By Eryn Finnegan Editor-in-Chief
UMF recently announced that it will offer a unique array of summer courses called the Nature Term, which will focus on the outdoors of western Maine across multiple subjects.
The Nature Term is the result of a collaborative effort between Academic Provost Eric Brown and Associate Provost and Dean of Arts & Sciences Nic Koban. The term includes both academic and recreational classes that will begin on June 1st. Koban called the program “an attempt at increasing summer enrollment.”
“Eric Brown and I were kicking around a bunch of different ideas,” Koban said. “What Eric had in mind was something to attract people to come to western Maine. We have mountains and lakes and all sorts of opportunities. He felt we could offer some classes that would take advantage of Maine’s natural beauty.”
So far, the program boasts 19 classes that range from four week academic courses such as three creative writing workshops in fiction, poetry and memoir, Environmental Art and Ecological Psychology, to one week recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing. Students will be able to take some classes simultaneously, such as an academic course in the morning followed by a recreational activity in the afternoon.
“We wanted a really flexible four weeks where students can come and learn how to fly fish or learn to kayak and have it coupled with a more traditional academic experience,” Brown said. “What if you could take a four credit writing course and work on your novel in the morning? What if in the afternoon you could go hiking or biking or fly fishing? Those things can mutually inform one another.”
Koban is particularly optimistic about a one week full immersion Swahili course in preparation for a travel course to Tanzania and a course in filmmaking offered by Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Bill Mesce, noting that the latter would be difficult to have during the regular academic year.
“What I love about [Bill’s course] is that the class will go through the entire filmmaking process. They have to write the script and scope out locations and film it and edit it, all in four weeks,” Koban said. “That’s hard to do in the winter when you only meet every other day. I think it’s really neat and I think people would love it.”
Koban and Brown both emphasized that the program will be open to people beyond the UMF community, with Brown also hopeful that the focus on Maine’s natural beauty will pull students and community members away from online classes and back to campus.
“We’re really trying to leverage our place and bring students to campus and people around the state,” Brown said. “They may already be on the way to Maine, they may just be driving through or visiting family for a few weeks. Either way, this can offer a rich learning experience.”
Brown added that in addition to these new courses, some are expanded versions of existing courses. “One of the first things I had Nic [Koban] do was work on this term based on what we were doing already. There were already a lot of courses that aligned with the [natural] theme like field science courses and nature writing, but they weren’t concentrated or motivated,” Brown said. “We worked to build the content around the idea of being outside and wanted to create new content.”
Brown and Koban are looking forward to finding out how many people will enroll in the program, which courses will be popular and how the classes will overlap.
“I’m interested to see how many students are truly taking advantage of the mix of classes,” Brown said. “We hope it becomes a mainstay. I’m interested to see how this structure’s first iteration works. I can’t wait to see it come to life.”
For more information, contact Nic Koban at email@example.com.