First-Year Classes Study in D.C. – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

First-Year Classes Study in D.C.

For the sixth consecutive year, more than 150 students in first-year learning communities took a journey to Washington, D.C. to explore their curriculum outside the walls of the classroom. Through individual seminar visits to the capital’s most celebrated museums, galleries and monuments, students had the opportunity to examine their class in a hands-on approach, enriching their learning experience.

“The purpose of this trip is not only to give students an opportunity to use the resources of D.C. to better understand the concepts being taught in Learning Communities, but to interact with faculty in a more informal environment,” explains Assistant Dean of Hobart David Mapstone ’93, who has organized the program since its inception. “This is an integral learning experience partly because students learn better through experience, and in part because they can make great connections with faculty members, getting to know them on a more personal level.”

Each year, faculty members incorporate the journey outside of the classroom into their courses, fostering a deeper connectedness with their students. Many of the 14 members of the faculty to attend this year were accompanied by their families, which Mapstone saw as a wonderful progression of the program.

“This year was incredibly important for us in that much of the faculty brought their families with them,” remarks Mapstone. “We had many young children with us, and that really humanizes the whole idea of college learning and the faculty. It was great for the students to see.”

Upon arrival on Friday evening, the group gathered to attend a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Saturday morning presented the opportunity for each learning community to explore Washington, D.C. individually. Some visited art galleries, while others ventured to the Smithsonian, the National Gallery and the National Zoo.

Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird’s first-year seminar “The Science and Communication of Weather,” which is connected with “Introduction to Meteorology,” taught by Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz, visited both the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Science. The students had the chance to explore small-scale models of meteorological satellites and an exhibit on climate change.

” The trip was extremely beneficial; not only were the students able to experience science in a manner that related to the material they have learned in our classes, but we all had the opportunity to interact in a more relaxed atmosphere,” explains Metz. “The students and faculty were able to see each other in a different light than would be possible in a traditional classroom setting.”

Students in the first-year seminar “Art + Ideas + East + West” spent the day amongst ancient art at the National Gallery and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, which are world renowned for their collections of Asian art. Led by Associate Professors of Art Michael Tinkler and Lara Blanchard, students were able to see the images of their textbooks come to life.

“Seeing works of art in person is always better than seeing them in reproduction – it just really changes how someone experiences art,” says Blanchard. Students examined everything from photographs, to sculptures, scrolls, ceramics and even folding screens. “We get a sense of how big or small things are and we get to look at things from different angles – all of these things can change the way we perceive works of art. My students are working on a virtual exhibition project, so it was also good for them to look carefully at the design of individual rooms in an exhibition – including the flow of the room, the color of the walls and the placement of didactic text.”

Lauren Goldman ’15, a member of Associate Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander’s “Bird Obsessions” seminar, enjoyed her class’ time at the National Zoo. Accompanied by Deutschlander and Assistant Professor Biology Meghan Brown who teaches the connected course, “Exotic Species,” students were able to see dozens of exotic animals up close. “”It was especially cool to see exotic bird species; though my favorite part was petting a kiwi,” says Goldman. “We had real life visual to go along with our two dimensional learning; this trip truly linked the two classes together.”

Associate Professor of English Laurence Erussard led her “Canterbury Tales” class on a journey through the Holocaust Museum. Connected with “Poetry and Performance,” instructed by Assistant Professor of English Yisrael Levin, students were stunned by the powerful stories the museum conveyed.

“I think this trip was very beneficial to us as students and young adults.  The Holocaust is a piece of history that should never be forgotten, but one that can also never be fully understood,” explains Anola Stage ’15. “The Holocaust Museum is incredibly moving and even painful at times, and going in a group where we all feel very comfortable with each other was very important because it gave us all a companion to lean on. I am so glad I was able to go on this trip.”

Other faculty members on the trip included Associate Dean of Hobart and Assistant Professor of History Chip Capraro, Assistant Professor of History Laura Free, Associate Professor Economics Feisal Khan, Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Instructor Lisa Salter, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter and Instructor of Economics Jenny Tessendorf.

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.