The first group that went on Study-Service Term to Costa Rica in 1968 posed as they departed. Groups simultaneously went to Jamaica and Guadeloupe. Background images are some documents (1965-66) from the college’s Committee on the Future of the College, including the initial proposal for what became Study-Service Term. Images courtesy of the Mennonite Historical Library.

Towards a transformative future: How SST began

by JOE SPRINGER ’80, Curator, Mennonite Historical Library

ON NOV. 1, 1965, Goshen College President Paul Mininger called to order the first meeting of the Committee on the Future of the College. Their tasks: clarify/evaluate present goals, then revise/ restate goals to evaluate GC’s program and construct a program that would meet those goals.

A week later, led by its executive secretary Henry Weaver, the committee began discussing not if, but how GC might internationalize its curriculum. Add courses? Broaden general education to cover non-Western studies? Recruit international faculty? Send students abroad? Also under discussion were moving to a year-round trimester academic calendar, tightening and reducing the number of majors, and identity questions (relationship to the church, liberal arts vs. professional school).

By Jan. 17, 1966, the committee approved the concept of an “international service term.” The objectives were helping students “break out of the shell” of their own culture; “intensive relationships” with small, faculty-led student groups; responding to “necessity of and mood for an international emphasis.” But questions remained: How would GC deal with costs, calendars, curriculum? As students caught wind of the possibilities, they wondered aloud if these plans were perhaps “overly ambitious.”

The committee kept at it, and on Oct. 6, 1966, the full GC faculty approved a proposed “study-service term abroad.” Various external and internal projects preceding the committee’s launch had enabled a solid and rapid start to its work. Following the first faculty vote much discussion and planning remained.

Finally, on Sept. 12, 1968, the first three “official” Study-Service Trimester (SST) groups left northern Indiana for Costa Rica, Guadeloupe and Jamaica. And that was the beginning of what has become 50 years of transformative global citizenship.