“Williams-Mystic showed me how to study places.”
Williams-Mystic Fall 2008
Williams College ’11: Environmental Studies Major
Williams-Mystic Skill: Shipsmithing
Abby Martin is the Research Director, Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land.
Abby researches what makes city park systems successful, writes reports on innovations and best practices in park management, and explores the role of parks in neighborhood revitalization.
Between then and now:
After Williams-Mystic, Abby was a caretaker at Hopkins Forest and returned to Williams-Mystic for a summer to research marshes with Dr. Lisa Gilbert. After graduation, she worked in community outreach for Yestermorrow Design/Build School, where she finished a certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. Abby then moved to Washington, D.C. to join the Center for City Park Excellence.
“Williams-Mystic taught me just how interconnected the world is, far beyond the obvious connections of ocean currents. I learned to see the ocean in seemingly unrelated things, such as understanding the implications of farming practices in the upper Midwest for marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m better at looking for the big picture in situations throughout my daily life and work.”
“From the initial two weeks aboard a tall ship in the offshore field seminar, the program is full-immersion. Back on shore, field seminars consist of road trips with professors along a stretch of coast, with the caravan of minivans stopping periodically for joint lectures by several professors. There is something so special about sitting on a bluff and learning about the shipping history of the town, reading the literature written nearby, and hearing about the geological processes at work there–or learning about the local fishery and the policy decisions that affect it. There is nothing like seeing out-of-the-way places, meeting experts and local residents, and doing it all with classmates and professors.”
“Williams-Mystic is a boundary-stretching learning experience. Regardless of students’ majors at their home colleges, each Williams-Mystic class will be outside of somebody’s major or area of expertise. That makes for a great learning opportunity–classmates bring such a wealth of academic strengths to the classroom that each course is richer than if it were taught in isolation. And because everybody completes an independent project in each class, the faculty offer personal support and guidance to meet each student at his or her comfort level. Personally, I had no background in geosciences, but I was able to put together a research project studying sea level rise and sedimentation rates in a local salt marsh that was challenging yet accessible. And I enjoyed it so much that I later returned as a summer research assistant on a related study.”
On campus and community:
“From living in historic houses to visiting the museum’s boat collection to researching a paper in the archives, the maritime history permeated everyday life. Having special access to the museum grounds is so special. One of my fondest memories is of turning in my marine policy final paper and joining my housemates to walk through Mystic Seaport late at night, then sit on the deck of a ship and look up at the stars.”
“All my great experiences were made possible by a great set of housemates and classmates–shipmates–some of whom remain my closest friends.”