Washburn shaped by his years of travel

Washburn+shaped+by+his+years+of+travel

Melanie Schumilas

Academic Provost Curtis Washburn said he still has places he wants to see, despite already traveling to 25 countries around the world.

Curtis Washburn, the Academic Provost at Chaminade University, has travelled to 25 countries in his lifetime.

Coming from a small town in Connecticut with a population less than 20,000, Washburn said his upbringing lacked diversity and that the expected norm of men in their 20s was to don a suit and tie and work a corporate job in New York City.

However, Washburn wanted to take a different path in life.  Instead of following the footsteps of his father, who owned his own engineering and land surveying business for 40 years, Washburn wanted to travel outside of Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Washburn’s mother encouraged her son to follow his desire for adventure. He remembers his mother asking him what he truly wanted to do in life.

“I told my mom ‘I don’t want to be a person that does one thing for 40 years. … I’d rather do 40 different things,’” Washburn said nostalgically. “And she encouraged that. She was like ‘Good for you, cool, go for it!’”

Washburn said he is glad he took his mother’s advice, and left his small town to travel worldwide. He said his exposure to different cultures throughout the world has greatly helped him navigate his current job at Chaminade, where he advises students from all around the world.

“Travel definitely changes us, and broadens our horizons in really great ways,” he said.

He began his travels in Belgium at age 27 where he worked for Volunteers for Peace. Washburn said working for Volunteers for Peace was one of the coolest things he’s ever done in his life.

Volunteers for Peace took him all over Europe and the U.S., but his most unique traveling experience was when he set up a Volunteers for Peace program in Cuba in 1993. At the time, the discourse about Cuba was that it was illegal to travel there. However, Washburn discovered a loophole in the laws, stating Americans could legally travel to Cuba if they were “news gatherers” and had a letter of assignment from any publication.

Washburn said he is lucky to have travelled in his 20s instead of settling for a mundane job, as his travels have led him to believe that work should always be fun in order to lead a satisfied and fulfilled life.

“Work is such an important thing,” Washburn said. “It’s eight hours of every day, and to have eight hours of every day of something you hate doing, to me, is just a terrible way to live.”

He said if he ever gets to a point where he dreads coming into work everyday, he knows it’s time to look elsewhere and explore other options.

“I think we should never lose our sense of dreaming about what’s possible, being adventurous, and trying different things,” Washburn said, “because that’s how we grow.”

Washburn heeds to his own advice, as he continues to dream of future travels. He said wants to visit Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, due to their fascinating histories. He said he would also love to go back and visit Cuba again, now that the travel sanctions have been lifted, and see how Cuban society has changed in the last 20 years.

Washburn’s love for culture and diversity is reflective in his recent completion of a PhD in Education, with a concentration in Higher Education Administration, from University of Hawaii-Manoa in May 2014. His dissertation focused on international students and global mobility issues.

“His PhD in international studies, in higher education, is the culmination of who he is,” said his wife Eva Washburn-Repollo, who is a Communications professor at Chaminade. “Since he was a young man he had travelled around the world … and then he marries somebody from another country, works in a university that is so diverse and then finished his PhD in international studies … it’s like his whole life he has prepared for it.”