Summer Research in London, England

By: Kristin Brig

Archival research is a sensual experience – the smell of aged paper, the touch of threadbare book covers, listening to scratching pencils and pulling documents out of boxes and covers. With the help of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, I was able to engage my senses in such a way as I performed research for my masters thesis in three of London, England’s biggest archives: the British Library, the Wellcome Library, and the UK National Archives. I used the opportunity to pour over document collections, notably the Royal Commission on Vaccination depositions located at the Wellcome and the Colonial Office records located at the National Archives, in order to collect primary sources for my thesis on vaccination policy and regulation in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British Africa.

National Archives

National Archives

Each day I left my flat, grabbed a coffee from a café next door, and headed to an archive. I spent the first week at the Wellcome, taking one day to visit the British Library. The following week I devoted to the National Archives. Doing archival research requires a receptive mind-set; even though online catalogues contain descriptions of materials, they usually offer little more than a short paragraph on the general theme of each collection or document. Instead of knowing exactly why I was searching for, I instead allowed the documents to guide my research. As I scanned a document for key words, I would occasionally stop and read bits of said document. If I found a passage with potential, I snapped a picture of the page and subsequent related pages. Yet purely from the pieces of information I gleaned from first glances, I saw different paths my thesis could take, patterns or anecdotes from South African, Ugandan, and Kenyan district surgery that I could tell were somehow connected. I took pictures of 600 documents at the Wellcome, 19 at the British Library, and 358 at the National Archives, presenting me with a total of 977 pages of primary sources for my thesis.

An evening walk in Hyde Park, a rosy sunset highlighting the Prince Albert Memorial.

An evening walk in Hyde Park, a rosy sunset highlighting the Prince Albert Memorial.

Today, I have read through close to 950 pages of those sources. I now know that without this research trip, my thesis for this upcoming academic year would not be possible. Many of the documents I digitized for my personal benefit would not otherwise be available to me here in Charleston.

At the same time, simply traveling living abroad was an experience in and of itself. At the end of a full day at the archives, I usually met up my travelling friend and fellow history graduate student, Hope Reilly, to go out to dinner at pubs and ethnic restaurants near our flat. Together, we also visited museums on the weekend, took evening walks in places such as Hyde Park and St. James Park, and even took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland for the May 28 Bank Holiday, when London’s archives were largely shut. We took advantage of our time outside the archives, choosing cultural experiences over watching television in the room to further broaden our academic sensibilities.

In the end, one memory will stay with me as I begin my thesis this fall. I spent the Saturday afternoon of our one weekend in Gordon Square, the former haunt of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group. I purchased a coffee from the garden stand and sat in a sunny patch of grass with my computer. As I read through and organized my first week’s collection of primary sources, I paused a moment to take in my surroundings. Groups of university students on the grass chatting about their exams. Older couples sitting peacefully on benches together. Birds chirping from the trees encircling the garden.

And I realized how great an opportunity I had been given to live and work in such a beautiful city for two weeks.

Kristin is pursuing her M.A. in history. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences funded a portion of her summer research trip to London. Students, like Kristin, are given experiential learning opportunities through our Dean’s Excellence Fund. Learn more.

Earthaven Ecovillage

summer I 2016 pic

Each summer, Professor Todd LeVasseur teaches a course titled “Nature Spirituality, Ecotopia, and Applied Ecovillage Living”. The interdisciplinary course explores ecovillages and how these intentional communities may help humans live more sustain-ably by incorporating ecocentric ethical values, ecological design, and environmentally friendly technologies. Students meet in the classroom for two of the three weeks. Then, they spend their final week in North Carolina’s Earthaven Ecovillage to interact with residents of the ecovillage who involve the students in an assortment of experiences, from classes on ways to build holistic topsoil to participating in a solstice ceremony.

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences financially supported a portion of the course for the students who reflected about their experiential learning opportunity. Read about their experiences below:

Milly Bina: “I am so grateful to have had this experience at Earthaven Ecovillage.  To see such progressive work happening in the movement toward a more sustainable future was commendable and absolutely inspiring.  From this experience, I am now an Environmental Studies Minor.”

Lizzy Beyer: “Spending a week at Earthaven was a profound intellectual experience that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. I met, learned from, and interacted with some of the most revolutionary and intelligent people in the field of sustainability and had an amazing time.”

Olivia Sackler: “This is experience was eye opening on a spiritual, educational, and human-level. I learned that it’s tangibly possible to truly act on your values and live pursuing the most important things in life- one’s relationship to food, the land, the community, and one’s spirituality. Happiness is a measure of wealth and it forced me to question why I’m here and why I do what I do on an every-day basis. It allowed me to open up and access an energy that hasn’t been tampered with enough. Earthaven provided a foundation for what I want to pursue including sprinkles of fun and laughter- which is always just as important.”

Dillon Biering: “The Summer Eco-Village course with Professor Todd was truly a life changing experience. Learning about the necessity of sustainability in our modern society is of vital importance however the ability to see genuine sustainability in practical application is an experience of even greater magnitude. This course was a profoundly eye opening experience and I would definitely recommend it to other students!”

Adeline Rawl: “My time spent at Earthaven was one of the most beautiful and eye opening experiences in so many ways. It was not only incredible to see a culture of people trying to live sustainably in the world but it was also a culture of individuals coming together as a community. It was an inspiring experience and I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing program.”

ecovillage 2016







To learn more about the environmental and sustainability studies minor at the College of Charleston, click here.

To learn more about the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan, sustainability literacy, click here.

HSS Celebrating 25 Years: Save the Date

Ballots and brunch_1As part of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ 25th anniversary celebration, and the College of Charleston’s Fall Alumni Weekend (Nov. 17-20), we will be hosting “Ballots & Brunch” the morning of Saturday, November 19, 2016. During this engaging two-hour event, you will enjoy brunch while a series of distinguished panelists discuss the results of the 2016 elections. More details to come.

wordmarks HSS-Bully

Boundless Giving, Inspiring Leaders


Education: It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And – with the establishment of the Martin Scholars Program – Thomas R. Martin and his wife Wanda are guaranteeing that the inaugural class of Martin Scholars will have an impact on generations and generations to come.

Created to inspire future generations of leaders and mentors among outstanding communication majors and minors at the College of Charleston, the Martin Scholars Program provides invaluable networking opportunities for students to meet with leaders in the communication profession. In turn, the Martin Scholars and the outreach they do will build positive awareness of the Department of Communication and the College of Charleston.

Tom Martin, who first became involved with the College when he joined the Department of Communication’s advisory council in 2004, has served as the communication department’s executive-in-residence since 2007, when he retired from his post as senior vice president of corporate relations at ITT Corporation, a global engineering company. Now that he’s in the classroom, his top priorities are improving students’ writing skills and decision-making skills so that they are ready to navigate the real world strategically, ethically and credibly. He also encourages students to focus on giving back.

And he and Wanda, who serves as a literacy tutor with the Reading Partners at James Simons Elementary, are leading by example. The Martins believe that one of the most important forces shaping a progressive society is the mentoring of future generations by parents, teachers, coaches, employers and others who encourage and inspire great things. By creating the Martin Scholars Program, they hope to inspire the future generation of mentors among today’s outstanding communication students at the College.

In other words, their gift is one that will keep on giving. And that is how you make a real, boundless, impact.

Take a Look: The 2016 Commencement Reception Pictures

Chicken and waffles, fried mac and cheese and King of Pops popsicles were just a few of the tasty treats served at our commencement reception as faculty, staff, family and friends of recent grads celebrated the School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ class of 2016. Of the 1800 undergraduate and graduate students earning degrees at the College of Charleston, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences graduated 480 students earning degrees spanning from psychology and communication to religious studies and English. Learn more about the College of Charleston class of 2016, including the most popular degrees earned, here.

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