The College campus, affectionately known as the purple bubble, can be, as its nickname suggests, a very enclosed and isolated environment. But every year, a few brave students pop the bubble, with some Ephs taking classes at neighboring colleges while students from other colleges enroll in classes here.
Krista Pickett ’13 took the class “Psychology of Gender” at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) while she was working on campus at the Office of Student Life last summer. In her junior year, Pickett realized that she no longer wanted to pursue her psychology major and switched instead to art history. She withdrew from “Experimentation and Statistics” halfway through her first semester of junior year, completing only the remaining three classes she was enrolled in. “As a Junior Advisor and serving on College Council, taking five classes last spring would have been impossible,” Pickett said. To compensate for her missing credit, she opted to take a class at MCLA over the summer. “Psychology of Gender” is similar to a class offered at the College that conflicted with classes Pickett was now required to take for her major, so MCLA provided her with a perfect opportunity to take a class she knew she was interested in. For three hours twice a week throughout the summer, Pickett and six other students attended the lecture- and discussion-based class.
“I loved my professor, and the students came from very diverse backgrounds,” Pickett said. Her classmates included some undergraduate students, a fulltime working mother and a student with a Masters degree in agriculture who was working towards a psychology degree. As someone who “needs a break from academics” during summer vacation, Pickett said the summer course was relaxed, as well as a good way to meet new people. “Getting off campus was really cool,” Pickett said. Compared to the classes she’s taken at Williams, Pickett says she had less reading to do but still learned a lot. “It was definitely one of the more engaging classroom discussion environments I’ve ever been in,” Pickett said, citing the lesser degree of “competition and self-consciousness” evident in the classroom. Pickett said that she “really enjoyed those discussions” and that they have affected “the way [she] thinks about gender here at Williams.” For her final project, Pickett analyzed how the movie Mean Girls portrays society’s gender roles. “It was a good balance of fun and learning,” Pickett said of the entire experience.
Students at neighboring colleges enjoy taking classes here as well. Emilie Slater, a senior at Bennington College in Bennington, Vt., is currently taking Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Gregory Mitchell’s “Sexual Economies” course. The course is Slater’s first class at the College, and she calls it “a breath of fresh air” in comparison to Bennington’s rural campus and small class size – only about 700 undergraduates study at Bennington College.
“It’s really healthy for students to get off campus and be in a new environment,” Slater said. Though she has previously looked at gender and sexuality in an extracurricular environment, Slater believed enrolling in Mitchell’s course would be a good chance to “take a full-fledged class” in something she’s interested in. “My biggest frustration is how short the classes are. I wish the class was longer,” Slater said, referring to how sometimes the curriculum seems to “rush through things” compared to classes at Bennington, where class periods are either two or four hours long several times a week.
Bennington students aren’t limited by the traditional major requirement. Instead, their website says, students use the “Plan Process.” “The Plan Process is the structure Bennington students use to design and evaluate their education,” Slater explained. “In a series of essays and meetings with the faculty throughout their years at Bennington, students learn to articulate what they want to study and how they intend to study it. They identify the classes they wish to take, as well as how those classes relate to each other and the rest of their Bennington experience.” A Williams course counts as a credit, but Bennington students may only take fall classes since the colleges’ spring semesters don’t match up. While Ephs have Winter Study, Bennington students have a Field Work Term, a seven-week, off-campus winter internship in which “students pursue jobs and internships in areas that complement their studies,” Bennington College’s website says.
The College may be isolated, but there are opportunities available to experience academic and campus life elsewhere – potentially a nice change to the day-to-day routine we can sometimes get stuck in here inside our purple bubble.