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Get Your Feet Wet

March 04, 2014
With the landmark Chesapeake Semester and a new summer program in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound, the Center for Environment & Society is inviting students to undertake unique interdisciplinary studies with water at their core.

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Every fall, a small group of Washington College students embarks on a unique examination of the Chesapeake Bay and its connection to the wider world. This four-course program, which takes students from local tributaries to global oceans, is called the Chesapeake Semester. Now, the Chesapeake Semester has a complement in a new program, which takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The Puget Sound Summer Program will give students a chance to live and work full time aboard a historic fishing vessel while they study a variety of issues in this great and complex body of water.

Both programs are seeking students to apply and are still accepting applications. 


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The Chesapeake Semester uses the nation’s largest estuary as a classroom. Students study the Chesapeake Bay’s history, culture, ecology, politics, and economy consider the issues facing the Bay through each of these perspectives. They travel throughout the 64,000-square-mile watershed, kayaking on rivers, banding songbirds, researching animals and plants, and talking with watermen and lawmakers.

Then, they take what they’ve learned into the larger world during a journey abroad. They ask the same questions on a global level, and explore the shared challenges and solutions with an entirely different culture. The Chesapeake Semester challenges students physically and intellectually. It creates opportunities for them to define and pursue their careers, and gives them a strong sense of place, both on the Chesapeake Bay and in the world.

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The Puget Sound Summer Program likewise will push students out of their comfort zones as they live and work for two weeks aboard Commencement, a 65-foot purse seine fishing boat that has been retired from service and restored. The primary focus of study is natural and cultural resource management. As with the Chesapeake Semester, students will take what they have learned on a theoretical level into the larger world—in this case Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands—where they will meet with people who are involved with real-world management issues in the salmon, timber, and shipping industries. They will also examine environmental and social threats to coastal fishing communities.

Like the Chesapeake Semester, the Puget Sound Summer Program will encourage students to consider potential career paths as they travel and interact with a variety of people. And, if they’re interested in a maritime career, the time aboard Commencement will give them first-hand experience that can be used toward Coast Guard certification or other maritime industry pursuits.  This program is offered through the Department of Anthropology with the support of the Center for Environment & Society.

For more information on both programs and to apply, visit the CES website programs page or the specific program pages for the Chesapeake Semester or Puget Sound Summer Program.

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Last modified on Apr. 3rd at 10:49am by CRM Lindsay Bergman.