Learning Communities Go to Washington – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Learning Communities Go to Washington

Students enrolled in first-year seminar learning communities recently spent a weekend in Washington, D.C., enhancing the connection between their curriculum and extracurricular events.

“The weekend trip to Washington was a great opportunity to build on several aspects of the first-year seminar that have been discussed during the semester,” explains Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird, whose class, “The Science and Communication of Weather,” is linked with “Introduction to Meteorology,” taught by Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz.

Both Professors Metz and Laird, along with their families, traveled to Washington, D.C., with their students and visited exhibits at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Mariam Koshland Museum of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The National Academy of Sciences was  very interactive and had a great exhibit on global warming and climate change, something we have been looking at in our linked meteorology course,” explains Brianna Taylor ’16. “The trip opened my mind to other areas within meteorology and science in a relaxed, social setting,” she says.

Students in Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav’s seminar, “Pharaohs, Kings, & Generals: Understanding Political Power in Egypt,” a course linked with “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology,” spent the weekend at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and Natural History. While there, students were asked to find at least five examples of ancient Egyptian art and five examples of medieval Egyptian art, and reflect upon the “story” that organization of these objects told. “The students used what they have learned this semester to do an excellent critical reading of the museum itself as a ‘text,'” says Philbrick Yadav.

The class also visited the Project on Middle East Democracy, a D.C.-based advocacy organization working to shape U.S. foreign policy in the region. “I wanted students to see that this kind of work could realistically be a part of their future,” she says.

Students taking “Am I Crazy: Madness is Culture, History, and Science” with Visiting Assistant Professor of English Stephen Cope explored the relationship between art and madness when they visited the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery and the National Gallery of Art.

“One of the main exhibits at the Hirschorn Museum was contemporary artist Barbara Kruger’s “Belief + Doubt,” and featured was an installation that proposed, among other things, that “Belief + Doubt = Sanity “— a perfect equation for our class explore,” says Cope. “Students questioned the equation, and used it to examine works of art in other wings of the Hirschorn as well as in the National Gallery of Art.”

Visiting Professor of English Yisrael Levin, whose course “The Poetics of Hip-Hop” is taught in conjunction with Assistant Professor of Music Mark Olivieri’s “Hip-Hop Culture” seminar, discussed the relationship between postmodern artworks and hip hop texts and music at the National Gallery of Art. “Our discussion focused on how we know and understand aesthetic quality, and what constitutes a work of art-is it context, or intent?,” says Olivieri.

The learning communities spent an evening at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where they heard a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra with pianist Lang Lang of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto and a Dvorak program symphony. “The symphony was awesome and Lang Lang was amazing,” reflects Wheeler Morris ’16, who is taking “Hip-Hop Culture.”

“The Washington, D.C. trip is great because faculty and students interact for much of the weekend, during the long bus trip, while touring D.C., and during meals. The benefits of a first-year seminar within a learning community are many and the Washington, D.C. weekend ranks high on the list,” says Laird. Macy Howarth ’16 concurs. “The trip to D.C. was a blast. The symphony was amazing, the museums were interesting, and we got to explore D.C., and survived the eight-hour bus ride!”

Other learning communities, who visited Washington, D.C., were “The Avian Persuasion,” “Victorian Fiction” and “Science and Modern Isms.”