Adirondack mini-term

Publication Date

Hiking Mt. Jo, canoeing Rich Lake. Talks with local town supervisors and school board members. Visits to Santanoni (a late 19th-century great camp) and the abandoned mining town of Tahawus.

Union College students canoeing Rich Lake in the Adirondack mountains

This is just a slice of what Union’s first Adirondack mini-term offered.

Built around the theme of “A Peopled Wilderness,” students and faculty spent three weeks (Aug. 18 - Sept. 8.) studying the Adirondack region of upstate New York. The goal was to learn about the Adirondacks and its population through the lenses of literature, history, socio-economics and outdoor experiences.

Students explored a range of interdisciplinary topics that included geology of the Adirondacks (with Holli Frey, professor of geology); history of the Adirondacks (with Andrew Morris, associate professor of history); people of the Adirondacks (with David Cotter, professor of sociology); and Adirondack literature (with Jillmarie Murphy, associate professor of English). The mini-term was coordinated by J. Douglass Klein, Kenneth B. Sharpe Professor Emeritus of Economics.

“My favorite aspect of the experience was getting to meet people who work as town planners in the Adirondacks. As a passionate environmentalist, I spend a lot of time thinking about the natural world and fighting to save and protect as much of that land as I can,” said Kira Wilson ’20, an environmental science major. “I got an inside look at how people living in the Adirondacks balance care for the land with the need for economic growth in their communities.”

“In an environmental policy course, we often hear about the ‘other side of the story,’ but never interact with people who are on that side,” she added. “This term was really well-rounded in who we met and worked with, and with the opinions they shared on the future of the Adirondacks.”

Union College students hiking Mt. Jo in the Adirondack mountains

The group also attended a lecture by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, camped, swam and helped out with trail maintenance.

“The best part of the experience was probably helping out at the Farm2Fork festival,” said Whitney Schwab ’20, a geology and anthropology interdepartmental major. “Not only does the festival help the local economy, but it was exciting to be able to actually point to the farmer whose food we were serving. Afterwards, we were even able to visit the farm where some of the food was grown.”

Drawing from the journals they kept and research they conducted, students gave presentations on one of four topics during Homecoming & Family Weekend in October—“Differential Migration in the Adirondacks,” “Nature vs. Development,” “Tourism and Business Development,” or “Conceptions of Nature.”

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