Current Community-Based Learning Courses

Fall 2015 Community-Based Learning Courses

Global Valley (AMST-111)

Drawing on a wide range of primary materials, and taking advantage of the ease of visiting the sites of many of the topics we study, this course offers an introduction to American Studies through an exploration of the Connecticut River Valley that stresses both the fascination of detailed local history and the economic, political, social, and cultural networks that tie this place to the world. Topics may include conflicts and accommodations between Native peoples and English settlers; changing uses of land and resources; 17th century witchcraft trials; the American Revolution and Shays rebellion; religious revivalism of the Great Awakening; abolitionist and other 19th century reform movements; tourism and the scenic including Thomas Cole’s famous painting of the oxbow; immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, especially in the cities of Holyoke and Springfield; educational institutions and innovations; the cold war, the reach of the “military industrial complex” into local educational institutions, and “the bunker”; the sanctuary movement; feminist and gay activism; present environmental, mass incarceration, and other social equity issues; and of course, Emily Dickinson's poetry. 

Native American Literature: Decolonizing Intellectual Traditions (AMST-274)

In 2013, Amherst College acquired one of the most comprehensive collections of Native American writing in the world–nearly 1,500 books ranging from contemporary fiction and poetry to sermons, political tracts, and tribal histories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through this course, we will actively engage the literature of this collection, researching Native American intellectual traditions, regional contexts, political debates, creative adaptation, and movements toward decolonization. Students will have the opportunity to make an original contribution to a digital archive and interact with visiting authors. We will begin with oral traditions and the 1772 sermon published by Mohegan author Samson Occom and end with a novel published in 2014.

Equity and Violence (ARHA-115/SWAG-115)

This Inside/Out course will meet every week at the Hampshire County Jail, and students will study how inequality of various kinds is linked to violence and sexual assault and also examine social art practice and its relation to issues of power.  Readings and discussions will focus on gender, racial, and class inequalities in society and examples of contemporary art work which address them. Inside and outside students will pursue and refine themes through interviews with one another and in art projects and individual essays.  They will produce a final project in a public forum to be decided on by the students for an audience of incarcerated and Amherst students. Students will create an accompanying  publication of text and images that enlarges on their debates and discussions. The course will be conducted on the Inside/Out model, and authorities from the Jail will collaborate with participants in determining the nature of permitted research, the format, and the timing of the final project.

Imagining Education Studies (COLQ-330)

This course investigates, interrogates, and critiques the field of Education Studies. It asks students to imagine what an ideal education studies program might look like at an elite liberal arts college like Amherst. The course will consist of three parts. First, through intensive archival investigation, students will examine the historical place of education at Amherst. How have previous generations of Amherst students studied education-related issues, both inside and outside the classroom? How have Amherst alumni contributed to the field of education more broadly? Next, students will explore the current state of Education Studies as a discipline with an eye towards the liberal arts. What is the purpose of a liberal arts education? How have liberal arts colleges made Education Studies central to their pedagogical missions? To answer these questions, students will connect with faculty and students engaged with Education Studies across the Five Colleges and at other liberal arts colleges.  Finally, students will debate, discuss, and imagine the future of Education Studies at Amherst.  The class will culminate with students collaboratively designing a model Education Studies major appropriate for a liberal arts college like Amherst.