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Freshmen to Learn Fishing, Liberal Arts

Fly fishing in Montana is one heck of a way to jump start your college career. Political Science Professor Dr. David Hadley will lead 12 members of the Class of 2013 to Bozeman, Montana Aug. 16 for a one-week Immersion Learning trip as part of a Freshman Tutorial. The center piece of the unique liberal arts experience is fly fishing.

See photos from Saturday afternoon's lessons on fly casting here and here.

All freshmen take a first-semester tutorial designed to help them adapt to the way they’ll be taught and expected to learn during their four years at Wabash. The topics are often unique and interesting. Professors have the chance to teach an area of interest or a hobby in a classroom setting. The fly fishing tutorial may have set some sort of record. The class filled up in 96 seconds after online registration was permitted.
“I thought it would make a great topic for a course and that started me thinking about the connections between fly fishing and literature,” Hadley said. “There is good literature, writing, the science associated with fly fishing, stream ecology, bug life/bug cycles, fish and politics and economics.
“We just started spinning ideas and talking about how fly fishing connected with the liberal arts and liberal education. I’ve been ruminating over that for some time.”
Hadley will be joined by Biology Professor Dr. David Krohne and Professor of Biology Emeritus Austin Brooks for the one-week immersion trip. But another unique part of the experience will be substantial alumni involvement.
Jeff Perkins ’89 will accompany the group. Geoff Faerber ’98, who owns Flying Pig Whitewater Rafting, will lead the group through a rafting experience. Brian Grossenbacher ’90 is a fly fishing guide, outfitter and wildlife photographer.
The key to the week’s success is connecting good writing, the ecology of the streams, a visit to Yellowstone National Park with Krohne and Brooks, and the expertise of the alumni to the unique learning experience. The varied liberal arts aspects of fly fishing will continue throughout the semester.
"During the full semester we will read good literature (River Runs Through It and The River Why), look at the science of fly fishing, and explore more of the politics, economics, philosophy, ethics, and maybe even religious aspects of fly fishing.
“I will give the students a folder of material to take with them on the immersion trip. In that folder will be an outline for the syllabus of the course but also the college mission statement, preamble to the curriculum, the core values of the college and an abbreviated outline of the College curriculum so I can do some advising,” Hadley said. “I really want to connect the tutorial and the experience out there and in the class to the liberal arts.
“I’m also going to have them keep journals of whatever goes on during the six days we’re out there. The journal will be used as the foundation for writing other kinds of stuff later - a description of something, an event, a place, an experience, relationship or instruction on how to do something.”
The freshmen will also blog about the experience. The blog will be posted to the Wabash homepage.
The “head start” tutorial, freshman Saturday is Aug. 22, fits in with an on-going discussion about the freshman experience at Wabash.
“One of the important findings in the national research on the First Year Experience is that students who make connections to faculty and colleges early on and repeatedly are more likely to succeed in their freshman year and persist in college,” Dean of the College Gary Phillips said. “When Professor Hadley leads his freshman tutorial, accompanied by Professor Krohne, Brooks, and alumnus Perkins, he will offer his tutorial students the opportunity for the kind of engaged learning that makes for success. Not only will it be an adventure into the wild, it promises the sort of interdisciplinary learning experience that imprints upon these twelve young men the lesson that learning is interactive and interpersonal.”
Hadley thinks the Montana trip is the perfect experiment for a new freshman experience. The veteran Wabash professor spent six years as Dean of Students and saw during that time the importance of a good start for new Wabash men.
“We’ve been concerned about the early days of new students on campus and one of the things we’ve tried to do with and expanded orientation over the years is find ways to help students connect outside of living units and across living units and also to make early connections to faculty and staff.
“This tutorial gives us a real opportunity to help the guys in the class connect and know other students outside the living unit where they’ll be placed. This is going to be an opportunity for these kids to really get to know each other very well. They’ll also make connections with their advisor Dr Krohne, Brooks, and in this case with an alum,  Jeff Perkins, The idea of having students see the involvement of not only faculty but alums in their Wabash experience I think will be a real plus.”
The group arrives on campus Saturday for orientation and a quick lesson in fly casting. They’ll depart Sunday morning for Montana and immediately tour the area and have an evening cookout at the home of Brian and Jenny Grossenbacher. Monday will be a full day of fly fishing. Tuesday’s highlight will be the tour of Yellowstone National Park. They’ll fish again Wednesday then hear about the politics and economics of fishery preservation and restoration from Laura Ziemer, Director, Trout Unlimited Western Rivers Project.
Thursday will be educational and fun when Faerber takes the group whitewater rafting and a cookout that evening. Friday will include a stop at the Museum of the Rockies before return to campus that evening. The freshman will then join classmates for Freshman Saturday Aug. 22.
Freshmen making the trip are: Nathaniel Borden, Crawfordsville; Steven Chang, Antioch, TN; Will Drews, Lafayette, IN; Jason Farbstein, Falls Church, VA; Matt Kaczkowski, Skokie, IL; Wyatt Lewis, Indianapolis; Mack Lopp, Brookston, In; Jim Martin, Burlington, WI; Patrick Neary, Brookston, IN; Alex Orton, Clarendon Hills, IL; Trevor Poe, Floyd Knobs, IN; Daniel Turnbow, Columbia City, IN.

All photos by Steve Charles.