Williams-Mystic is the name most commonly used for the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport. Based at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, USA, it is an interdisciplinary semester of study for 20 college sophomores, juniors and seniors. Williams College founded Williams-Mystic in 1977. Since that time, over 1300 graduates from more than 100 different home colleges and universities have participated in the program. Learning experiences are immersive and hands-on, including original scientific and archival research and three field seminars.


Williams-Mystic is staffed by five professors and a teaching assistant. All students take courses in Maritime History, Marine Policy, and Literature of the Sea, and choose either Oceanography or Marine Ecology. Literature is taught in a tutorial format. Policy, history and science classes all culminate with final project based on research conducted throughout the semester using the collections and facilities of Mystic Seaport.

Opened in September 2007, our new 8,000-square food Carlton Marine Science Center (CMSC) houses our marine sciences courses and offers state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research of estuarine and coastal processes. Science projects incorporate data collected from the Mystic River, surrounding marshy habitats, and even the rocky intertidal zone in nearby Westerly, Rhode Island.

History research is conducted in the Collections Resource Center of Mystic Seaport, where students are able to access a variety of primary sources including journals, seamen's papers and logbooks, as well as rare volumes of local Connecticut history.

Students additionally participate in maritime skills courses taught by Mystic Seaport staff. These offerings include small-boat handling, celestial navigation, chantey singing, shipsmithing, boat-building, and demo squad. Students work on the seaport ships, going aloft to set and furl sails on the Charles W. Morgan and Joseph Conrad, working the capstan and windlass, and setting out on the river in 19th century whaleboats and fishing dinghies.

Field Seminars

Exploration of America's coaslines is at the heart of the Williams-Mystic experience. Each semester begins with a ten-day offshore cruise on board the Corwith Cramer. During the offshore voyage, students live and work much as 17th century sailors might have done, sleeping and working watch-on-watch and learning to man the sails. Students also conduct science research in the ship's lab, analyzing data retrieved from both near-coastal and deep sea sampling. The fall semesters sail the North Atlantic, and the spring semesters sail the Straits of Florida.

For many years, Williams-Mystic's second field seminar was a four-day stint on Nantucket which afforded an opportunity to examine the whaling history of the island and the current questions of ecology, human use, and erosion.

In Fall of 2004, Williams-Mystic took its first trip to the Mississippi Delta, exploring the unique ecology and culture of the region. After a Katrina-related hiatus, the seminar has resumed, allowing students to once again see aligators, sample the cajun food, talk to the fishermen, and now to see the devastation of the storms and the determination of the survivors first-hand.

The third field seminar is a visit to the Pacific coast. During the fall seminar, in California, students visit John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, take a whale-watching trip, stand before a cove that the Charles W. Morgan visited in her whaling days, and another that may have shltered Sir Francis Drake. They see the container shipping pier in San Francisco; they walk under the Armstrong Redwoods and stand at the cliffs down which redwood timbers were once sluiced into waiting ships. In the spring, students visit the Pacific Nortwest with stops in Seattle, Portland, and Coos Bay. They have class at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, take a tugboat out through the Port of Tacoma, visit the Bonneville Dam, spend the night on a lightship, observe sea lions, study the rocky intertidal zone, and dispute the state of salmon fisheries.

Professors take their courses on the road (and sea) for each seminar, delivering their lectures in a wide variety of locales. Wherever they go, they seek to explore the connection between humans and the sea.

tudent Life

Students live in co-op style housing in historic houses owned by Mystic Seaport. Students frequently cook and eat together, and are often found bursting into appropriately salty song. These houses are steps away from Mystic Seaport's riverside grounds, which offer unique opportunities to explore the nation's largest maritime museum at any hour of the day.Because students are taking the same courses, they often find themselves studying, working, and taking study breaks collaboratively.

In their free time, students explore Mystic and the surrounding towns, enjoy running trails, the Mystic Aquarium, and other institutions such as Mystic Pizza, Drawbridge Ice Cream, and the Green Marble Coffee House. They take to the roads with Bikes for the People and to the waters with Boats for the People, a flotilla which currently includes a rowing scull, wooden rowboat named "The Green Flash", and a small sailboat called the "Half Hitch".

When not in class, the CMSC provides students with a 24-hour research, study and community space. Students also receive Connecticut College ID cards, allowing access to the college's library, cultural events and athletic facilities.


Williams Mystic boasts a loyal alumni base which recently achieved 54% participation in donations to the Annual Fund. Alumni also show their support for the program by converging on the seaport each September for an alumni weekend marked by whaleboat races, reunions, and a charitable auction supporting the Scholarship Fund. Smaller, regional reunions are held throughout the year and across the country.

External links

* [http://www.williams.edu/williamsmystic/ The Williams-Mystic website]
* [http://www.williams.edu/ Williams College website]
* [http://library.mysticseaport.org/ The G.W. Blunt White Library website]

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