Intermittently since the summer of 2008, my home has been in the Susquehanna River Valley and so has my classroom. Come the end of this month, the river will BE my classroom for the duration of the fall 2010 semester. I cannot put into words how excited I am for this experience, especially as one of the culminating academic opportunities of my undergraduate experience.
My first experience in a kayak was near my home in McHenry, Md., on the Youghiogheny River (and you thought Susquehanna was hard to spell) at the age of seven or eight; and I promptly tipped the boat. I’ve gotten better since then; plying the waters of the Hoh Rainforest in the Pacific Northwest, paddling glacier-fed rivers in Alberta, Canada, and a summer spent canoeing in stages from the backyard of a home I lived in near Lewistown, Pa., down the Juniata River to the confluence with the Susquehanna above Harrisburg. But in all that, and miles spent on the Susquehanna itself, I’ve never forgotten that sometimes it’s just plain fun to flip the boat and get wet.
Unlike most Bucknell students, I was fortunate enough to transfer to Bucknell through a competitive scholarship from Garrett College, one of five community colleges in partnership with the University. Though most students I believe feel that Bucknell is a small school, Garrett would probably fit in the Gerhard Fieldhouse if you packed it in right. Nonetheless, my former alma mater has taken advantage of its natural surroundings and many of my classes incorporated their environment into the education, such as I hope to do this fall.
I have also spent this past summer working with the Susquehanna River Summer Writers Institute on an issue that affects a large portion of the watershed, and will undoubtedly come up as a subject of study again: the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas boom. The issues surrounding this development, from water quality and quantity to fears of contamination and mass fish kills, are topics that will certainly be a subject of study this fall.
All in all, this upcoming program will be a continuation of many of my interests, and an academic experience that I am delighted to be partaking in. Please stay tuned as the project gets underway and I begin to share our experiences from across the state and the nation during a semester on the river.