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New program to study “abroad” in the Adirondacks

By Sarah Rahman '16

April 3, 2014

A new off-campus study program has been approved for Fall 2015 in the Adirondacks. Hamilton’s third option for off-campus study within the U.S., the Adirondacks Program will feature a less urban setting than the New York City and D.C. programs, and enable students to explore community, ecology and natural resources for one semester. Four credits counting toward graduation will be awarded to students participating in the program, and are distributed in a way similar to those in the New York City and D.C. programs with two seminars, an independent project and a field component.

Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Janelle Schwartz originally proposed this idea to Dean of Faculty Pat Reynolds. Schwartz began executing it almost two years ago after considering Hamilton’s “successful study abroad programs in cities like Madrid, Paris and Beijing.” She explained, “What I realized was that all of these programs are urban-centered.” She thought it would be important for Hamilton to offer “a rural study option of its own to balance and complement our current off-campus study options, and with rigorous curricular and experiential learning investments.”

After speaking individually with faculty, staff, administrators and students, enthusiasm for the program increased, and she was more “driven to make it happen!”

Often labeled as a “backyard resource,” the proximity of the Adirondacks to the College and its own connections to the Park would give students the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the Adirondacks in different ways. Students would be able to study ecological, economical, political and cultural issues in a way that could work to extend local issues to larger global implications. Schwartz explained, “It will offer students an opportunity to learn intensively, interdisciplinarily and experientially about the nature of place and place-making through stewardship and the liberal arts.” Through the immersion of natural and human environments, the Adirondacks would create a promising learning environment for students, enriching their study abroad experience in a different way than what urban centered programs are likely to offer.

With a rigorous curriculum and an academic setting in the natural wilderness, the new program will offer students a different and exciting experience. Like the New York City and D.C. programs, an alternating Hamilton faculty member will serve as program director for a semester in the Adirondacks. In keeping with many of the Adirondack Park’s resources, an intensive seminar will be taught by the program director as part of the curriculum. Additionally, an interdisciplinary seminar will be taught by several faculty members and include guest speakers from the Park. A field component of the curriculum will engage with practical applications of the theories being taught, while the final component requires students to create an independent capstone project. Student living arrangements have yet to be  finalized.

The students will not only engage with natural resources but also participate in leadership opportunities by working in local businesses in the Adirondacks. While the leadership opportunities are not credit bearing, they will complement the four credits that count toward graduation by helping students extend practices of stewardship and sustainability. The program will begin in Fall 2015.

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