New Orleans “In” Program Finds its Footing

Barbara Bell, Contributing Writer

What began as a series of trips to New Orleans as part of the Katrina Recovery Team (KRT) became the inspiration for one of the University’s first domestic “in” programs: New Orleans in 12 Movements, a three-week Integrated Perspectives course developed with a focus in history, jazz, and civil engineering.

This year’s course will take place from May 18 to June 5. There will be an information session on Oct. 29 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Dana 134.

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Kevin Gilmore, Associate Professor of Music Barry Long, and Brian Gockley, the assistant director of the Teaching & Learning Center, worked collectively to create an inter-disciplinary course that would highlight the diversity, beauty, and cultural richness of New Orleans.

Gockley and Gilmore began seriously discussing the possibility of a New Orleans IP course several years ago. They gathered momentum from student feedback on the Katrina Recovery Team.

“Seeing how the students responded to those experiences made it a natural choice,” Gockley said in an article published on the University website last month.

Gockley, a three-time participant on the KRT trips, actually began running Capstone trips down to New Orleans, and developed a class focused on the impact Hurricane Katrina had on the region.

“There I was taking students on tours in New Orleans, visiting engineering sites, and I, coming from a background in English and education, realized that I wanted some other involvement in the class,” Gockley said.

Soon after this realization, the University reorganized the Capstone program and created the Integrated Perspectives course, which Gockley saw as an opportunity to build and expand on the New Orleans (NOLA) program.

“In talking about engineering with Kevin [Gilmore], we realized that in order to fully encompass the wide breaths of New Orleans, we needed someone from music,” Gockley said.

They approached Long, who was eager to join the course.

“Adding a music component seemed like an ideal match for the course’s content. I’ve been to New Orleans on a number of occasions for my own research; as a jazz musician there might not be a more important city,” Long said.

The professors used the history of jazz as its organizing principle, finding overlapping engineering and historical facts and grouping them into 50-year periods.

“We then had to find three equivalent activities in all three disciplines that would march through the history of the city,” Gockley said.

The end result was a course of study of New Orleans in 12 movements, like a piece of music.

The course as it looks today, after its premiere run this past May/June 2014, functions as a three-week study that involves a week of preparations on campus, a week in New Orleans, and a culminating regrouping period to complete final projects. In the first week on campus, the course moves fast. 

“There is a lot of material covered , [including] guest lecturers, presentations, etc. Students should be prepared to immerse themselves in the history, music, [and] culture and maintain an open mind towards the connections between the disciplines,” Long said.

In New Orleans during week two, the group made the most out of a full schedule.

“While there, we went to a different club or venue just about every evening,” Long said.

Students also participated in service learning every morning. They worked with a rainwater runoff non-profit organization, participated in environmental studies competitions, planted water marshes, built rain gardens, and helped with pollution reduction.

“Getting to do service work and learning about the unique environmental and political challenges New Orleans faces was a great opportunity for me to get hands-on experience with what I plan on devoting the remainder of my academic and professional careers to,” Zach Berliner ’15, an environmental studies and economics double major, said.  

In her summative blog post, Xiaoying Pu ’17 wrote that during her time in NOLA, she experienced some information overflow at first but had a meaningful experience.

“Geography is a thinking framework, or the underlying rhythm that I clap with in a new song, because this perspective is clear, vivid, and does not avert my attention from whatever unique that is to be learned about New Orleans,” Pu said.

“New Orleans has such a huge pull in cultural attraction. What the Bucknell NOLA ‘in’ program captures, is the essence in which disciplines can collide and become one,” Gockley said.  

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