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Semester at Sea Spotlight: Professor David Hackett

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re traversing the ocean with a bunch of strangers from all over the world – that is, until you realize that the people with whom you’re sailing aren’t really strangers at all.


While listening to Professor David Hackett’s evening seminar on his experience with Catholicism and Zen Buddhism, I was surprised and almost relieved to hear that he had grown up in Ann Arbor. Here I am, surrounded by water, thousands of miles from my favorite place on Earth, and I still feel as though I am finding little pieces of home.


Dr. David Hackett serves as the sole religion professor on the Semester at Sea Spring 2018 voyage, where he encourages students to deepen their understandings of faith and “move into their humanness.” Hackett emphasizes the unique opportunity that Semester at Sea students are given to learn from genuine interaction with cultures wildly different from their own.


During his seminar on his own spiritual journey, Hackett described his background for the entire shipboard community. His story was dynamic and inspiring, and each student listened intently to each account of his time spent at various monasteries around the world and the lessons he learned from both Buddhist and Catholic mentors. Hearing about his findings, I found myself questioning my own beliefs; not necessarily my individual religious ideologies, but challenging the rigidity of my faith.


After sitting down for lunch with Professor Hackett, I learned that uncertainty, openness, and growth is a part of his everyday curriculum. Hackett explained that he has found a passion in teaching, but not necessarily in the type of teaching that the typical college student encounters. He prefers to be a participant in each student’s education, rather than an authority figure at the front of a lecture hall.


Semester at Sea provides Hackett with a chance to equip his students with a knowledge base with which they can build on during their time in port, thereby allowing deeper lessons about spirituality to be learned both inside and outside of the classroom. In Hackett’s classes, he stresses the significance of embracing otherness and being “open to conversion to another person’s truth,” to enrich one’s own understanding of the world.


When I asked Hackett for some advice for the next three months, he encouraged me to “live my questions,” to live each present moment, to let the future find me rather than to attempt to dictate it. As we approach China and Vietnam over the next three weeks, I aim to keep Professor Hackett’s advice in mind and to allow each country to mold me as it may, contradicting and reshaping myself along the way.


To quote Professor Hackett: “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to grow.”


Images courtesy of: Stephanie Foster

I'm currently a sophomore at the University of Michigan hoping to major in Communication Studies and English. My mission in life is to be so busy doing the things I love that I have no time for hate, regret, worry, or fear.
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