Maritime Studies Brings a Local Student to Williams-Mystic

“At the end of those seventeen weeks, I saw all my classmates as my family. I had never become as close to another group of people the same way I had with them. The community we created must be my favorite part of the experience.”

This post was written by S’18 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at aad6@williams.edu.

What happens when your academic advisor has a crazy idea for what you should do your second semester of your freshman year? You take their advice.

University of Connecticut, Avery Point sophomore Sarah Stratton Patulak walked into Dr. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards’ office in the fall of 2016 unsure of what classes she wanted to take in the spring.

“When Mary K. told me about Williams-Mystic I was hooked instantly,” Sarah said. “She kept trying to sell it to me and convince me to apply, and I remember thinking ‘Where do I sign?’”

As a maritime studies and geography double major, Sarah considers herself lucky to have stumbled across the program.

“It gave me a taste of the maritime world, it showed me the diverse options that laid ahead of me in my education,” Sarah said. “To not only see but experience all sides of the very interdisciplinary field was incredibly eye-opening. It also helped solidify that this major was the right track for me to be taking.”

Williams-Mystic brought out a side of herself Sarah had never seen before.

“I saw this both academically but also in a personal sense. I recently re-visited some of the projects and papers from the program and was amazed at the quality of the work I did,” Sarah said. “I was also surprised by how many times I was put outside of my comfort zone, and how well I adapted to those circumstances. The greatest example of this took place during the offshore voyage; I never imagined myself setting sails in the middle of the night during a squall.”

For Sarah, the list of memories from her time in the program is endless.

“Some of my favorite memories come from Albion House. Any memory from sitting in our kitchen is one of my favorites,” Sarah said. “I remember one night we were all totally consumed with some assignment and were all stressed out in our respective work spots. We decided that at 2300 we would all take a break and convene in the kitchen for a 30-minute ice cream break. It ended up being almost an hour and a half and a whole tub of ice cream between the four of us. We just got caught up in conversation and telling funny stories, and it was much-needed comedic relief. It is probably one of my happiest memories.”

Traveling to the Pacific Northwest was Sarah’s favorite field seminar.

“We traveled from Seattle down the coast into Oregon and reflecting on it, it is astonishing to think that it all happened over the span of only eight days. I didn’t think it was possible to learn so much about so many different things in such a short amount of time,” Sarah said. “This field seminar also had the most Van Life time, as well as time together as a whole group. It was really in those hours spent in the back of the vans driving down the Pacific coast that I felt I bonded with my shipmates the most.”

To Sarah, Williams-Mystic is the best decision she has made for herself both academically and personally.

“I lived outside of my comfort zone throughout the semester and I feel like I could do anything because of it. It really taught me that you should say yes to every opportunity you are given because you never know what will become of it. I tell people all the time, Don’t lock doors you haven’t even tried opening yet,” Sarah said. “It also changed the way I look at the ocean. After all my studies I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the ocean. I could fully live in and with it and explore my passion which I think it’s why I found it so beneficial.”

Sarah loved the friendships she forged while in the program.

“My favorite part had to be the friendships I created with my shipmates. At the end of those seventeen weeks, I saw them all as my family,” Sarah said. “I had never become as close to another group of people the same way I had with them. The community we created must be my favorite part of the experience.”

As far as Sarah’s future is concerned, she hopes to work in ocean stewardship and education and would like to get her captain’s license someday.

“I love what I do, and I want to share it with the rest of the world. As a student studying the environment and the ocean, it is constantly on my radar and I am constantly interacting with people who understand its importance,” Sarah said. “But there is an entire world of people who don’t know a lot about the ocean, or the issues facing it. I see an untapped potential for education and I would like to work in spreading that awareness and knowledge.”

The Semester of Two Halls: S’17 Alumna Bridget Hall Reflects On Her Williams-Mystic Experience

This post was written by S’18 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at aad6@williams.edu.

 

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.”

 

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 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at aad6@williams.edu.  

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 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at aad6@williams.edu.  

Williams-Mystic S’18 student and Skidmore College sophomore Olivia Glaser is originally from Los Angeles, California. She choose 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.”

An Experience She’ll Never Forget: Katie Maddox (S’18) on Sailing Offshore

Being offshore “gives you a sense of how small you are in the world and that is very humbling. Now, being back in class, we can relate to all we are learning and reading about in literature and history.”

This post was written by S’18 student and social media intern Audra DeLaney. She is a public relations major and political science minor from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at aad6@williams.edu.  

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Our program prides itself on providing undergraduate students a semester of original research opportunities, extensive travel, and timely snack breaks. For University of Georgia Senior Katie Maddox, getting glimpses of the program via social media made her think that Williams-Mystic was the place for her to spend her last undergraduate semester.

“I decided to do Williams-Mystic because I don’t know what I want to do until I go to grad school,” Katie said. “I need to bridge that gap and it is a way for me to figure out what I want to do for the next few years.”

At the University of Georgia, Katie was an ecology student. Her class sizes were small and she experienced research and fieldwork first hand. What she had never experienced until coming to Williams-Mystic was conducting science experiments aboard a tall ship. While aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer circumnavigating Puerto Rico, Katie experienced all sailing has to offer.

“I was a part of A Watch and one night we had watch from 2300 (11 p.m.) to 0300 (3 a.m.) and we were motor sailing so it was pretty rough seas,” Katie said. “About half of our watch was clipped into the leeward rail because we were all seasick.”

Katie said that was the time aboard the ship where she asked herself why she had chosen to do the program, but that the seasickness subsided and there were many positive moments out at sea.

“My journal reflects some of the negative moments but all of my best memories are bonding with everyone,” Katie said. “The watches were made so well and now all of us are best buds. The class came back a big family.”

Being at sea was an experience Katie will never forget.

“It gives you a sense of how small you are in the world and that is very humbling,” Katie said. “Now, being back in class, we can relate to all we are learning and reading about in literature and history.”

Katie’s motto in life is that you have to try everything at least once. Even though she didn’t let it show, she worried about surrendering contact with the outside world and being a novice crew member on a ship for ten days. Now, worries and seasickness aside, she believes that sailing aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer is the best experience she has had in her college career thus far.

 

Aside from sailing in Puerto Rico, the S’18 class got another unique experience: visiting Old San Juan and El Morro, the fort at the entrance to San Juan Harbor.

The class as a whole was able to see the rebuilding process going on in Puerto Rico since hurricanes devastated the area in fall 2017.

“I had been to the same area last March prior to the hurricanes,” Katie said. “I got to see how things in the area had changed. It was depressing to see but it was good to see that the city is recovering.”

Prior to heading to Puerto Rico, Literature Professor Mary K. Bercaw Edwards told the class to imagine what it was like to get off the ship in a place they had never been and go into town with your lump sum of money like sailors did long ago. Katie said she thought about that while she was in San Juan and it was an interesting perspective to view the excursion from.

“I was glad we started at El Morro because as you work your way toward the bottom of old San Juan it gets more and more touristy,” Katie said. “It was cool to see that dynamic.”

When the SSV Corwith Cramer was coming back into San Juan Harbor, Katie said she felt like a real sailor because seeing the fort first is what the sailors would have seen back in the day.

For Katie, being back at Mystic Seaport is just as exciting as being out at sea. In addition to academic classes, each student takes a maritime skills class taught by those who work at the Seaport.

“My skill is canvas working,” Katie said. “I am very excited about it because we start with a literal and proverbial blank canvas.”

Katie’s will also hold a job while she is in the program. She is a lab assistant to Lab Manager Laurie Warren.

“I will help maintain the aquarium and take inventory in the lab,” Katie said. “This job is going to be a way to make a little money on the side and have fun.”

Williams-Mystic is more than just a maritime studies program. It is a place for people from all walks of life, and college majors, to engage in the study of ocean and beyond from many different angles. If you would like to learn more about the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, please visit mystic.williams.edu.

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.