Earlhamites study Hadrian's Wall
November 20, 2019
An 80-mile hiking excursion last summer alongside a historical border wall in Europe marked a period of intense career discernment and personal discovery for a team of Earlhamites.
Led by two faculty members, 12 students and recent graduates spent 16 days hiking Hadrian’s Wall while completing research and other projects of personal relevance. Hadrian's Wall was built by the Romans, beginning in 122 C.E., along the northwest frontier of its empire.
“We explored the ways that borders influence the ancient and modern world — and everything that could go into the concept of the border,” says Fiona Kelly ’21 from Waterbury, Connecticut.
“The overall experience was really open-ended, which allowed for a lot of personalization of these projects,” she says. “I’ve always loved the humanities and the classical world, but hiking Hadrian’s Wall really solidified my interest in being an Ancient and Classical Studies major. Being able to focus on areas outside of the city of Rome, and the inner-Roman empire, and looking more at the outer provinces is something I really fell in love with.”
The excursion to Hadrian’s Wall was one of nearly 20 off-campus programs last summer that was fully funded by EPIC, Earlham’s signature experiential learning initiative. Other off-campus programs supported by EPIC included opportunities to participate in public health campaigns in Peru, research in Sweden on factors that influence mental and physical health, and a cruise across Scandinavia to discover how busy port cities operate from a supply chain, operations management and marketing perspective.
“We live in a political environment where there is a wall being built on our southern border and the United Kingdom is grappling with a decision to withdraw from the European Union,” says Neal Baker, Earlham’s director of libraries. “We were looking to create an opportunity where students could explore a range of interests — and the locations we visited allowed that to happen.”
Baker, a veteran of several walking tours in the United Kingdom, linked up with Maxwell Paule, associate professor of Ancient and Classical Studies, to offer the excursion to students. Students represented majors from across the curriculum including Ancient and Classical Studies, History, Sociology-Anthropology, Politics, English, Environmental Sustainability, Japanese Studies, and Geology.
“We didn’t have more than two majors of a single type but they were a tight-knit group that really worked well together,” Paule says. “We wanted to give everyone a chance to play to their strengths and attack it from the angle that they found most interesting.”
The Earlham team arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, and headed south into England to begin an 80-mile hike from Newcastle to Carlisle spanning the English countryside. Hostels, historic homes or small countryside inns, even organic farms, provided lodging as the team traversed what is now left of the historical border wall for nine of the 16 days they spent abroad. The team also visited York before departing back to the United States.
A sampling of student projects resulting from the trip ranged from multimedia projects, essays and works of fiction, a linguistics study, research and analysis from the National Museum of Scotland. The projects included a geographic information system story map by Cora Johnson '19.
“I wanted experience doing linguistics field research on northern British dialects but I learned that my approach didn’t necessarily work,” says Jonah Wolf ’21, a Comparative Linguistics major from Bloomington, Indiana. During breaks from hiking, Wolf interviewed locals in towns and villages, but often encountered American tourists and never achieved the sample size he was looking for.
“I learned the right way to do it, I think, by doing it the wrong way the first time,” he says. “I still think it was incredibly beneficial to get experience doing a project in my field. That’s not something I would have learned without actually trying to do it.”
Similarly, Kelly’s research at the National Museum of Scotland gave her the time, resources and scholarly freedom she had been looking for. Her study focused on the museum’s exhibits and how they present the narrative of the Roman occupation.
“I am really invested in the field of museum studies and intend to continue to study it in graduate school and professionally, specifically doing analysis and evaluations of museums,” Kelly says. “This is the first time I’ve had free rein to go into a museum and analyze it in a way that I felt was relevant.”
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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a College That Changes Lives. We aspire to provide the highest quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. We expect our students to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.
Princeton Review ranks Earlham in the Top 15 nationally for Best Classroom Experience, and U.S. News & World Report recognizes the College as one of the nation’s “Most Innovative Schools,” and ranks EC 7th for the percentage of international students on campus, 25th for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” and 34th for “Best Value.”
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and email@example.com.