D.C. a Capstone for Learning Communities – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

D.C. a Capstone for Learning Communities

For more than 140 first-year students, education came to life this past weekend in Washington, D.C.  Nine First -Year Seminar classes traveled to the nation’s capital to explore the content of their classes in a new and hands-on way.  In its fifth year, the D.C. program allowed students to visit sites that enhanced and enriched the content of their seminar courses.

NBC Journalist Luke Russert, son of the late American journalist Tim Russert, joined students on Saturday, discussing a myriad of topics from a potential Presidential run by former Gov. Sarah Palin to the fate of the news industry in a time when social networking outlets are rapidly proliferating society.

“We are so thankful that Luke Russert gave up his Saturday morning to speak with our students while we were in D.C.,” says Assistant Hobart Dean David Mapstone ’93, who organized the program.  “His energy combined with his knowledge and experience as a news correspondent created a vibrant connection with our students on the midterm elections issue.” 

Saturday also ushered in a wide variety of opportunities for students of the Learning Communities.  Each seminar took an excursion tied to its course of study.  Jeff VanLone, director of the Center for Counseling and Student Wellness, accompanied his First-Year Seminar group that has been studying “Happiness” to the WWII Memorial, where students spoke with veterans who were visiting the site and expressed their gratitude for the services they provided the country. Previously in the classroom, students learned that gratitude does not only help those who receive, but the giver as well.

“It was striking to me. The response was more than I had imagined.  The veterans were appreciative of the time the students spent with them,” says VanLone.  “It was incredibly emotional; some were brought to tears. It was amazing watching the students connect with these men and women; they made an impact.”  VanLone and his class will continue to discuss their experiences back on campus, and the students will use their interactions as a basis for a final reflection paper.

Associate Professor of English Laurence Erussard accompanied students in Assistant Professor of English Sarah Russo Berry’s “Victorian Monsters: Literature, Science, and Society” seminar.  Erussard teaches “European Studies,” the seminar’s connected course.  “I went with the students to the National Gallery,” says Erussard.  “They were divided into groups, and each group looked for examples of art from the periods we had discussed in class.”

First-year students enrolled in “Tales of the Village Idiot,” a seminar on Russian folklore, visited the Hillwood Estate, which houses the largest collection of Russian art outside of Russia.  In the evening, the students were also given the rare opportunity of enjoying a traditional multi-course meal at a Russian café.  “I think it’s important that the students have some exposure to Russian culture since the real thing is so distant – both in space and expense,” explains Associate Professor of Russian David Galloway.

In their first semester on campus, students in a Learning Community take several classes with their fellow seminar members, as well as live in the same residence hall. These living and learning environments focus on shared, active learning, linking academic and out-of-class experiences and developing strong bonds with faculty and fellow students.

In the photo above, students gather on the steps of the National Gallery in D.C.