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MARTIN, TENN. – When Dr. Lynn Alexander retired from the University of Tennessee at Martin in June, 2023, “slowing down” was not on the itinerary. Instead, she’s filled her days with international travel and is committed to making that possible for students in her adopted home of Martin and the surrounding area.
As a child in her native Oklahoma, she listened to stories of faraway lands told by her father, a retired Naval officer. In college, she finally had the chance to travel internationally in a study abroad program. Since then, she has traveled to over 15 countries on 5 continents.
“The opportunity to study abroad and to travel lit a fire in me,” the former dean of UTM’s College of Humanities observed. “Visiting other countries, meeting people from other cultures -- opens your heart and mind. You are more accepting of others and more appreciative of your own life.”
During her 34 years at the university, she worked to support students who wished to travel. She helped lead a travel study trip to Ireland, and under her leadership, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts established a student travel grant to assist students who are participating in travel study or study abroad.
“Traveling abroad gave me confidence and helped me mature in ways I didn’t recognize until much later,” Lynn explained. “I developed problem-solving and communication skills. The time spent abroad helped me develop the talents I needed to become a leader.”
She continued to pave the way for others to experience life beyond the borders as she accepted the invitation to become a board member of Global Citizen Adventure Corps (GCAC), a local nonprofit established in 2022 to help scholarship students from rural and economically disadvantaged communities for travel service learning.
“Asking Lynn to join the GCAC leadership team was a no-brainer for my co-founder Stacie Freeman and me,” explained Dr. Julie Hill who led 6 international travel studies in her 17 years at UTM, all with Lynn’s support. “Her track record for assisting students who wish to be well-informed and engaged citizens of the world has long been evident. Since GCAC also includes the opportunity to gain college credit, I knew that Lynn’s educator’s heart would be thrilled to help us help students participate. I am so grateful to all she has already done in our first year and look forward to what’s next.”
Though Alexander’s extensive travels included Iceland, Ecuador, Australia, and more, she had always considered Cuba “out of reach.” However, in October, as part of an exploratory GCAC staff and board experience, she was finally able to reach the island.
While in Cuba, the group delivered hundreds of dollars of requested medical supplies and laid the foundation for service-learning experiences—including sharing more than $10,000 in donated education resources for a music program in Viñales and visiting a tobacco farm and learning about farm production in the area.
“I have never ridden in an ox cart before,” Alexander commented about her farm visit. “It is fascinating to learn about the differences in varieties of crops, the variety of methods of farming, and the different growing seasons.”
Another highlight was a visit to Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club, a supper club whose Grammy-winning entertainers have been the subject of both a documentary and a PBS special. Celebrating Cuba’s musical heritage, the performers shared tidbits about the country’s history and culture.
A few days later, in Viñales, the group visited the studio of a local artist, Ramon Vázquez, and later helped prepare dinner one evening in the home of their host and in-country partner to GCAC Yaniel Lewis.
“Visiting people’s homes and sharing a meal is a special experience that you don’t get when you travel on your own. Experiences such as this are what makes the travel study experience unlike any other,” Alexander reflected.
“According to the SYTA Student Travel Digest, 74% of school teachers surveyed believe travel has a very positive impact on a student’s personal development and positively impacts students’ performance at school,” she added. “By providing access to international education, Global Citizen Adventure Corps provides the next generation of leaders and innovators the tools to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, at home and abroad.”
Robert “Scooter” Miller of Union City, Sandy and Martha Edinger of Lakewood Ranch, FL, and Joel and Teresa Washburn of McKenzie, also accompanied Alexander, Hill, and Freeman on the inaugural trip to Cuba.
Global Citizen Adventure Corps is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating global citizens through education, service, and travel. By offering transferable college credit and donor-funded scholarships, GCAC actively builds pathways between rural high schools, universities, and a robust network of global nonprofit partners to provide travel program opportunities to underserved students. For more information visit www.globalcitizenadventurecorps.org.