ENC’s History and Language, Theatre, and Communication Arts departments collaborated last fall semester to invent and implement a new program, the Boston Semester. This program consisted of multiple courses with a particular focus on Boston and the surrounding historical areas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Dr. Ben Cater hosted the Boston Semester history courses Colonial & Revolutionary America and New England Material History while Dr. Karen Henck taught a literature class, Literary Boston. Each course required travel-based labs that highlighted the classes’ topics. For instance, Dr. Henck’s Literary Boston class took a trip to the New Bedford Whaling Museum as they were assigned to read Moby Dick. Dr. Cater brought his Colonial & Revolutionary America class to Salem, Mass. where the witch trials took place in the late 17th century.
Beside the coursework and travel labs, students also attended Boston Semester lectures on many topics, such as Cotton Mather, America’s first evangelical, to the relationship between evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Roman Catholics in 20th century Boston. Some lectures required students to travel off campus to other locations in and around Boston.
Literary Boston student and junior Ashley Dionne expressed satisfaction with the Boston Semester, and said she would recommend the course to incoming Literature majors. Sophomores Caelyn Doane and Connor Theroux, history students in Cater’s courses, both agreed that the labs provided an opportunity of immersion into the time period they were studying and a great opportunity to bond with fellow classmates while doing credit-based coursework off campus.
On the topic of effective collaboration, both Henck and Cater agreed that the team pulled off the trial semester successfully. Dr. Henck stated that she would both teach the course again and highly recommend the experience to any incoming student.
“I think Dr. Henck brought a terrific literary interpretation to the historical events/peoples/ideas that we discussed in the history courses,” Cater commented.
Cater would like to see the program expand and host further study topics, such as art and music, citing them as “distinctively human traditions that have histories and literature.”
“I believe the Boston Semester represents the best of the liberal arts tradition−good books, small classes, bright and motivated students gathering for intellectual fellowship,” Cater continued.
The Boston Semester will indeed run again in the fall 2015 semester, and from that point on, the two departments aim to make this a concrete track for students who wish to be immersed in the history of the historical areas surrounding Boston, and also of the city’s rich background itself.
“These courses help us understand our immediate municipal and regional environments in all their complexity,” Cater stated. “The ultimate goal is to make it a year-round program with half of the students coming from outside ENC. The Boston Semester will continue to be annual fall program.”