A Weekend in Washington, D.C. – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Weekend in Washington, D.C.

This fall, 90 students, 12 faculty, and five staff members travelled to Washington, D.C for an exciting weekend of hands-on learning.  The students were from nine First-Year Seminar Learning Communities including: “New Chemistry Meets Old Art,” “Epidemics and the Promise of Biotechnology,” “Arts Smarts,” “Thinking and Creating,” “Taking Flight,” “Going Home,” “Peace,” “Psychology of Having Fun and Doing Well,” and “Drugs, Relationships and Education.” 

“We know from research in the field of higher education that active learning experiences and ‘connected knowing’ are high-impact practices in college education. The Learning Community model facilitates the high impact practice of ‘active’ and ‘connected knowing,'” explains Hobart Assistant Dean David Mapstone.

The group arrived in D.C. on Friday evening and went to the Kennedy Center to see a Jazz performance by McCoy Tyner and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. Tyner is a world-renown 2002 NEA Jazz Master and five-time Grammy-winning Blues pianist.  He is known for his unconventional chords and collaboration with young artists. 

On Saturday, they ventured to the Peace Corps headquarters for a panel presentation put together by President Mark Gearan who previously served as director of the Peace Corps. Gearan also moderated the panel which included a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Director of the Peace Corps, and the Washington Correspondent for the Boston Globe. The experts spoke about their work, responsibilities as citizens and the unique position as liberal arts students to be problem solvers.

Kimberly Williams, associate professor of education who is teaching the Drugs, Relationships, and Education seminar, also invited three agents from the FBI to speak with her seminar students on drug trafficking and terrorism and the connections between the drug trade and terrorism.

“These speakers were engaging and answered questions,” explains Williams. “This provided students an opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the violence associated with the drug trade and efforts to improve this difficult situation–particularly in Mexico,” Williams says.

On Saturday afternoon, the group split into their Learning Communities to conduct course-specific activities. For example, the learning community “New Chemistry Meets Old Art” taught by Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer met with a chemist at the National Gallery.  The group looked at ways that chemistry is used to preserve and create artwork.  The students even took their midterm exam in the museum. 

The ‘Taking Flight’ seminar taught by Scotty Orr of the Department of Math and Computer Science went to the Air and Space Museum to look at the progression of humans in flight.

Students from the seminar “Psychology of Having Fun and Doing Well” went to the Holocaust Museum with their instructor, Director of the Counseling Center Jeff VanLone. 

First-year Kevin Pollard describes his experience, “My favorite part of the trip was walking around all of the memorials and monuments – lots of history there.  We also went to the Holocaust Museum and discussed how positive thinking and altering one’s circumstances by being optimistic could help people get through the Holocaust.”

Overall, the trip to Washington, D.C. was a success, says Mapstone.  “It allowed students to apply what they have learned in their First-Year Seminars to real-world experiences and concepts.  In addition, it encouraged the establishment of new relationships between students and faculty members alike. We hope trips such as this one will inspire students to practice learning and engagement for the rest of their lives.” 

The photo above features Jeff VanLone and his class in Washington, D.C.