Learning Communities Explore D.C. – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Learning Communities Explore D.C.

Students and faculty participating in the first-year Learning Community Program this fall visited Washington, D.C., for a weekend excursion in which students explored the nation’s capital with their peers and faculty advisers.

“The idea behind this trip is part of the learning community philosophy, where students make strong connections between their first-year seminar and experiential, hands-on learning,” says Hobart Dean of First-Year Students David Mapstone ’93. “We tried to provide as many opportunities as possible to enhance experiential learning.”

Learning communities at HWS are unique cohorts of first-year students who are enrolled in multiple classes during their first two semesters. The purpose of grouping students into learning communities is to foster meaningful relationships among incoming first-years and offer the students a chance to explore a given topic from several perspectives in linked courses.

Learning communities that attended the fall D.C. trip include:

  • Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler’s FSEM 011, “Stealing Art, Saving Art.” Students enrolled in this course also take ARTH 102, “Renaissance to Modern.”
  • Associate Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtain and Assistant Professor of Geoscience David Finkelstein’s FSEM 144, “Parched: Past, Present, Future of Water.” Students taking this course enroll in GEO 186, “Introduction to Hydrology.”
  • Associate Professor of History Laura Free’s FSEM 083, “Monsters in America.” Students enrolled in this course will also take AMST 101, “Myths and Paradoxes.”
  • Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures James-Henry Holland’s FSEM 194, “Japan: Ghosts, Demons and Monsters.” Students enrolled in this course will also take ASN 101, “Trekking Through Asia.”
  • Assistant Professor of History Lisa Yoshikawa’s FSEM 086, “Making of the Samurai.” Similar to the students of FSEM 194, those taking this course also take ASN 101, “Trekking Through Asia.”

  • Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Stephen Cope’s FSEM 157, “Madness in History, Culture and Science.” Students enrolled in this course will also take PSY 100, “Intro to Psychology.”

As part of the experience in D.C., the entire group of learning communities visited the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to view a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. The students also had the opportunity to head out with their own Learning Community groups to explore various sites.

For instance, a group of students taking “Parched: the Past, Present, and Future of Water” visited a rock creek water reclamation project on a waterway that runs through the city and met with officials dedicated to preserving watersheds in the area.

“During the trip, we looked at a stream in Northwest D.C. that had just been day-lighted, the process of taking a stream that was covered and piped under a city, opening it back up to the surface, and restoring it to a more natural state,” says Daniel Bristol ’18, a student in this Learning Community. “In ‘Parched,’ we had been talking about the connection between humans and rivers in urban environments, including reasons to cover a stream, such as pollution in the stream and to make room for development.”

Bristol says the hands-on experience made for a unique study session. Spending the weekend with friends and new connections made the trip especially memorable for all involved, he says.

Another group taking the “Stealing Art, Saving Art” seminar attended exhibits at art museums around the National Mall to get a historical look at art and artists across various time periods.

Students in “Making of the Samurai” and “Japan: Ghosts, Demons and Monsters” visited the Freer and Sackler Galleries to explore Asian art.

Following group excursions, students were given one-day passes to ride the Metro in Washington, D.C. and explore the capital on their own. 

“The trip offers an opportunity for faculty to bring their course to life and explore concepts and theories they have discussed,” Mapstone says. “Faculty also can share their passion about the topic, and students love to see and get energized by that.”

In addition to the D.C. trip, FSEM 111, “Paris, Je T’Aime,” went to The New York Wine & Culinary Center to cook and sample French cuisine and FSEM 072, “Rock Music and American Masculinities,” visited the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.