Project Abstract

I seek funding to develop a new iteration of the course, “Walking in Place”, for the First Year Program (FYP) at Sewanee: The University of the South. This course introduces first-year students to place-based thinking, teaches them to engage with their landscape through walking and contemplation, and exposes them to a canon of regional and local literature that emphasizes the natural and human history of southern Appalachia.

Project Alignment with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies

As the title of the course suggests, “Walking in Place” uses walking as the medium for understanding one’s place and for inspiring reflection about one’s place in it. The course introduces students to the natural and human history of Sewanee’s 13,000-acre Domain and its context within the southern Cumberland Plateau. This perspective is enriched through the exploration of key texts that include novels, essays, and poetry from southern Appalachia and even Sewanee specifically, as well as the canonical environmental literature from writers such as Wendell Berry, John Muir, Mary Oliver, and Thoreau. Perhaps ironically, the course is as much about walking as it is about sitting: learning to be still in a place, to observe and describe your place in writing, and to let a place catalyze mindfulness. If the course had a thesis, it would be threefold: 1) To know the history and context of one’s place is to enrich the present; 2) the best way to know your place is to walk it, to sit with it, to read about it, and to write about it; and 3) knowledge of the south Cumberland Plateau region is essential to a proper Sewanee education. For all these reasons, “Walking in Place” would be a core course in Southern Appalachian Studies and Sewanee’s FYP.

Project Impact

The goal of this project is to develop a new version of the course, “Walking in Place”. Student evaluations (mid- and end-semester) and regular observations by other instructors will be the primary means of evaluation. This course will impact incoming freshman initially. By teaching them to view their world and their education from a place-based perspective, this impact will persist throughout the matriculation of each class. The insights gained from this perspective will be shared with faculty and fellow students in subsequent courses, which will add to the tide of growing focus and concern for southern Appalachia issues on Sewanee’s campus.

This course will first be offered during the FYP 2018 term.