Vice President for Student Life Sue Weitz traveled the world’s oceans last fall as executive dean of Semester at Sea, making stops in Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, India, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Japan. In her charge were 604 students, including three from Gonzaga. In the cabin next door were Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah.
“One afternoon, in a standing-room-only Union, Archbishop sat casually on the stage and talked with us about apartheid and his family,” Weitz said, “All the way back to when he was a child. He was so candid with us, so honest and open. It was an incredible moment for everyone in the room.”
Such moments may not happen again. While aboard the MV Explorer, Archbishop Tutu announced his retirement from public life.
As the lead administrator on board, Weitz led busy days, checking with the captain each morning on shipboard operations and upcoming ocean weather; conferring with faculty and staff; and occasionally attending a seminar on, say, child slave trafficking in Africa. Most striking for Weitz were the contrasts she found among their ports of call. “To be able to compare Takoradi, Ghana, with Yokohama, Japan, or Cape Town, South Africa, is remarkable.”
The voyage was full of moments “where you stop what you’re doing, sit back and say, ‘Wow – can this really be happening right now?’ These moments create an inner voyage for each person onboard the ship – moments that connect the mind with the heart, moments that let us understand cultures, geographies, and ourselves,” Weitz said.