MU
Oak Leaves

February 16, 2018

MU Jan-Term 3

Despite the false missile alert, students enrolled in the select psychology courses felt "submerged" in Hawaiian culture and experienced life on the islands.


Trouble in Paradise: Missile Alert Alarms Hawaii Students 


Kaity Collins 


Students taking “Culture and Psychology” and “Social Psychology” in Hawaii during the 2018 January Session were ready for warm weather and snorkeling, but never could have anticipated that they would experience a missile alert while they were on a boat off the coast of Maui.

On January 13, while the students and professors Marcie and Rusty Coulter-Kern were on the water getting ready to do some snorkeling at the Molokini Crater, the alert of an oncoming missile attack was transmitted to televisions, radios and cellphones on Hawaii. “The captain was in the middle of his pre-snorkel speech when the alarm went off,” said senior Chelsea Jasper. “There was about 40 minutes of panic before we found out it was just a false alarm.”

Shelbie Brown, sophomore, remembers her first reaction to the news. “Our phones went off and it reminded me of an Amber Alert,” Brown said. “For some reason, it didn’t seem too threatening to me; even the captain seemed fine after alerting the Coast Guard.”

Kelleen Cullison, sophomore, experienced the alert differently. “I remember coaching myself not to panic since we didn’t hear any different until we got out of the water 40 minutes later,” she said.

Shelby Bagby, junior, recalled the chaos that ensued. “It was quite scary because we never experienced anything like that before,” she said.  “Some of the people on our trip were very upset and crying, because at the time we didn’t know it was a mistake. However, the captain remained very calm and told us not to worry, which was reassuring.”

Some on the trip were skeptical, but others took the possible threat to heart. “There was a lot of mixed feelings,” said James Cash, sophomore. “There were some who were scared, some who were not, and others that ignored it completely; I thank the Lord for answering my prayer and keeping us safe.”

Professor Rusty Coulter-Kern was not concerned. “I didn’t think it was really a missile crisis," he said. "But people were worried about it.”

After the missile scare was proved to be a false alarm, the students were able to have a good time. “The trip was really an important one,” Cullison said. “And the most memorable part will always be the threat.”

The trip itself lasted for 10 days, Jan. 9 through 19. According to the students, the trip was a good time and an experience to remember. “We were very submerged in the culture,” Jasper said.

“My favorite part about the trip was the Polynesian Cultural Center,” Brown said. “I could really put myself in their culture.”
The professors were pleased to see the students so intertwined in the experience. “The goal was to expose the students to as much Hawaiian culture as possible,” Rusty Coulter-Kern said. “But my favorite thing was seeing how much the students enjoyed it; their excitement was my favorite part of the whole trip.”

Besides the cultural aspect, the group enjoyed the company of fellow students as they experienced all that Hawaii had to offer. “It was a great experience to be with a large group and explore Hawaii,” Bagby said. “You always had someone to talk to and hang out with and it was also awesome to meet new people, or get to know people I’ve seen around campus better and make new friendships.”

Additionally, the Hawaiian experience was memorable in other ways as well. “I enjoyed the trip because it was my second time being in Hawaii,” Cash said. “Course wise, the most memorable part was learning from the different presentations the class did.”

Bagby said: “The most memorable part was the snorkeling trip. It was an overall good time; we saw sea turtles, breaching whales, and how society is negatively affecting our oceans, which was both very interesting and heartbreaking all at the same time.”

Even with the missile scare, students and professors still were able to have a memorable experience for positive reasons. “It’s the fourth or fifth time this trip to Hawaii has been offered,” said Rusty Coulter-Kern. “But it’s always a fantastic experience.”

Cash said: “I do recommend taking the course. Even if you aren’t a psychology major, still take it; it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Brown agreed. “Everyone asked me if it was worth the price I paid ($2500),” she said. “It definitely was.”