Local Impact, Student News

View from Bingham Hill

Students in Mirka Prazak's Fall 2018 course Studying Place by Metes and Bounds were published in a special issue of the Bennington Museum's Walloomsack Review. 

Cover of the Walloomsack Review

Bennington: View from Bingham Hill, is a collection of essays written by students in Studying Place by Metes and Bounds, which introduced a variety of research methods for the purpose of collecting data about Bennington and describing the environmental and socio-political-economic concerns of the town, and by extension, of post-industrial life in the northeastern United States.

Class participants include Duncan Allen '21, Emily Halliburton '20, Stephanie Hernandez '20, Jessica Jaundoo '19, Hannah Lobue-Deshais '20, Stevie Martinez-Farias '20, Naomi Middleton '19, Ludjie Montout '19, Jenny Morgan '20, Lucinda Royte '21, Katharine Ruegger '21, Roua Atamaz Sibai '21, Lucy Blue Swenson '20, Lila Weiser '21, Georgia Williams '21, and Benjamin Wolinsky '19.

View from Bingham Hill includes a variety of writings, each inspired by a different methodology used to study the town: observation, participant observation, interviewing, quantitative data collection, and analysis of personal journals, published histories, newspapers, records, databases, and scientific reports. 

The cover of the journal is graced by a woodcut by Lucy Swenson '20, who also wrote an article about the Bennington Farmers Market. It coordinates with the essay by Georgia Williams '21 titled “View from Jennings.”

Originally, Bennington College Director of Environmental Studies Valerie Imbruce conceived of the course and received funding from the National Science Foundation in 2013 to develop it. She organized a multidisciplinary group of eight faculty (anthropology, architecture, biology, ceramics, chemistry, geology, plant science, and social psychology) to plan, discuss, debate, and devise a sequence of two courses with a rich variety of community internships. One primary goal of the course was to increase engagement between the community and the college.

Dr. Imbruce, a plant scientist, taught the first course in the spring of 2015, along with Prazak, an anthropologist. Students spent time in the community weekly, learning about the town, and in class, they engaged with many community members as guest lecturers who shared their knowledge of Bennington’s history and contemporary issues. The new course was written up in the Bennington Banner and the Rutland Herald, which highlighted the focus on students studying Bennington and learning through regular community interaction. And so, this multi-faceted experiment in higher education at Bennington College was off and running.

The course Imbruce and Prazak created continues. Prazak taught it for the third time at Bennington College in Fall of 2018, and Imbruce and Robert Holahan will teach it at SUNY Binghamton in Fall 2019. In both contexts, program creators envisioned the ultimate goal of increasing collaboration and cooperation between the college and the town. That goal has been achieved throughout, initially as members of the community contributed to the education of the faculty and the students, and now as the students make public their knowledge via this community-based publication of the Bennington Museum.

The selection and editing of the essays was a collaborative process between the instructor and a group of three student editors, including Duncan Allen '21, Naomi Middleton '19, and Lucinda Royte '21.

Prazak and her students are grateful to the journal’s editor, Tyler Resch, the Walloomsack Review and Bennington Museum for partial funding, and to the Bennington College Dean’s Office, the Center for Advancement of Public Action, and the programs of Environmental Studies, and Society, Culture and Thought.

It is through the eyes of briefly resident youth that this portrait of the town of Bennington emerges.

View from Bingham Hill

Issues of the Walloomsack Review may be purchased at the Bennington Museum, online through the Museum's store, or by calling the Museum at 802-447-1571. 

"The View from Jennings" by Georgia Williams '21
"Predicting the Trajectory of a Town" by Emily Halliburton '20
"The Bennington Farmers’ Market" by Lucy Blue Swenson '20
"The Fund for North Bennington" by Lucinda Royte '21
"What I Know About Bennington" by Jenny Morgan '20
"Small-scale Agriculture in Bennington County" by Katharine Ruegger '21
"Bennington’s Fight Against Food Insecurity" by Stephanie Hernandez '20
"Observations at Bennington’s Price Chopper" by Naomi Middleton '19
"A Bennington Take on Vermont’s Population Decline" by Duncan Allen '21
"Funding and Fundraising Development in Bennington Town" by Georgia Williams '21
"The Crossroads: Bennington’s Political Location" by Benjamin Wolinsky '19