Clarion, Pa.- Dr. Laurie A. Occhipinti holds many titles: cultural anthropologist, board member for the Clarion County League of Women Voters, professor of Clarion University for ten years, potter, science fiction fan and “reasonably regular” runner.
What many may not know is that Occhipinti is also a published author.
Her work titled “Making a Difference in a Globalized World” focuses on service trips by various religious organizations whose main objective is to counter poverty in remote areas of the world.
Occhipinti generated the idea for the book through her teachings at the university.
She said, “I routinely ask students if they have traveled to other countries and what they did there. I noticed that far more of my students had traveled abroad in this kind of mission trip than for any other reason, like tourism or study abroad. That got me interested in learning more about this kind of experience. I started with a small-scale study, interviewing students who had participated in short term mission trips.”
This low profile research soon grew into something more and would culminate into Occhipinti’s publication. She contacted an assortment of service groups who had been involved in counter-poverty efforts in order to learn more about what exactly went in to such a prerogative.
Occhipinti traveled to the Dominican Republic three separate times with these organizations, gaining a more thorough understanding of what kind of work service groups do across the globe.
She had a sabbatical during the 2012-2013 school year and used this time to analyze the gathered information and data and start to intricately piece together the book: a process that ultimately took the better part of a year.
To gain more of a concrete understanding of what type of work these organizations do, Occhipinti exclaimed, “Every year an estimated 1.6 million Americans participate in short term mission trips, spending over $1 billion, figures that have increased exponentially in the last two decades. About one third of US congregations sponsor such trips each year.”
She continued, “While they are referred to as “mission” trips, many trips focus not on conversion or evangelism, but on service projects – building a playground, providing medical care, or serving free meals to the poor.”
In “Making a Difference,” Occhipinti makes the case for the demonstrably positive impact of these religious service groups, and the work serves as a guide for the current and future leaders of these groups.
When asked any future publications in the works or if any additional trips abroad, Occhipinti said that she is “working on an article based on the same research that I will submit to a scholarly journal, hopefully before the winter break. I have a couple of other, smaller articles in the pipeline as well in the longer term.”
She concluded, “I think my next project will take me back to Argentina, where I did my last research before this project, to look at changes there in the last decade.”
Her book is available at www.rowman.com/ISBN/9781566997164.