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Erickson Smith '15
Hyde Park, Massachusetts
Erickson is a COA student who takes full advantage of Mount Desert Island’s outdoor opportunities. Struck by the unique atmosphere of College of the Atlantic after participating in the Fall Fly-In program, Erickson didn't want to apply to any other schools. He felt welcomed and was immediately able to engage with students and faculty members. He initially intended to focus on marine sciences, and while he is committed to his work at Allied Whale, Erickson has since broadened his interests to terrestrial sciences and expanded his knowledge of music in practice and theory.
Erickson's Advice to Students?
Go on the campus rope swing as often as possible.
Learning at COA
There is no line between life and education. Education doesn't necessarily require sitting in a classroom.
When professor Scott Swan welcomed Erickson's Ecology and Natural History class to his home on Gott's Island, students were able to engage with the course’s subject matter in an experiential and personally significant way.
It was a rejection of hierarchy between student and teacher.
More recently, Erickson participated in Art and Culture in Northern New Mexico, a "monster course" (three separate yet connected classes) that included a ten-day exploration of the cultures and landscapes of New Mexico.
The course's coverage of Native American literature and New Mexican art and history prompted me to consider my and my ancestors' place in history, and to question my conceptions of time, identity, and meaning. It made me think about all the things that define me, and how I feel about them.
For his final project for the course, Erickson created an immersive experience for others composed of music, film, and spoken word. This endeavor required experimenting with many mediums, and communicating his wealth of knowledge and experience in a new way.
Significance of Self-Direction
For a self-designed independent study, Erickson explored the question of why humans have emotional responses to music. For more than ten weeks, Erickson reviewed scientific journal articles, listened to music, and learned about applying Eastern thought to Western music. This research culminated in writing a paper which was an experience he describes as "epiphany after epiphany."
Self-direction gave me the opportunity to see where I wanted to go — to follow my interest and apply something I'm passionate about to classes that are not focusing on that interest. On completing my independent study I felt like I produced something that mattered, and that I wasn't just fulfilling a requirement for a class or a teacher.
The Role of Human Ecology
Human Ecology is a perspective, not a discipline. It will remain incredibly relevant to my life because it is the way I will see the world. It has given me a habit of inquisitiveness — to question everything and not be satisfied with the first answer.
Examples of Erickson's Work
Essay from Erickson's independent study
The Harmonic Experience: Human Relationship to Music
"Listen to a sad song. [...] Most listeners, whether they know the artist or not, will agree that each song is on the sadder side of the emotion spectrum. [...] What are all these musicians using to make us feel such a specific suite of emotions?" Read more