This year, nearly 100 students in 11 Learning Communities participated in the D.C. trip, visiting museums, monuments, organizations and historical sites connected to their courses. At the National Zoo, for instance, students from the FYSEM “Bird Obsessions,” taught by Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander, met with ornithologists and observed firsthand examples of the birds and behaviors they studied all semester.
“The goal of the excursion is to provide an experience that allows them to engage in experiential learning outside the formal classroom,” says Assistant Hobart Dean David Mapstone ’93, who has led the trip for the past decade. “In D.C., students visited places like the Smithsonian, listened to lectures and engaged with folks interested in fields in which they are studying.”
Aside from the intellectual curiosity the Learning Communities stimulate, Mapstone explains, the program is designed “to make sure that students are connecting in really powerful and meaningful ways with their faculty members. By going on a three-day excursion, they build meaningful connections and relationships with their teachers, faculty and peers.”
In addition to site visits and tours of the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument, students engaged with faculty and HWS President Mark D. Gearan, who led a discussion analyzing the political atmosphere in Washington, D.C. surrounding the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Madeleine H. Gearan, who serves as press assistant in the office of Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), also joined the discussion.
Like the Learning Communities, the excursion offered students a lens to explore the intersections of disparate disciplines, like history and literature, economics and social justice, biology and environmental studies, psychology and sociology, world arts and cultures.
Students enrolled in a Learning Community take one or more courses together, live together on the same floor of a co-ed residence hall and attend some of the same lectures and field trips. These living and learning environments focus on shared, active learning, linking academic and out-of-class experiences and developing strong HWS community bonds. As a result, Learning Community students tend to achieve higher grade point averages, make friends quickly and transition into college life smoothly.