Ten Belmont University students and two faculty members are traveling more than 9,300 miles this summer — 40 states in 40 days — to define what it means to be an American.
Their 40-state whirlwind tour — part of a special sociology department class excursion — includes a stop in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
After flying into the Salt Lake City International Airport and picking up a van, the students and faculty will get to freshen up at Westminster College. Then they will visit the Buddhist Temple, Japanese Church of Christ, Greek Orthodox Church, First United Methodist Church, Temple Square and more.
The college students from Nashville will have lunch in downtown Salt Lake City and spend the afternoon at the Silly Sunday Market at Park City. Finally, they will go to the Circle Lounge, Gallivan Center, Iggy's Sports Grill and the International Peace Gardens, before finishing with the "Damn Those Heels" film festival at the Salt Lake Main Library.
After spending Saturday at the Grand Canyon, Salt Lake City is the group's ninth stop and day on its tour.
According to Lisa Battaglia Sursavage, spokeswoman for the Belmont tour, they fly or drive at night between their 40 different destinations.
"It's just to learn more about each city," she said.
After Salt Lake City, the group will fly to Las Vegas Monday, before moving onto Los Angeles, for this first-of-a-kind "What Does It Mean to Be an American?" class.
Sociology department chairman Ken Spring first conceived of the class more than two years ago and has been working ever since on brainstorming its structure and planning the logistical details of the trip.
"Each place we're going to visit provides a snapshot into our history, and together, they provide a glimpse into our future," Spring said.
Constructed to include cultural and economic epicenters, iconic landmarks and places of special interest, "The United States in 40 Days" will involve at least one full day of exploration and discovery at each stop as well as an evening discussion of the uniqueness of each place along with the larger themes at play: politics, religion, education, identity, media, the economy, family, race, gender, etc.
The summer experience will be offered as two classes for a total of six credit hours.
Student blogs of their trip can be followed at www.belmont.edu/40states/.
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