museum had me reflecting on how fragile human life is and how we must make sure something like the Holocaust never happens again,” Kostival said. “I believe the museum is ultimately a call to action to do more than be a bystander.”

Second-year student Christine Blay, a nursing and public health major, loves history and the wealth of cultures and history on display in Washington, D.C. so she jumped at the opportunity to travel to the city and experience some of its memorials and museums with friends from Ohio University. 

“Visiting places like the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in many ways has brought me so much closer to my roots and culture,” Blay said. 

Love of travel and the city of Washington, D.C. also inspired graduate student Trinh Nguyen to participate in the Memorial Voices trip. Nguyen, a Vietnamese student in Asian Studies and education, appreciated learning American perspectives on the Vietnam War by visiting the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. 

“Tombstones are silent, but they can tell us so much about history,” Nguyen said. “They remind me as a teacher to encourage my students to be grateful for the past, to value peace, and always consider things from different perspectives. This trip gave me valuable experience as a teacher.”

Colby Berry, Ethan Barnes, Jon Kostival, and Blade Eblin are shown at the WWII Memorial
OHIO veterans Colby Berry, Ethan Barnes, Jon Kostival, and Blade Eblin are shown at the WWII Memorial.

Sue Fletcher, curriculum coordinator in the Office of First Year and Student Transitions, and Dr. Lisa Flowers-Clements, assistant director for advising and scholarship compliance in the Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention, led the trip. Fletcher has led the Memorial Voices trip for several years and designed it as an experience that allows students to experience Washington’s memorials and museums through the lens of voices that should be remembered and honored. 

Part of the experience included facilitated discussion of the meaning of Veterans Day. Kostival appreciated the opportunity to connect with and forge friendships with other OHIO veterans and to share his perspectives as a veteran with other students in an accepting setting.

“Our discussions all made me feel supported and that my service mattered,” Kostival said. “The transition from service member to student is often challenging, but this trip showed that people care, want to hear about our experiences, and want to reflect with us.”

The Memorial Voices trip is open to any OHIO student but prioritizes the participation of students who are veterans.