English department introduces study away humanities course at Walden Pond

The Geneseo English Department is introducing a new Humanities II study abroad program in Concord, MA that will allow students to immerse themselves in early American history while studying the works of the Humn II syllabus.

The four-week course, set to debut this coming summer, will be taught by Ed Gillin and coordinated by Mary Gillin, both faculty in the English department. Students will be staying at the historic Colonial Inn, recently featured on SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters." The inn is within walking distance of Walden Pond, the inspiration for Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a work featured on the syllabus. Classes will be held at different historical locations throughout the area including the Thoreau Institute at the Walden Woods Project, the house where Thoreau was born and the famed pond.

Last spring, English department chair Paul Schacht contacted Ed Gillin about the possibility of putting the course together. Gillin said he was immediately interested.

"Every time I teach humanities, I always wind up telling my students that my favorite book is Walden," he said. "The idea of being able to read the book while at Walden Pond seems just really wonderful to me."

Schacht and the Gillins worked closely together to structure the course in a way that would fulfill the Humn II requirements while allowing students to explore the historic surroundings.

"It will be a Humanities II class, so we're bound by the usual rules about what texts one can teach and the assignments and so-on involved in humanities generally," Ed Gillin said. "What's really different are the enhanced possibilities of the course that being in Concord, MA affords us and also the kind of wonderful things you get from summer courses where classes are smaller and you're much more intimately connected with one another."

The Gillins have chosen to hold classes Monday through Thursday, with Friday set aside for field trips. These trips will include a visit to the National Historical Park in Lowell, MA where students will see examples of the factory system that inspired the works of Karl Marx, also included on the syllabus.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in service learning by volunteering in the garden located on the Thoreau Birthplace Property, which has been under cultivation for over 300 years and provides vegetables for local food pantries and meal programs.

"Thoreau is so dedicated to what nowadays is called ‘active learning' – learning outside the classroom, learning from direct experience," Ed Gillin said. "Also Thoreau emphasizes civic engagement and involvement, and because so many of our students nowadays want to contribute to the community and contribute to service learning in various ways, that's going to be a part of the course too."

There will be an informational session on Feb. 2 at 2:45 p.m. in Welles 111 and interested students are encouraged to email Ed Gillin at gillin@geneseo.edu or Mary Gillin at gillinm@geneseo.edu for inquiries and information.