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.
Growing up around boats and sailing set Drew Lipman (F’99) up for a career involving the ocean. While a student at Vassar College majoring in history, he also developed an interest in environmental history.
He saw advertisements for Williams-Mystic and kept the program on his radar.
Drew’s semester began with a short orientation. Soon, the group was embarking on their Offshore Field Seminar.
“We were around for a week and then headed out onto the SSV Corwith Cramer,” Drew said. “We went from Woods Hole, Massachusetts through the Cape Cod Canal and then into the Gulf of Maine. We ended in Rockport, Maine.”
Drew remembers bonding with his watch and the mate who was in charge of his watch.
He still thinks about this offshore experience regularly. After you have sailed offshore, he reflected, it is hard not to become invested in the environment.
“You become very aware of your impact on the planet. That circle of blue is what the planet truly looks like. I loved my time at the sea,” Drew said.
As he expected it to be, the maritime history class was a highlight for Drew.
“A close second was marine ecology with Jim Carlton. I loved the field seminars in particular: the marsh, the rocky intertidal. Being able to see ecological principles at work was exciting,” Drew said. In this class, he discovered how much he enjoyed doing fieldwork.
His Williams-Mystic courses also helped Drew gain a new perspective on his history major. Prior to Williams-Mystic, Drew thought maritime history was elite naval history and white-bearded men.
“Maritime history includes Native maritime history, Black maritime history, female maritime history and so much more. The way it was taught at Williams-Mystic, especially using the museum, showed [that maritime history] is one of the most interesting approaches to talk about the origins of capitalism and race. It was intellectually exciting.”
Visiting the West Coast and Nantucket as a Williams-Mystic student helped Drew learn to appreciate place-based education.
“In Nantucket, we stayed in a field station run by the University of Massachusetts. You could see evidence of climate change in 2000,” Drew said. “While we were there, we measured the shoreline in Williams-Mystic students all linked together to the end of the point. We also went to a cranberry bog and the island’s famous whaling museum.”
Drew’s Williams-Mystic experience inspired his senior thesis topic and, in the summer of 2001, and did a research project with Williams-Mystic history professor Glenn Gordinier about Watch Hill, Rhode Island. It was a wonderful experience and got him ready for graduate school.
Williams-Mystic also provided Drew with a link to the Pequot War, a conflict between Pequot Indians and English colonists that culminated in a massacre of Pequots at a fort in what is now Mystic, Connecticut. During the first year of his Ph.D. program, Drew realized how much Kieft’s War, a war that happened in the neighboring Dutch colony just a few years later, was linked to the Pequot War. He wrote about the connection between the two wars for his master’s thesis and then decided to make the topic his dissertation. Throughout this work, Drew was able to draw on his Williams-Mystic experience.
Once Drew got a job, he revised his dissertation into a book called The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast. The book argues that Natives fought for space and independence through fighting on water and connecting with Europeans creatively and commercially.
Drew is now working on his second book, which focuses on “Squanto” and the Mayflower pilgrims.
“Squanto is a real person named Tisquantum and the reason that he was able to help the Europeans was that he had been taken as a slave by an English fisherman six years earlier. Patuxet, the later site of Plymouth, is where he grew up,” Drew said. “This story is well known, but I believe I’ve found some interesting new wrinkles in the story. It’s also just an irresistible epic. A young man encounters European ships, journeys to Spain, England, the Newfoundland, then comes home to find most of his home community had died in an epidemic. And his legacy was complex: though the Mayflower passengers celebrated him, many of his Native allies accused him of betraying them. Piecing together this story anew has changed how I think about this pivotal moment, and hopefully will change readers’ minds too.”
Place-based education is a big tenet of any Williams-Mystic experience. For Drew Lipman, place-based learning has paid off in an unexpected way, leading him to pursue a career studying the very places he encountered during his semester.