This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her.
Going to school in Rhode Island gives a college student the opportunity to spend time exploring hiking trails and visiting the ocean. It also affords the opportunity to take a course on marine affairs that sparks curiosity about our nation’s oceans and coasts. For University of Rhode Island Senior Bridget Hall, this is exactly what happened.
After completing a marine affairs course taught by Dennis Nixon, once Williams-Mystic’s marine policy professor, Bridget realized how interested she was in the ocean and interdisciplinary education.
“I’ve always sought interdisciplinary connections in my studies, and was always happiest at URI when I could use knowledge from one of my classes in another course,” Bridget said.
Bridget knew a thing or two about the program prior to completing her application. Her mother is Attorney Katy Robinson Hall, the current marine policy professor for Williams-Mystic and an alumna of the Class of Spring 1984.
Katy and Bridget are the first alumni-turned-professor and child-turned-student pair in the history of the program.
Bridget looks back on her time learning and living at Mystic Seaport fondly.
“I loved living in Mystic and sharing house dinners, Carlton study sessions, classes on the grounds, and trips to Green Marble with some of the most intelligent, funny, and wonderful people I’ve ever met.” Bridget said.
Going offshore on the SSV Corwith Cramer gave Bridget a plethora of knowledge and memories.
“It was a surreal and wonderful experience to go to sea, and I deeply enjoyed the bonds I built with my shipmates out at sea,” Bridget said. “Also, you really can’t beat those Caribbean Sea sunrises.”
The experience of living and working at a museum is an aspect of this program that makes it stand out. As a history major, Bridget treasured her opportunity to work in Mystic Seaport’s collection.
“So few students get the experience of working in museums before they start graduate school, and I was fortunate to work and volunteer with multiple departments in the Seaport for the entire semester,” Bridget said. “This experience helped me get a job at the Seaport the summer after my semester, and redirected my career goal towards working with museums and cultural heritage.”
For Bridget, the hardest part of the semester was when it all came to a close. Leaving Mystic and her 16 new friends was incredibly difficult.
“I’ll never forget my last night in Mystic, when my class went out onto the grounds at 2 a.m. to sit in a whaleboat to watch a thunderstorm move up the river and reminisce about the semester,” Bridget said.
Bridget believes conducting multiple independent research projects at Williams-Mystic had a significant effect on her higher education experience.
“It also cemented my interest in pursuing a career in public history, exploring where climate change, cultural heritage, and memory intersect in the public sphere,” Bridget said.
Currently, Bridget is in the process of finishing her senior year of college. Two of her senior projects have ties to Mystic Seaport and the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.
“For my history thesis, I’m focusing on the George Greenman and Co. Shipbuilding company and how they directly profited from slavery by building numerous ships for the cotton trade in the 1830s-1860s despite being vocal supporters of abolition,” Bridget said. “I’m also channeling Williams Mystic in my honors project, which is focused on Dulac, Louisiana, the history of the Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogees, and the threats the tribe and its cultural heritage is facing due to rising sea levels in southern Louisiana.”
The connections made at Williams-Mystic continue well beyond the end of each semester. What surprised and impressed Bridget was the vibrant Williams-Mystic alumni community, especially since the program is only one semester long.
“I go to a state school, so you don’t really know your entire class and there isn’t a strong culture of returning for alumni reunions or events,” Bridget said. “With Williams Mystic, alumni are really connected to the program and form a really tight knit community.”
The number of ways Williams-Mystic changed her life was too many for Bridget to count.
“It made me more confident in myself, gave me a lifetime of wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and memories, introduced me to 16 wonderful people that I’m happy to call my friends, gave me a chance to work in a world class museum, helped me work with renowned professionals and academics in policy, history, literature, and science, reshaped my career goals, and taught me how to cook dinner for four people.”