The Brock Experiences’ first year was impactful and inspiring for the 37 students who set out this past summer to take a three-dimensional look at immigration and stewardship of public lands and waterways.
With Longwood’s signature course in Yellowstone National Park serving as a model, the two new courses this summer were centered in Tucson, Arizona, and Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay.
The Arizona course was the result of a collaboration between Dr. Renee Gutierrez, associate professor of modern languages/Spanish, and Dr. Connie Koski, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice. The syllabus started with a trip to Richmond, where students met with immigrants and immigration experts. The next stop was Tucson, where students dug into issues with members of the immigrant population, Border Patrol agents and other citizen leaders in the area.
“We believe in the transformative power of asking students within our disciplines to speak to those who do not look like them, act like them, talk like them, or share their cultures,” Gutierrez wrote in the proposal for the course. “All students benefit from recognizing the advantages and challenges that immigrants bring to U.S. society.”
Students whose interests drew them to the course in Chesapeake Bay took a broad look at issues of sustainability, economics and public policy surrounding the bay. They met with residents of the area who make their living in the waters of the bay, including those who live on tiny Tangier Island. Headquarters for the course was Longwood’s Hull Springs Farm, which has served as a laboratory for students for many years.
“The Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest estuary system, is a case study in the connections between science and civic engagement, the power of science to provide key insights into challenging issues and the limitations of science to effect change in contested civic spheres,” Dr. Melissa Rhoten, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Mark Fink, associate professor of biology, wrote in their proposal for the course.
Reflecting on his experience, a student in the Chesapeake Bay course summed up exactly how all the Brock Experiences are intended to impact students: “You have to understand these issues through multiple lenses and from multiple perspectives to make a difference.”
Next year, two additional courses will be offered: one in Boston and the other out West.
In Boston—a city with world-class art museums, performing arts venues, historical monuments and museums—one group of students will explore how the arts shape a community and dive deeply into the complex civic debate over how best to fund them. Another group of students will set off on a multiweek intensive learning experience beginning near the headwaters of the Colorado River—the most important source of water in the region—and following its course southwest through Arizona, talking to stakeholders along the way who often have competing ideas about who owns the water and how it should be used.
The Brock Experiences are made possible by a $5.9 million gift from Joan Brock ’64 and her late husband, Macon Brock.