Ask a Travel Leader: Arizona State University's Penny Ann Dolin

Last month, we featured Hart Travel Partners’ commitment to customization within each and every travel program—it’s what makes us unique.  This month, we talk to one of our favorite partners in travel, Penny Ann Dolin of Arizona State University (ASU), about how we work together to create an academically credible travel program designed specifically for college students. 

Penny is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Graphic Information Technology program at ASU who specializes in photography and imaging.  For the past few years, she has led a Photography in Paris travel program that provides in-depth experiences for her students.  We have been so impressed by the work of her students that we have featured their photography on our website!

How did you get involved in planning travel programs?
I’ve always loved Europe – and especially France – and I wanted to go back.  I was approached by another educational travel company and thought a travel program would be a great way to combine my love of travel with my love of teaching. 

How did you decide to travel with Hart Travel Partners?
The first educational travel company I worked with provided a learning curve – they were inflexible and their offerings were not geared towards college students.  I had worked with Steve while he was with this other company, and so when he left to start Hart Travel Partners, I contacted him so I could work with him directly.  

Hart Travel Partners understands the difference between a standard 'cookie cutter trip' and a faculty-led academic travel program designed specifically for colleges and universities.  They also understand the need to customize itineraries and work with the person planning the program.
Hart Travel Partners provides a great, great program.  What sets them apart from others is that Steve and his team actually listen to your concerns and what you want to do differently.  This is so important when you have a vision for your students and for your course.

How do you recruit your students?
Since we are a photography course, we always end up with a lot of cool photos that we can share with prospective travelers.  I’ve found that once you’ve had a successful trip, it’s easy to recruit for the next one. 
I work with ASU’s study abroad office, which hosts a study abroad fair, and do presentations for students.  But I really rely mostly on social media, our program’s website, and word of mouth.  Twitter and Facebook are helpful getting the word out.
My first year with Hart Travel Partners, my colleague Chad Westover and I took 12 students.  By year two, 40 students were interested but we capped it at 18.  Our students come from many majors.  No matter what level photographer you are, you will learn – how to visually define a space, how architecture serves as a vehicle to build a visual story around, and how to create a narrative about where you’ve been.  Every student produces their own photography book by the end of the program.
I treat Paris as the classroom, and at the end of the day we'll have a roundup and edit the ten best photos from that day.  So the students know that not only will they have a great travel experience, they will gain real skills as well.

What do you find to be the most rewarding about creating a travel program?
It’s pretty cool to see the world through someone else's eyes for the first time.  That’s why I teach photography.  I can actually watch students learn to see.  By taking them to another country I can watch their eyes light up and see them change. I believe that travel does change people.  On our travel programs, I like to act as a catalyst to help students develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
You know you've done a good job when students sign up to travel more than once.  I have a party for my travelers about two months after we return and they always tell me it was the best experience!
What advice would you give to a teacher, faculty member or administrator considering their first travel program?
Ideally, you should go somewhere you've already been for your first travel program with students.  Also, don’t do a huge trip with too many people, and don’t try to jam too many activities into one day.  You always need more time than you think, so I no longer try to do more than two events in one day.
Having a great logistical team on the ground is terribly important.  That’s one of the greatest reasons I love Steve and Hart Travel Partners.  Steve knows people on the ground and his teams are fantastic.  My team in Paris is like family.  I love them and can’t wait to get back to see them every year!