May it please the court: my name is Rachel Earnhardt and I am here to represent the Williams-Mystic program. I urge the court to declare Williams-Mystic is the best maritime studies program in these great United States of America. If I may begin with the immortal words of the Constitution…
Oh gee whiz, apologies for the formality! This past week we have all grown accustomed to speaking in court-appropriate language for our Moot Court proceedings. I won’t reveal the details of our case for the sake of prospective students, but I can say that we spent the week engaging with issues of public beach access and private property rights.
Marine Policy expert Katy Hall had divided the Spring ’16 class into two opposing teams, and encouraged us to meet early and often with our groups to craft our arguments. For many, the conception process for the argument included: writing, sharing, changing, practicing, changing, editing and then adjusting one more time. This week held many long nights preparing for the courtroom proceedings, at times with legal guidance provided by Counselors Katy Hall and Brian Wagner. Truly the whole week was an exercise in collaboration, adaptability and endurance.
On Friday morning we gathered in the lounge to look at muffins we were too nervous to eat. Dressed for success, we milled about quietly. Some of us slipped out to practice our talking points in front of the bathroom mirror one last time, but finally we all filed into the courtroom (well, it was the science classroom…let’s just pretend). Draped in a black robe, Judge Derek Langhauser (W-M Fall ‘82) entered a few moments later. And thus it began.
With sweaty palms, we each took a turn at the podium to present the case we had so meticulously prepared. This was not a chance to simply recite a speech, rather we had to be versatile and respond to numerous interruptions and questions from the judge. Soon it became clear that the anxiety, which had weighed so heavily in the room early on, was not necessary. The hours of practice and late nights had equipped all of us for the courtroom. (Secretly, I hoped someone would be bold enough to break out into a rap from the Hamilton soundtrack to help make her or his case.)
Even though the class had been split into two factions, I could feel nothing but proud of all my shipmates for presenting their arguments so persuasively and maneuvering so well to answer questions. I won’t spotlight any performance in particular because even though we each spoke individually, it was a team effort. The moot court exercise is not meant to encourage us to become lawyers, but rather aims to equip us each with the skills and confidence to argue any case effectively. As Judge Langhauser emphasized, the case we argued is a microcosm for discussing and weighing different values and rights, and informs conversations about a variety of contemporary legal issues.
Had someone stopped by the Carlton lounge any night last week, it may have seemed that we all lived and breathed Moot Court…but life went on here in Mystic. We are getting into the rhythm of classes and skills and jobs. Beyond the routine, we have also appreciated several field trips. In the last two weeks, lab excursions have taken us to explore nearby marshes, beaches and tide pools.
On a coastal bus tour, we enjoyed learning about the historical, geological and biological identities of local landmarks from Glenn, Lisa and Mike. While flying to field seminars in the Caribbean, West Coast and Gulf Coast may steal the thunder, I am inspired by all the places we can visit with a short van ride. Mystic Seaport, the town of Mystic and the surrounding area are proving to an incredibly unique and engaging classroom.
This upcoming week we will be turning in research proposals for marine policy and oceanography or marine ecology. All four of the Williams-Mystic courses invite students to conduct original research throughout the semester as part of the culminating project. The emphasis on original research is a hallmark of the program and students are encouraged to make use all the resources available here in the Seaport and Mystic area.
It is always a treat to see the moment of epiphany as someone finds the idea for a research project. Whether working with mussels or GIS software or microplastics, my peers are gearing up to conduct some fascinating science research. In the coming weeks, I am looking forward to hearing about a wide variety of project ideas for all the different courses.
Right now, we are preparing for the Pacific Northwest field seminar at the end of the week. Please do check back soon for updates from the West Coast!