Five Reasons Why You Should Apply to Williams-Mystic

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. 

Why should you choose to apply to participate in a maritime studies program? What can this program provide you that you cannot get at your home institution?

Aside from increasing your knowledge on everything from whale lifespans to flags of convenience, Williams-Mystic can offer you experiences that change the way you look at the world’s problems — maritime and otherwise. Here are five such experiences:

1) Research opportunities

SciencePres1

During your undergraduate career, it is very rare to have the chance to produce one in-depth research project on a topic of your choosing, let alone four. As a student in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, you will choose what you focus your literature, history, policy, and science research projects on as it pertains to our oceans and coasts.

You could create your projects based off one central theme; you could also choose to study totally different aspects of the sea in each of your four courses. Whether you investigate offshore drilling, Asian carp infiltration in the Great Lakes, the effects of climate change on coastal communities, women at sea, the philosophy of Moby-Dick, or a combination of all of these topics, you are bound to leave the program confident about your ability to break down complex issues of all kinds.

2) Travel across the United States

SanFranBridge

The regions and people of our country are vastly different. Take a moment to think about where you grew up. What makes your home unique? For example, I’m from the Midwest. We are known for our lack of an accent and slight obsession with ranch dressing. In a two-month span, you will see the Northeast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and open ocean, and you’ll meet the people who call those places home. Some of them will be classmates of yours — others will be individuals, from professional mariners and scientists to ordinary people, who choose to share their stories with Williams-Mystic students each semester.

3) Classmates who become family

IMG_3915.JPG

Want to build bonds with 17–24 people quickly? Sail on a tall ship with them for 10 days. You spend that time helping, encouraging, supporting, and celebrating each other as you experience a completely new environment — and developing a new appreciation for the strength of the ocean. Those 10 days will set the tone for the rest of your semester.

Let’s not forget the culture of living in the historic Mystic Seaport Museum houses. Williams-Mystic alumni argue over whether Mallory, Kemble, Albion, Johnston or Carr is the best one of them all. The rivalry is good during and after your semester ends. Walking through all of the challenges Williams-Mystic throws at you with the same people creates friendships built to withstand the test of time.

4) Professors who become mentors

KatywithStudents

How many professors do you know who encourage you to call them at 10:30 p.m. when you don’t understand how to make a graph for a project? At Williams-Mystic, this is the norm. All of the professors choose to be Williams-Mystic faculty members because they want to see their students succeed in the program and once their semester comes to an end. They work together to create connections among their classes, and to connect their class material to real-world issues. If you are in search of an accomplished professional to challenge you, look no further than Williams-Mystic.

5) Time in Southeastern New England

WMRegatta2-19

Living in Mystic, Connecticut for 17 weeks gives you the chance to hike, swim, bike, and immerse yourself in a town filled with history. According to a good portion of S’18, Sift Bake Shop is as much of a reason as any to apply to be a Williams-Mystic student. There are other wonderful places to visit in Mystic including Mystic Pizza, Pizzetta Pizza, Bartleby’s Cafe, Mystic Soup Company, Drawbridge Ice Cream, and Green Marble. Each class always picks its favorite places to hang out — and sometimes, those places are as simple as the dining room table in the historic house you’ll call home.

I’ll leave you with this: your experiences will be heard, valued, and understood on Greenmanville Avenue. No matter your major or career aspirations, you can find a place among those at Williams-Mystic.

Summer Research in Mystic: European Shore Crabs, Comb Jellyfish and Geochemistry, Oh My.

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. 

Each summer, a few students from previous Williams-Mystic classes, or from Williams College, live in Mystic while conducting scientific research. This summer, those individuals were Shelby Hoogland (Bryn Mawr College ‘19), Cristina Mancilla (Williams College ‘20), and Caroline Hung (Williams College ‘19). Here is what they have to say about their research: 

Shelby (S’18) 

Shelby wrote this for a Bryn Mawr College publication.

When I first moved back to Mystic, Connecticut, I had a preconceived notion of what my summer was going to look like after having spent the past semester with the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. My best friend from the program was going to be my roommate, I would be living in a student house, and would be working with the same professors from the semester.

I’ve traveled with these professors across the country — from sailing offshore in the Caribbean Sea aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer to hearing how climate change is affecting the lives and the history of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians in Southern Louisiana. crab.pngIf you know nothing about Williams-Mystic, know that the 30 other people you get thrown together with, students and faculty alike, become your family for a semester. I already had a few important connections: with Dr. Tim Pusack, my former marine ecology professor and current research mentor; with Dr. Rachel Scudder, my former oceanography professor; and with another current research mentor. These connections helped make me more confident that this would be the summer where I grow into my new position in life as a field ecologist and as a research scientist.

Invasive species pose one of the largest threats to biodiversity worldwide. Additionally, a group of invasive organisms can alter an ecosystem’s characteristics and local populations of native species. These alterations can directly impact local economies, negatively affecting industries such as tourism or commercial fishing. 

C. maenas is an introduced crab species originally from coastal Europe that was potentially brought over in the fouling or bored into a wooden ship in the 1800s. The area that I have been studying is Avery Point, Connecticut on the University of Connecticut – Avery Point’s campus. Although there are many different crabs found in this rocky intertidal ecosystem, the shoreline is dominated by C. maenas. It can be assumed that it is outcompeting native populations of crabs and other invasive species of crabs. In the lab, I am subjecting the crabs to temperatures between 12˚C and 31˚C to mimic the rising temperatures that will be present during the coming years due to climate change. I am measuring their daily feeding rates as a direct measure of their response to the temperature stress.

fieldMy research has brought me to some really cool places. How often can someone say that they get to go to the beach for their job? More importantly, it has taught me the importance of studying climate change. And it has given me insight into how little we currently know about how climate change might affect vital ecosystems. Looking forward to the future, the uncertainty is high as to what our climate will be like. Additionally, we don’t exactly know how it is going to influence local economies. Funding climate change research is important so that we can better prepare our communities in the face of future disasters.

Cristina (S’18) 

I researched trends in population growth and movement of Mnemiopsis leidyi, a comb jellyfish, throughout the Mystic River Estuary and the Long Island Sound. Another component of my research was to figure out a way to keep comb jellyfish alive in the laboratory in order to study them in a controlled setting. This was the most difficult part of the research. M. leidyi are notoriously difficult to maintain in a lab, but I needed to come up with a method to keep them alive long enough to complete an experiment. After much trial and error and with the help of other researchers, I was glad to finally have kept the comb jellyfish alive for a sustained period of time. The work that I did over the summer will hopefully make studying M. leidyi in the laboratory an option for future Williams-Mystic students. I wish to continue this project by studying the effect of increasing temperature on the reinfection rate of M. leidyi by a sea anemone larvae.

Caroline (Williams College Student) 

The summer of 2018 was Caroline’s third summer researching with Associate Professor of Geosciences and Marine Science Lisa Gilbert (S’96).

What I researched:

There are two projects I’ve been working on in my 10-week time with Lisa this summer. I spend most of my time working on my thesis, which is using geochemistry and petrology to find out the origins of the volcanic and alteration setting of the Chrystalls Beach Metabasalt Formation. We spent three weeks at the beginning of summer at our field site on Taieri Beach in South Island, New Zealand. Right now, we are focusing on analyzing the samples and starting to discuss the results. This effort will continue into my senior year. The other project is trying to finish my manuscript on marsh erosion — a project Lisa and I have worked on the past two summers at a local marsh in Barn Island. We hope to submit the manuscript by the end of August.

IMG_2583

What I learned:

I learn so much working with Lisa. It’s finally a chance to apply what I learn in geosciences classes in the field and research. Fieldwork and learning the scientific research process are like courses of them own. I have just started to become a so-called “hard-rock” geoscientist, meaning I now focus on subjects such as tectonics, volcanoes, geophysics, and structural geology, as opposed to “soft-rock” geology, which primarily focuses on fossils, oceanography, geomorphology.

Being out in the field in New Zealand was a challenge every day. I had to learn a lot of field mapping and measuring techniques right on the spot. Lisa was super supportive even when it took me an entire field day to learn how to measure strike and dip (the technical and accepted way to measure the orientation of rocks). But research allows me to build firm foundations on my science knowledge and to really tie what I learn in the classroom and from scientific research together.

I also learned that I want to keep doing what I do in the summers after graduation. Thus, I’m applying to graduate schools in earth sciences!

Challenges:

It takes a lot to focus on the same project knowing that you will continue to work on it the following year. Sometimes, people work in the same area for the rest of their lives! I try to mix up my days and weeks focusing on individual aspects of the project one at a time; I’ll read papers in the morning and play with data in the afternoon, or go to the field in the morning and do lab work and prep in the afternoon. Often, I still find myself staring at the computer because I couldn’t understand the numbers or try to troubleshoot with software or math. I just try to stay positive and know that at some point I will work through my problems. That is when research becomes very satisfying — when you figure out the answer to a problem that you’ve spent days working on.  

IMG_2687

Favorite part:

Fish and chips after field work at a roadside shack in New Zealand. Also, Lisa gives me a lot of autonomy in my work. From how I want to schedule my work day and the research questions I ask, to how I want to answer them. But she is very good at guiding me and giving me hints and critiques that I always look back on and am so thankful for! One of the greatest inspiration and fulfillment for why I want to keep working in Geosciences is the layout of this work that Lisa has got me started on. She always leads me in a good direction — I honestly don’t know where my life will be right now without stumbling into her lab the first summer after freshman year! 

Curiosity About Environmental Issues Brought Christian Petrangelo (F’04) To Williams-Mystic

Christian Petrangelo (F’04) entered Williams-Mystic unsure whether he wanted to stay in the environmental side of science. He left ready to jump into a career in environmental law and policy.

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. 

The age-old question of “what are you going to major in?” is something every person going to college has to answer at some point. Christian Petrangelo (F’04) started his freshman year at Middlebury College thinking he was going to major, and eventually work, in environmental science. Over the next four years, his plans evolved.

“By the end of my freshman year, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in the environmental field or do something else,” Christian said. “During my sophomore year, I retreated from the environmental side of things a little bit.”

That same year, Christian saw a brochure for Williams-Mystic and was intrigued.

“It was an 8-and-a-half by 11, full-page brochure that was floating around Middlebury,” Christian said. “I went through it thoroughly and knew other students at Middlebury had done the program before but didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone who had done it.”  

In August 2004, Christian embarked on his Williams-Mystic journey.

“I wanted the interdisciplinary approach, not just the science. Williams-Mystic intrigued me because of the push on the social sciences. During the program, I took a lot away from policy and history,” Christian said. “Going to Mystic kept me on the path of going into an environmental career by allowing me to explore other options than environmental science, like environmental law.”

Christian enjoyed many things about life in Mystic and on the road.

“There were so many pranks during our semester,” Christian said. “I was in the program when Mallory House was down on Greenmanville [Ave.] We played so many practical jokes, all in good spirit and good taste. It was still early enough that we had landlines and those were used a lot during our pranks.”

As someone raised on the East Coast, Christian recalls the West Coast Field Seminar fondly because of how much it opened his eyes to the vast geographic differences among America’s coasts.

“I fell in love with California on that trip, but I truly enjoyed all of the field seminars,” Christian said.

Christian recalled sailing the Gulf of Maine aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer with lots of laughter.

“Sailing on the Cramer was my first tall ship experience. I grew up sailing small craft boats and thought I would not be affected by seasickness,” Christian said. “I did get seasick. I remember being in the lab on the ship and looking at a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld that was in there. I felt what was coming and ran out of the lab to throw up over the side. My roommate was also from the East Coast and he never got seasick.”

Exploring the Gulf Coast opened Christian’s eyes to thoughts, opinions, and lifestyles different from his own.

“When we were in Louisiana, we went out on a boat towards an oil platform. Listening to the lectures about it made me see a whole different perspective on the marine environment,” Christian said. “Our class got exposed to that industry whether we agreed with it or not. Being exposed to people and industries that I was not exposed to in New England was good for me.”

Regarding his entire Williams-Mystic experience, Christian was pleasantly surprised by the close relationships he built with his classmates and faculty members.

“For me, the change of environment and getting back on the East Coast gave me freedom. Going in, I did not know what to expect from the people and was shocked how tight the group was during the semester,” Christian said. “Also, I thoroughly appreciate the joy I got from experiential learning. I wasn’t just in front of a computer or in one location and that created an exciting experience for me.”

After his time at Williams-Mystic, Christian graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in history, worked as a paralegal for a few years, and then attended the London School of Economics, where he received a Master of Science in Environmental Policy. After he completed that program, he spent three years at Vermont Law School, where he received a Juris Doctorate in Environmental Law.

“At Vermont Law School, I didn’t do any semesters off campus but I did spend a summer interning in the Vermont Attorney General’s office and another summer with the Department of the Interior working on issues in the environmental and labor law fields,” Christian said. “I also did Vermont Law Review and that gave me more fulfilling professional experiences.”

Participating in Moot Court, an exercise that is part of the policy class curriculum at Williams-Mystic, benefited Christian in law school.

“It was one of the first times I was exposed to oral argument preparation. It helped me and so many of my classmates face and tackle the anxieties that come with having questions fired at you in front of other people,” Christian said. “Finishing it showed me that I could prepare and succeed, not spiral down and fail. It put me on a path towards law school because of how much I liked the engagement and intellectual rigor.”

Christian looks back at Williams-Mystic as his happiest semester in college.

“I really clicked with the people in my class. I had finally met people who were passionate about the ocean and marine studies just like me,” Christian said. “It was great to be in an environment where everyone was intrigued by the same thing.”

Christian has this to say to young Williams-Mystic alumni and Williams-Mystic students to come: keep an open mind about where you could go professionally. You might have one idea about what you want to do with your life and you may come out of school or another kind of experience wanting to do something else. There are a lot of pathways life could take you down, so trust your instincts.

Connections and Community: Alissa Ryan’s (F’17) Williams-Mystic Experience

“I knew nothing about boats or sailing or the maritime community before coming to Williams-Mystic. I really didn’t think I’d be of any use to the ship’s crew on the Offshore Field Seminar, but I found myself knowing the lines, helping pull up the anchor, and steering the ship comfortably.”

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. 

Alissa aboard the US Brig Niagara, looking up with a life preserver hanging off the ship behind her.
Alissa Ryan (F’17) during the Offshore Field Seminar aboard the US Brig Niagara.

Imagine this: a little girl who hated the outdoors so much that her parents had to bribe her to go outside grows up and chooses to study environmental science, become a camp counselor, and love the outdoors. For New York University student and F’17 alumna Alissa Ryan, this is the journey that led her to Williams-Mystic.

Alissa was in the process of clearing out her old email when she came across a message from Executive Director Tom Van Winkle advertising Williams-Mystic. The program spoke to her because of its size.

“My school is really big (25,000 undergrads!) and right in New York City, so I wanted to have a small, personal experience for a semester where I could develop a community — and I absolutely got that, along with some hands-on learning relevant to my major that I never could have gotten through my own university’s programs,” Alissa said.

Williams-Mystic taught Alissa the importance of making personal connections and collaborating with others.

“At a big city school, there is very little community and people keep to themselves in big, 300-person lectures. It’s easy to fall into that and keep that mindset even in smaller settings where you have the opportunity to be more involved,” Alissa said. “Williams-Mystic reminded me to talk to my classmates and get to know my professors and be all around more present, which has helped me a lot back at my home college.”

Alissa especially enjoyed a field seminar full of personal connections: the Gulf Coast Field Seminar.

“It felt so meaningful and I learned a lot from talking to individuals there. I’ve been learning about climate change for years in the courses for my major, but seeing its effects in real life, right in front of my eyes, and talking to people about how it’s changed their lives is something I could never get from a classroom and really helped me understand why I’m studying these things in the first place,” Alissa said.

Community living was Alissa’s favorite part of her Williams-Mystic experience.

“I really loved Mallory House. We cooked together, watched movies and TV together, and had SO many mug cookies together,” Alissa said. “The other houses were just across the street, too, so I could cross the street to go see my friends over in the other houses.”

Alissa was surprised at how much she was able to learn as different challenges presented themselves.

“I knew nothing about boats or sailing or the maritime community before coming to Williams-Mystic, and I left knowing so much more,” Alissa said. “I really didn’t think I’d be of any use to the ship’s crew on the Offshore Field Seminar, but I found myself knowing the lines, helping pull up the anchor, and steering the ship comfortably.”

Part of being a Williams-Mystic student is working with others to solve problems or defend positions. Alissa’s participation in Moot Court with her classmates embodied this principle.

“We were all stressed and sleep deprived, a little convinced that we wouldn’t be able to make it come together,” Alissa said. “We kept working and figured it all out and it came together for both teams. It perfectly demonstrated to me how well we had all learned to work together to get things done.”

Alissa hopes to work in the field of environmental science someday and believes that environmental education may be a good fit for her.

“I love nature and the environment and I just want to make some sort of positive change, leaving it better in some way,” Alissa said.

Alissa’s Williams-Mystic experience can be summed up in one word: Gratitude.

“I have met lifelong friends through Williams-Mystic who I could never meet anywhere else. My classmates, professors, and everyone else I’ve met at W-M amaze me with their passion for what they do and their drive to make change,” Alissa said. “The people I’ve met through Williams-Mystic continue to inspire me and motivate me to do my best at what I love.”

Then and Now: Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life Laurie Warren (S’89) Reflects on her Time at Williams-Mystic

After working as a bench scientist for more than 17 years, Laurie Warren (S’89) is back at Williams-Mystic as Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life. She says it’s like she never left.

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. 


six college students pose together in an old photo
Laurie Warren (née Wilson) and her S’89 classmates at the Seaport. From left to right: Rob Johnston, Laurie, Margie Butler, Erika Mueller, Wendy Read, and Judith Wright.

It’s January 1989. Now-lab manager Laurie Warren is preparing to participate in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, which, at this time, is only eight and a half years old.

“I was a student in the spring of ‘89, which was during my junior year at Mount Holyoke College,” Laurie said. “I found out about the program from poster I saw in my biology department on a cork board.”

Laurie had heard about the program before, but had never taken the time to sit down and learn about all it could offer her.

“Back then, there were a lot of students who did the program through the Twelve College Exchange and I also had an awareness of what it was like to go out to sea because my sister, who is five years older, had done SEA semester on Westward.”

The program Laurie’s sister did was six weeks out at sea. Laurie was more interested in doing the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program because it included only two weeks out at sea.

The S’89 class had the unique experience of being at the crossroads of Williams-Mystic history.

“I was the last class of Ben Labaree, who is the founder. I was Glenn Gordinier and Mary K. Bercaw Edwards’ first class,” Laurie said. “I was at the crossroads. Dennis Nixon was the policy professor but he was on sabbatical. So, we had Ben for both history and policy.”

Laurie remembers going on many field trips for policy class.

“We went to an aquaculture site, a liquid natural gas (LNG) tank exhibit and we did a lot of outreach with quest speakers,” Laurie said.  

Laurie’s Williams-Mystic experience centered on New England, with Mystic Seaport as the focal point.

“It was our campus. We spent a lot of time there. We did a number of material culture projects and got into the collections. At that time, Glenn was not our main professor but he was very involved in the material culture aspect of history class.”

Laurie remembers working on a material culture project about the whale boat.

“A group of us all did it together. One of us did the Cooperage, one did the Morgan, I did the whale boat, and it all connected to whaling.”

Like many Williams-Mystic alumni, Laurie has fond memories from her time on campus and still identifies with her house, Albion.

“It is not the same Albion House that is on campus today. The one I lived in was across the street. I remember Ray Strong, my classmate, was the treasurer of our house. He was an economics major from Middlebury. He used some of our house money to buy stuff to make a tetherball court in the backyard, cement and all. We had a lot of fun.”

Other campus houses have also changed since Laurie’s semester as a student.

“Kemble House was one of the houses. So was Mallory, but it was down the street on the right and now it is owned by an alumna. Johnston House was also here but Carr House was not.”

When asked what her favorite field seminar memory was, Laurie talked about her time as a Williams-Mystic Science TA following her graduation from college.

“When Jim [Carlton] came on board as director, we went on a trip to New York City. We went to a container port there and we also went to Ellis Island. We stayed at Governor’s Island and we slept on the floor in sleeping bags. I remember being on this island and looking at the Manhattan skyline.”

Even after Laurie moved on from working for the program right after college, she was still invited back to go on a number of field seminars.

Laurie also worked on Mystic Seaport’s demonstration squad, led by longtime Williams-Mystic literature professor Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

After working as a TA, Laurie chose to pursue her passion for marine biology through an internship with the Department of Environmental Protection.

“I did a lobster project with them as an intern and I learned so much about different species and tools used in science research.”

Eventually, Laurie chose to take a position at DeKalb Genetics, a plant genetics lab then based in Mystic.

“I started there and was there for seven years. That is where I got the experience with working in a lab in industry.”

“After seven years there I made the move to go into pharmaceuticals because there was another employer nearby, Pfizer. I was there for 17 years as a biologist.”

Throughout her career, Laurie learned about plant biology. While at DeKalb, she worked on making corn more resistant so farmers could avoid using insecticides on the crop. She also graduated with a Master of Science in cellular and molecular biology while employed at DeKalb. At Pfizer, she worked in a lab that studied early biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease and head trauma.

“A lot of my work was really early discovery work. It was not in clinical with human patients or even with animals. I was doing cell-based work.”

Over 17 years, Laurie move from project to project. She got experience in cardiovascular health and in early safety. The common theme in all areas of her work were biochemistry, proteins, and cells.

After being laid off from Pfizer along with many other employees, Laurie took a year to decide what she was going to do next.

“I had the luxury of a little time to figure things out. I volunteered here a lot and helped work on the reunion last summer.”

Ultimately, she decided to come back to Williams-Mystic, this time as Lab Manager and Assistant Director of Student Life. One of her favorite parts of her job is hanging out with students and having conversations with them about classes, work, and life.

Even though Laurie worked in the field of science for a long time, she tells people it is like she never left Williams-Mystic.

“I was a student and then a TA and then there was a gap of some time but when I started having kids in 2002/2003, I jumped onto the alumni council and I am still there today. I have always felt connected with the program.”

What makes the experience of coming back to Williams-Mystic even more fun for Laurie is that Glenn and Mary K. are still here and Jim Carlton is around every now and then.

“It is such a family atmosphere. The Seaport has always been and will always be a big part of my life.”

For Stewart Silver (S’18), Williams-Mystic is the Perfect Place to Make Connections (and Prize-Winning Chili)

“I am fascinated by the sea and sailing. While I am here I am trying to gather as much information about life at sea as I can.”

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. 

An S’18 student’s opinion on making connections (and chili) at Williams-Mystic.

Exploration is an integral part of the Williams-Mystic experience. Students come to us from all educational disciplines to explore the maritime world through multiple lenses. They also come to use to learn more about themselves and where they want to go in their career and in life, which is true for University of Pennsylvania Sophomore Stewart Silver.  

“I am taking a semester to explore some things I would like to do both academically and career-wise,” Stewart said. “I have been studying biochemistry but will likely switch my major to biology or environmental studies.”

Stewart hopes to make connections both academically and socially over the course of the semester in our program.

“I am fascinated by the sea and sailing,” Stewart said. “While I am here I am trying to gather as much information about life at sea as I can.”

To accomplish this, Stewart has taken on two different jobs at Mystic Seaport.

“I am working with the sailing department to help maintain and repair any projects that they have going on there,” Stewart said. “I am also working at the shipyard helping maintenance and reconstruct the Mayflower II.”

Stewart believes that both of these jobs will give him valuable experience that will help him in his future endeavors.

“I am planning on going to grad school of some kind,” Stewart said. “I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now. It could be anything from law school to medical school or anywhere in between. I may take time off of school depending on what I get interested in here and over the next couple of years.”

Stewart said that community living has been good for him in this phase of his life and academic career.

“I am a member of Johnston House and living there has been a really good experience so far,” Stewart said. “It has been fun to interact with the other houses and students here in the program. I would say we all get along really well.”

Stewart says that everyone has the people they spend free time and study with but that the group as a whole truly enjoys spending time together.

Williams-Mystic seems to be famous for the all-in-good-fun pranks that occur between houses during each semester. Stewart said that pranks are definitely happening between the houses — and that it makes the experience even more memorable and exciting.

“Some houses are taking things from other houses but it is just to have fun,”  Stewart said.

Aside from pranking other houses and having fun with his classmates, Stewart has enjoyed all things about the program related to food.

“I have enjoyed cooking as a house, having lots of snacks around, and participating in the chili cook-off,” Stewart said. “This was the first annual Williams-Mystic chili cook-off and it was awesome. Each house brought a specialty chili that one or a few people from each house made. We tried them all at our program director’s home, voted on the best one, and, of course, Johnston House won.”

Stewart said S’18 is hoping to do more potluck dinners together and find more ways to share food, friendship, and fun memories.

Exploring the Seaport invigorates Stewart’s appreciation for this program. Stewart chose to take ship carving as his maritime skill.

“We have only had the chance to meet once but our first class was really fun,” Stewart said. “It was an awesome experience to see all the things that can be done with carving into wood, signs, figureheads, and smaller decorative objects. I am really excited to expand this skill and have it be a vehicle for learning more about the history of ships and all the small things that go on behind the scenes to make them work.”

A Journey Open to All: Olivia Glaser (S’18) on the Williams-Mystic Community

“This program is one of the most interdisciplinary programs out there. No matter what you think you are going to do or what path you are headed on in life, there is definitely an opportunity for you to find something here you are passionate about.”

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. 

An S’18 student’s view of what it was like to be a member of the Williams-Mystic community.

Williams-Mystic S’18 student and Skidmore College sophomore Olivia Glaser is originally from Los Angeles, California. She chose to go to school in Saratoga Springs, New York to experience something different: seasons.

The spring of her freshman year, Olivia happened to be in a class where Williams-Mystic executive director, Tom Van Winkle, was speaking.

“Tom came to talk in the class I was taking and I later talked to a Skidmore student who had done the program,” Olivia said. “This past fall I got in contact with Meredith [Carroll, Assistant Director of Admissions,] about an open house I wasn’t able to attend and she asked if I would be interested in applying, which I hadn’t even been thinking about.”

Olivia hadn’t been thinking about applying to the program because she didn’t think that was something she could do as a sophomore. She took time to contemplate if she was in a good spot in her academic career to be off campus for a semester as a sophomore and still thrive at Skidmore once she returned. Ultimately, she decided she wanted to participate in the program and chose to apply.

“It was a pretty big change from how I thought my sophomore year was going to go but I think I was ready for it,” Olivia said.

Since arriving at Mystic Seaport, Olivia said she has made many memories but that orientation week has been one of her favorite experiences so far.

“Getting to know everyone, my housemates in particular, has been a really positive experience,” Olivia said. “Preparing to go offshore with them was fun and that experience itself seems so surreal.”

Having been back in Connecticut for a few weeks, Olivia said that thinking back on the Offshore Field Seminar seems almost magical.

“We have all of these memories from the experience but I think about it sometimes and I think ‘did that really happen?’ because it seems so far away.”

One of the parts of the program Olivia was most excited for about living here in Mystic, Connecticut was being able to live in a house with her shipmates.

“I lived in a dorm while I was at Skidmore and that was fun but it is great to live in a house because I have my own space and I live with other people,” Olivia said. “Having that cohesive group is really nice and I enjoy all the responsibilities that come with it, like cooking and cleaning.”

Olivia said each house is different, so it is interesting to see how her house works together versus how other houses work together.

Each house receives an allowance for food each week, and must determine how to use and distribute the money. 

“Johnston House complies a grocery list and sends a few people to go grocery shopping for our food each week,” Olivia said. “Breakfast and lunch are on our own but dinners are cooked by usually one or two people for the group. Having family-style dinners has been good for us.”

Olivia wants people to know that this program is for any and all curious and driven students who want a change of view and pace in their academic career.

“This program is one of the most interdisciplinary programs that there is out there,” Olivia said. “No matter what you think you are going to do or what path you are headed on in life, there is definitely an opportunity for you to find something here you are passionate about or something related to what you are studying at your home school at Williams-Mystic.”

A Crazy, Exciting, Sometimes-Scary, All-Around Unforgettable Experience: An S’18 Student Reflects on her Offshore Field Seminar

I have a feeling this semester is going to challenge me in very unexpected ways, and this trip was a good reminder that challenges come in all shapes and sizes, and the good thing about being a part of a supportive and collaborative community is that people are willing to help whenever help is needed.

By Olivia Glaser, Williams-Mystic S’18 and Skidmore College ’20

Note: This post is an excerpt from Olivia’s reflections on her offshore experience. Check out the full post (and other posts on her Williams-Mystic experience!) on the blog she’s keeping for the semester, OG at Sea: https://academics.skidmore.edu/blogs/oglaser/ 

 

 

Hello!  I am back from the Offshore Field Seminar.  We circumnavigated the island of Puerto Rico in 10 days, and it was a crazy, exciting, sometimes scary, and all around unforgettable experience.  The director of the program, Tom Van Winkle, provided us each with notebooks in which he wrote us a personalized message of how to make the most out of our semesters here.  We were encouraged to write in our notebooks whenever we could during the field seminar, and I tried my best to write as much as possible.  I have transcribed the majority of my notes into this post, adding editor’s notes along the way.

Sunday

0510 – At the Hartford Airport, with Cheez-It’s.  Rachel’s biggest worry: “That everyone makes it out alive.”

My professor, Rachel, is a self-proclaimed Jewish mother, and we are her children.  

1107 – On the bus from the airport in Puerto Rico.  The music on this bus is SO GOOD.

1213 – Made it aboard the SSV Cramer after a short bus ride from the airport.  All of the palm trees I saw still had their tops but there were definitely signs of the hurricane, such as ripped balcony awnings, partially destroyed buildings, and a billboard and post that was completely on its side.  We’ve just got our bunks and unpacked and are now waiting to continue on with orientations from the crew and captain.

Technically, we were the crew on Cramer.  It is actually illegal for the ship to have passengers, so everyone on board must act as a crew member.  

1821 – Had a brief introduction to the crew and then lunch.  We split up into watch groups for more specific orientation.  I’m in group B and our second mate is Rocky and our assistant scientist is Janet.  We learned how to do a boat check on deck, in the galley, and in the engine room.  The engine room was so cramped and hot!  I was so tired that I was standing up in the lab swaying with my eyes closed.  I am just trying to stay as hydrated as I can.  It’s Sunday, but we aren’t leaving port until tomorrow evening, where we’ll anchor somewhere not too far out.  There’s almost 30-knot winds out there, so it’s better for everyone to stay in the harbor.  That’s surely where and when the seasickness will begin.  Although I’ve been fine at the dock, just tired.  It’s good we’re also getting full night’s sleep today and at least tomorrow.

Here is a breakdown of how the watch schedule actually works:

Day 1:

  • 0700-1300 — A WATCH
  • 1300-1900 — B WATCH
  • 1900-2300 — C WATCH
  • 2300-0300 — A WATCH

Day 2: 

  • 0300-0700 — B WATCH
  • 0700-1300 — C WATCH
  • 1300-1900 — A WATCH
  • 1900-2300 — B WATCH
  • 2300-0300 — C WATCH

Day 3:

  • 0300-0700 — A WATCH
  • 0700-1300 — B WATCH
  • 1300-1900 — C WATCH
  • 1900-2300 — A WATCH
  • 2300-0300 — B WATCH

2012 – I am in bed ready to go to sleep.  We had really good pizza for dinner and then my watch was on dishes.  It was fun but I almost fell from the crate I was standing on twice.  We will get woken up at some time during the night for our watch.  It’s weird to have to wake up someone who is basically a stranger.

After many days of watch, it is not weird to get woken up by someone, and my classmates are definitely not strangers anymore.  In fact, it was kind of exciting to pull back the bunk curtain and see who was behind it, whispering my name.  Also, steward appreciation note: the two stewards on our trip were ACTUAL WIZARDS and cooked some of the most delicious food I’ve had in a long time.  A lot of my journal entries are food oriented; we basically ate six meals a day, and it is so wonderful to find rice crispy treats waiting for you when you wake up for 0300 watch. 

… [Read Olivia’s journal entries from the rest of the trip here] …

Some final observations and reflections:

  • Seasickness goes away after a while! It does get better!
  • Putting 20 college students on a boat is truly a great way to bond.  Also, part of me feels that bonding is overrated, since we have the entire semester to get to know one another, and this trip was a great way to jump start that process.
  • I often forget that I love science and doing science on a boat was even more fun that I expected.
  • People that work on boats are SO COOL and I want to be like all of them when I grow up.
  • I have a feeling this semester is going to challenge me in very unexpected ways, and this trip was a good reminder that challenges come in all shapes and sizes, and the good thing about being a part of a supportive and collaborative community is that people are willing to help whenever help is needed.

To read more about Olivia’s experience, visit https://academics.skidmore.edu/blogs/oglaser/ 

Hands-on Learning, Interdisciplinary Connections, and Lifelong Impacts: Two Spring ’17 Students Reflect on Their Williams-Mystic Experience

“I always thought that becoming a researcher was the only way I could make an impact. Williams-Mystic showed me that you can find meaningful ways to engage your interests wherever you go.”

By Meredith Carroll, Assistant Director of Admissions and Director of Social Media

When Paul Butera, a sophomore studying geology at the University of Puget Sound, arrived at Williams-Mystic in January 2017, he “didn’t really have a plan” for life after college. His classmate Emma McCauley, by contrast, was certain she would continue on to graduate school after completing her marine biology degree at Stony Brook University the following fall. At different stages in their education, Paul and Emma nevertheless share a love for the ocean. Paul spent the summer of 2016 working at a salmon fishery in Alaska; Emma has years of experience volunteering with Oceana and the New York Aquarium. By S’17’s thirteenth week at Williams-Mystic, when they sat down for an interview with Science Teaching Assistant Hannah Whalen and Assistant Director of Admissions Meredith Carroll, Paul and Emma agreed that their experiences here had altered their views on the ocean, on conservation and on how to carry their passion for both forward into their lives after Williams-Mystic.

What experiences did you have before you got here that made you invested in protecting the ocean?

Paul: In Alaska, you can see that the oceans are warming: that it’s 14 degrees warmer where you’re fishing, and you’re getting fewer fish. Seeing that in the real world and then coming here and reading about it has been fascinating.

Emma: I’ve always tried to advocate for the ocean. But the event that made it concrete for me was Hurricane Sandy. I lived close to places that got utterly destroyed. Knowing that climate change caused this storm and that things like this will likely happen more frequently in the future reminded me how important environmental work and study are in the real world.

How has Williams-Mystic changed the way you think about your major? Has it changed your worldview?

Emma: Williams-Mystic has shifted my perspective away from just looking at the ocean as a scientific system to be studied. It’s made me realize that to be an effective steward of the ocean, you can’t push aside the people who need it to survive.

Paul: I’ve realized that the interdisciplinary parts of the ocean are what make it special. An example from the Pacific Northwest Field Seminar: I go to school right there. Yet I had to go to the East Coast and come back in order to appreciate all that happens there. I also really liked the Louisiana Field Seminar. I’d never been to the South, and it was a completely new experience for me. I found it similar to Alaska because oil and fisheries drive both place’s economies. Yet there were drastically different views of how those things should be managed. It’s a different society based off the same things, which was really interesting for me.

Emma: I definitely think my worldview has changed. I’m lucky to have come from an environmentally conscious place, and my love of the ocean has made my views [on environmental issues] very black and white. My college education has reinforced that. But this program [teaches you] that these problems aren’t black and white. It makes you think about the social justice issues involved. Being a steward of the ocean doesn’t mean you can’t also be a voice for people who need it.  The most challenging thing about Williams-Mystic has been understanding that your beliefs may not always be right and challenging yourself to look at all the information out there before you come to a conclusion.

How have your classmates’ perspectives and backgrounds changed your experience here?

Emma: We learn from each other. One of the greatest things about Williams-Mystic is that I’m a marine biology major, but that doesn’t mean I’m better suited for even the science class than anyone else. All the different perspectives make it the interdisciplinary program it is.

Paul: I’m going to steal something Nickie Mitch (Bowdoin ‘18) said during the Pacific Northwest trip when we went to Powell’s Books. I was expecting everyone to go to similar sections of the store but we all spread out. Everyone has a different passion, but we’re all tied together by our fascination with the ocean.

What will you take back to your home campus?

Paul: I think what I’ll take away is the interdisciplinary part of [Williams-Mystic]. If someone brings something up, I’m able to identify how it ties into the ocean, or this issue, or that policy. I may not be an expert, but I look forward to being a resource and an advocate for studying the ocean.

Emma:  I’ll also be more willing to step outside my comfort zone. Before I started this program, I was worried about getting seasick. I didn’t foresee myself performing chanteys for museum visitors. I didn’t think I would feel comfortable doing either of those things. But I’m doing them now and it’s not a big deal anymore.

What about Williams-Mystic do you think will stick with you 10 years from now?

Paul: Definitely the field seminars. Moving around, having a full-body experience and learning about it at the same time is incredible, and really ingrains whatever you’re learning about.

Emma: I’ve learned that there are more doors open than you may realize. I always thought I would go right to grad school and become a researcher, because it was the only way I thought I could make an impact. Williams-Mystic showed me that’s not true. It made me see that you can find meaningful ways to engage whatever interests you have wherever you go.

12 of Williams-Mystic’s Most Unique Experiences

Post by Katrina Orthmann, Williams-Mystic Class of Fall 2017 (University of Minnesota ’19)

Photography by Jesse Edwards and Haley Kardek (Williams-Mystic F’17)

 

Students wave while furling a sail aboard a tall ship.

 

  1. Climbing aloft on a tall ship.

Our 10-day Offshore Field Seminar was incredible – like something out of a pirate movie, but with less violence. One of the coolest experiences was climbing aloft to the top of the mast. The adrenaline of being a hundred feet in the air and the simultaneous serenity of looking out across the crinkled surface of the open water is a feeling like no other.

Students dance the cajun two-step in a Louisiana dance hall.
Fall 2017 shows off their dance skills at the Jolly Inn.
  1. Spending a night waltzing at a Cajun dance hall.

We spent one evening in Houma, Louisiana at the Jolly Inn, a traditional Cajun dance hall. Our history professor, Glenn, is a fantastic dancer and taught us the Cajun two-step and a basic waltz step. I’ve never considered myself a very good dancer—at age three I took a dance class that consisted of me lying on the floor while the other tutu-clad girls danced around me—but that night was one of my favorite experiences.

 

Students and an instructor work in a shipsmith's forge.

 

  1. Learning to shipsmith.

Some of my classmates took shipsmithing as their maritime skill for the semester, which is insanely cool—or rather incredibly hot, since you’re working in a forge. My friend Alissa told me that wielding the hammer is difficult, but that it’s satisfying to graduate to a bigger hammer. The instructor, Bill, reportedly knows when you’re ready. “It’s time,” he’ll say, and your arm will ache, but you’ll come away with metal hooks, bottle openers, and bicep muscles galore.

  1. Kayaking down the Mystic River to look for fiddler crabs for your science project.

So many awesome science projects were done this semester, one of which was a survey of fiddler crabs in the area. They haven’t been found in the area until recently, so the study was very interesting. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to kayak down the river on a beautiful day? Just make sure to bring your foul weather gear… the mud in the Mystic River is no joke!

  1. Learning to sail a small boat by yourself.

I came into the program intending to learn how to sail, so I chose the basic watercraft skills class as my maritime skill. The weather this semester was perfect for sailing; being out on the water on a crisp fall afternoon, with a light breeze blowing and the sun warming your face, is amazing. I even finished the semester with an award: the first (and only) person in the class to capsize! I’d like to re-emphasize that the mud in the Mystic River is no joke.

  1. Seeing the program director dressed up as Moby Dick, the infamous white whale, on the morning your paper is due.

I vividly remember standing in the kitchen around 8:30 in the morning, making coffee, enjoying the peaceful silence and getting ready to turn in my Moby-Dick paper, and suddenly there was a loud pounding on the door. A blur of white moved past the window as I flung the door open, and I saw this giant… whale-type… thing… sprinting across the yard. It was Tom Van Winkle himself (our Executive Director) dressed as the white whale!

  1. Helping reconstruct the Mayflower II in the shipyard.

My roommate, Monica, worked in the shipyard for her student job, and she got to help reconstruct the Mayflower II, a replica of the 17th-century ship Mayflower. What a cool thing, to have helped restore a tall ship!

  1. Singing sea chanteys aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last remaining wooden whaling ship.

Another maritime skill some of my classmates took was Chantey-Singing. My friend Kyra and I were both in sailing, but we stopped by chanteys to sing a few times, sometimes aboard the Charles W. Morgan. We learned some great chanteys, which led to the creation of a chantey playlist on Spotify and more than a few chantey karaoke sessions.

  1. Listening to a lecture backed by the sound of waves in California.

One of the best things about the field seminars was that we got to have lectures in places we learned about. While in California, we learned about John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row at the actual Cannery Row and about shipping in the San Francisco Bay while we sat overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. We discussed the ecology of the intertidal at Point Lobos as we watched the waves crash into rocky cliffs below ; we talked about the marine policy at Pescadero Beach while the sun set in the background.

  1. Learning traditional sailor skills in Squad.

Another maritime skill class some of my classmates did was Demonstration Squad, which actually involved multiple skills. They did everything from rowing a whaleboat to climbing aloft on tall ships to skinning a cod (which they then made into a stew for dinner that night). They also performed a rescue drill called Breeches Buoy, so called because of the pair of breeches used as a “buoy” to rescue people from shipwrecks. It was so fun to watch, and looked even more fun to perform!

  1. Sifting through primary documents for your history research paper.

The Collections Research Center at the Seaport contains millions of primary documents from sailors and ships throughout maritime history, many of which can’t be found anywhere else. In the process of doing research for our history projects, we’ve come across some firsthand accounts of life at sea and of historical events. It’s so cool to have all this and more at our fingertips.

  1. Spending the semester surrounded by a small group of amazing classmates and professors, immersed in this incredible program.

Williams-Mystic is truly one-of-a-kind. I stumbled across the program by coincidence and was on the fence about applying—I didn’t know if it was realistic or if it would be worth it. But if you’re reading this and trying to decide whether or not to apply, my advice to you is that it is so, so worth it. The people I’ve met here have become some of my best friends and all of the faculty and staff are so kind, caring, and passionate about what they do. I’ve learned so much about the maritime world and about myself. I’ve gotten so much out of this experience and I would encourage everyone to participate in a program this special.