The Environmental Arts and Humanities program welcomed the first class of master’s students in September with a four-day field class at the Cabin at Shotpouch Creek in the Oregon Cascade Range. 

When students arrived, they pitched their tents in the 40-acre nature preserve around the cabin then met Karen Fleck-Harding, retired landowner partnership coordinator at the Marys River Watershed Council, who took them on a walking tour of the Shotpouch Creek restoration projects. The students followed her along the creek as she explained how she collaborated with fifteen landowners to install fish friendly crossings for lamprey, add large trees to the creek to enhance fish and beaver habitat, and fence the creek from livestock to help stabilize banks, among other projects.

Karen was the first of twelve visiting environmental scientists and scholars who met the students at the Shotpouch Cabin during the field class. Each visiting lecturer added a layer of complexity to environmental arts and humanities scholarship—including visual arts, philosophy, history, environmental science, literature, and creative writing. For example, visual artist Leah Wilson added a layer to Karen’s creek restoration walk. Leah explained how she uses data to create color signatures of creeks that she then uses in her paintings.  

When the students weren’t headed off into the woods to read Wordsworth with OSU English Professor Evan Gottlieb or talk about geomorphology while standing next to a clearcut with Fred Swanson, Emeritus Scientist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the US Forest Service, they were getting to know each other by cooking meals together, gathering around the fire at night, and playing games like PowerPoint karaoke. In addition to giving students an introduction to environmental arts and humanities, the class was also designed to build relationships between students so they will have a strong community during the next two years and beyond.

Jacob Hamblin, director of Environmental Arts and Humanities said, “We thought it was important to give these incoming students a feeling of belonging and common purpose, so that when they began to take classes, they had a strong sense of a cohort community.”

The Environmental Arts and Humanities program is designed for students with diverse backgrounds who want to dedicate their studies and careers to helping humankind make the difficult turn toward a more sustainable life on Earth. The first cohort of seven students is a great representation of the kind of diversity that the program was hoping to attract. Two students are beginning the program right after their undergraduate degrees in environmental science. The other students are coming back to school after years of working in various fields including nature interpretation, art, communication, chemistry, and program administration.

When the students headed back to Corvallis after the field class, they joined a vibrant community, both on and off campus, that celebrates and explores environmental arts and humanities through events, reading, and lectures throughout the year in Corvallis. Those events are the focus of the Environmental Arts and Humanities student blog.  The blog also features bios and photos of the new students. 

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Special thanks to the visiting scientists, scholars, and artists who made the first Environmental Arts and Humanities Field Class a thought-provoking success:

  • Rob Figueroa, associate professor of philosophy
  • Karen Fleck-Harding, retired landowner partnership coordinator at the Marys River Watershed Council
  • Charles Goodrich, poet and director of Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word
  • Evan Gottlieb, professor of English
  • Anita Guerrini, professor of history
  • Louisa Hooven, horticulture professor
  • Stephanie Jenkins, assistant professor of philosophy
  • Ray Malewitz, director of the MA in English, assistant professor of English
  • Michael Nelson, Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Natural Resources and a Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy
  • Allen Thompson, associate professor of philosophy
  • Fred Swanson, emeritus scientist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the US Forest Service
  • Leah Wilson, visual artist