Adirondack Pilot Program Renewed for Fourth Year

While many students study abroad for a semester, rising juniors and seniors have the unique opportunity to spend their semester just a few hours away from campus in the heart of the six million–acre Adirondack Park.  The Adirondack Program began as a pilot in 2015 and will continue this fall for students seeking an off-campus, nature-centric experience.  The College will be making the decision about the program’s overall future this spring. 

The Adirondack Program teaches students that the Park’s peaks and valleys can become a classroom. In other words, students can be learners and experimenters as well as informed stewards of the earth. This immersion opportunity cultivates community engagement through classwork, fieldwork, and internships.

Laura Kwasnoski ’18 applied to the program to combine her knowledge from Hamilton courses with field research, to gain professional experience, and to improve her group work and coordination skills.

“I'm sure I won't realize how much the semester has fully impacted me for years to come, but I can already see how it has made me into a calmer, more well-rounded person,” Kwasnoski said.

Last semester, Mary Lundin ’19 worked on a capstone project that examined and compared alpine plants on Mt. Marcy to those that were documented in a 1920 article. Meanwhile, Christina Florakis ’19 and Maggie Horne ’19 created curricula for elementary and middle school students.

Janelle Schwartz ’97, general director of the Hamilton Adirondack Program, began the immersion experience as an alternative to urban opportunities that so many colleges offer as off-campus study.

“Hamilton should have an academic program in the Adirondacks, one that teaches students about community building in tight-knit towns alongside career preparation and rigorous coursework, while at the same time contributing in real time to the myriad projects that are needed to help this wilderness-based place thrive,” Schwartz said.

Students returning from the Adirondack program are enthusiastic about their experiences. Aside from gaining hands-on learning experience through their internships, they also learn more about themselves.

Christ Hart ’19 initially chose the Adirondack Program because he was interested in the sciences. However, after interning at Adirondack Research and Essex Farm, Hart discovered that his love for food and interest in science could be complementary.

“I realized that I could combine my interest in science with my passion for food and now I’m looking at graduate programs in nutrition and food science so I’m kind of excited about that,” Hart said.

Students have much to look forward to for the 2018 curriculum, whose faculty-in-residence- will be Maurice Isserman, Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History. Schwartz also hopes to highlight the debate of the Adirondack Park Agency’s role in governing the Park and integrate student responsibilities with Craigardan, a local and nonprofit community center and farm that recently opened.

The Adirondack Program benefits not only the companies and farms that welcomed Hamilton students as interns, but also the College community. Returning students apply their rich experiences to senior theses and share what they have learned in the spring semester.



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