The Quakers living near the headwaters of the Cape Fear River Basin (CFRB) in 1837 founded the school that became Guilford College. These Quakers were members of an abolitionist sect educating their children in a slave-holding state in the ante-bellum South. They educated their children to work for a better and more just future no matter how great the obstacles. They did this because they possessed values that led them to struggle peacefully on behalf of the place they lived, a place they called New Garden, and all of its people. The Cape Fear River Basin Studies Program continues this tradition of values-based inclusion with today’s students by offering them experiential, critical and creative place-based education for here and now.
Students, faculty and staff work in interdisciplinary teams to build creative and effective collaborations with one another and with those working in the broader community on behalf of our place. This program defines “place” by the shared waters and land of the Cape Fear River Basin. Unlike boundaries created by humans that sometimes reinforce artificial divisions between people as well as between humans and their environment, defining place by watersheds emphasizes our shared place, connections and dependence on one another. This approach allows students to learn from those working both within and outside their field of study while they develop a practice of seeking deep understanding of and engagement with their place. We believe that this watershed approach to defining place will carry students forward into their futures because no matter where they go or what they do, they will all live in and remain dependent on their local watershed.
Each year incoming first-years have the opportunity to participate in a First Year Seminar that involves substantial hands-on engagement with their College home in the Cape Fear River Basin. Students in this course may participate in an intensive pre-orientation program in the lower basin, PPS CFRB Surf Camp. This five-day program allows students to develop relationships with other students as well as faculty and staff, and to learn from professionals who work on behalf of our downstream watershed. This is a unique way for students to become part of the College community and to begin to discover the many opportunities that lie ahead of them at Guilford College.
This semester-long seminar takes students on an interdisciplinary and experiential tour of the human relationship with water, past and present. Scholarly and primary materials drawn from the fields of archeology, history, philosophy, visual and literary art, educational and intelligence theory all inform students as they begin to discern which direction they might prefer to take their coursework, research and personal development during their college years and beyond. In addition to the traditional academic inquiry, students get out into the community and onto the water for substantial interactions with community partners, scholars, activists and artists working on behalf of our shared place in the basin. These students hear regularly from more advanced undergraduates working in the program as they begin work and prepare presentations on a research project tying their personal motivation to a field of academic investigation.
In this seminar students continue to pursue independent and collaborative research projects in a supportive interdisciplinary community with support from mentors and experts in their discipline. Once begun, advanced students have the option of ongoing, ambitious projects with continuing support over multiple semesters.
Each spring, a team of students and interested faculty come together to reflect, assess and reimagine the future of place-based education at Guilford College. This cyclical revision demands flexibility based on the evolving interests and skills of those on campus and a deepening understanding of the needs of the wider basin community.
Throughout the year students and faculty involved in the program work to forge new collaborations to deepen student learning and the positive impact of Guilford College in the Cape Fear River Basin.
An application is available online for admitted traditional first year students interested in participating in a PPS Cape Fear River Basin Studies FYS and the pre-orientation Surf Camp.
All Guilford students interested in participating in the upper class seminars email Maia Dery for more information.