"I don't know why I've been blessed in this way, but now that I'm here I mean to make the most of it," says Prof. Doug Whittle, the new director of educational travel for UW-Madison's Division of Continuing Studies. Whittle began his new position in August 2004 and spent his first several months under the guidance of Harv Thompson and Richard Klemm, who had led the Division's travel-study programs for over 30 years.
Whittle's career as a world traveler began in the mid-1980s, when he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire (now the Congo). "That experience gave me a healthy sense of how much of a world is out there beyond the mall. Living for two years in a mud hut and washing your clothes in a river will do that for you."
After returning to the United States, Whittle completed a master of fine arts degree in printmaking at the University of Florida. He then taught for twelve years at Converse College in South Carolina. During that time, he devoted many of his summers to world travel, including Russia, Mongolia, China and Japan; Zimbabwe, Zambia and Zaire; and many destinations in Central and North America. He also organized and led travel-study tours to Amsterdam, Paris and St. Petersburg, as well as 10 educational trips to New York City.
Aside from his travel savvy, Whittle is also an internationally known artist who has had his paintings and prints appear in dozens of exhibitions throughout the U.S. and as far afield as Poland, as well as in the publication New American Paintings.
"I'll build painting back into my life as I get more of a handle on the job," he notes. "For now, though, this is my life: building on all the work Harv and Richard have done, and expanding the focus of our study-tours to include all the humanities."
To that end, Whittle plans the following new offerings in the next three years: archaeology- and history-focused trips to Vietnam and Cambodia, to Egypt, and to Peru and Bolivia; a tour of the Yucatan, Guatemala and Belize, and a trip up the Amazon, both focused on anthropology and ecology; and art/art-history tours of Tuscany and Rome for experienced painters.
These will be in addition to the popular tours already offered to performing-arts capitals such as London, Spoleto, the Edinburgh Festival of Drama and Music and the Shaw Festival in Ontario.
Whittle is grateful to the legacy built by his predecessors. Says Whittle, "Together Harv Thompson and Richard Klemm built an educational travel program with a huge reputation, and they left me a clientele of loyal travelers and an infrastructure of people in North America and abroad who are happy to help us."
Whittle is also grateful to them for the personal help they gave him as he took over a position that is new in the Division and may be unique in the country. "I got to accompany them on tours to Edinburgh, New York and London and learned how to respond to some of the wide range of challenges I'll face."
He also noted that he "could not do this job without Kim Seymour," program assistant in the Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts: "Kim's organizational skills, efficiency and dedication are remarkableand she's a pleasure to work with!"