Williams-Mystic: The Coastal and Ocean Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport Museum 2023-24

Williams-Mystic: The Coastal and Ocean Studies Program invites students to experience a life-changing semester- not only on land and sea, but wherever their curiosity takes them. Whether it’s studying biodiversity off the coast of California, the impacts of climate disaster, or the depths of our humanity in ocean literature. Williams-Mystic students embark on the exploration of a lifetime. Biology students bond with filmmakers, mathematicians with anthropologists, English majors with chemists. We take to the open sea for a week, hit the road on the Pacific and Gulf Coasts, and explore the wonders of Mystic Seaport Museum and coastal New England.

Each semester, 20 college students travel to Mystic, CT, for a one-semester interdisciplinary investigation of our coasts and oceans. They live and study on the grounds of the Mystic Seaport, the world’s largest maritime museum while conducting original, hands-on research and traveling across the country to examine life in coastal communities. Students build strong relationships with each other and the places they inhabit, both in Mystic and throughout our field seminars. In addition to four academic courses, students take a maritime skills course- such as blacksmithing, woodcarving, or sailing and navigation- taught by the museum’s expert craftspeople. Students live on the museum grounds, co-op style, in one of five historic homes equipped with modern amenities. There they live, cook and create lifelong memories together.

Williams-Mystic’s curriculum contributes to an educational experience that is both interdisciplinary and immersive. Each semester, the faculty collaborate so that all coursework becomes part of the big picture, showing the ways our coasts and oceans are connected across multiple disciplines. Students attend regular weekly classes, panels featuring scholars and industry professionals, and hands-on day trips to locations around New England.  Students produce independent research in all four courses, which provides the opportunity to draw on interests or discover new passions that might turn into a career. We dig into the archives for history, delve into tidepools for science, and speak with leaders and stakeholders for policy class. In addition to their time in Mystic, students travel to different coasts across America, spending three to four weeks taking their studies off the page and meeting with community leaders.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, a semester at Williams-Mystic includes credit for one semester plus one winter study requirement, writing skills course credit, DPE requirement, and physical education credit. Four Williams courses are offered: Americans and the Maritime Environment, Ocean Literature, Marine Policy, and either Marine Ecology or Oceanographic Processes.  Williams-Mystic seeks candidates who are willing to try new things and work in a compelling academic environment. No sailing experience necessary. Participation in Williams-Mystic can also be used in partial fulfillment of the Coastal and Ocean Studies Concentration at Williams. Admission is competitive, and interested students should email [email protected], call 860-572-5359, or visit the Williams-Mystic site.

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