Professor Alf Siewers, Samantha Lauer ’13, Professor Katherine Faull and Drew Picketts ’14
Think sustainability and environmental studies are all about the sciences? Talk to Associate Professor of English Alf Siewers and he’ll open your eyes to literature’s impact on everything from community development along the Susquehanna River to the establishment of the National Park System. Siewers is an expert in the growing field of environmental humanities, which examines the way social behaviors and cultural ethics shape our environment.
Bucknell not only has notable expertise in this rich area of interdisciplinary study, but also has a Susquehanna Valley setting where a relative terra incognita gives faculty and students the chance to blaze new research trails. “In many ways the Susquehanna Valley has been a kind of lost valley,” says Siewers. “It hasn’t had its stories articulated on a national level as much as some other regions in the country.” Siewers and colleagues such as Professor of German and Humanities Katherine Faull aim to fix that. Faull’s research translating Moravian diaries received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and has revealed an unlikely alliance in the valley between Moravian settlers and Iroquois nations.
Siewers and Faull are among several Bucknell faculty members who have successfully worked to extend a National Historic Trail from the Chesapeake Bay along the Susquehanna River up to the headwaters in Cooperstown, N.Y. They are also co-editing a book series, Stories of the Susquehanna Valley, that will be published by the Bucknell University Press and includes a digital component with GIS (geographic information system)-style mapping. Says Faull, “We’re opening a whole new area of problem-solving and community-based research to students.”
This kind of exploration of ideas is at the core of the University’s approach to its entire curriculum. That is the beauty of Bucknell’s liberal arts, engineering and management breadth. Faculty can collaborate within departments, among departments and among colleges to apply such classic fields as philosophy to new fields such as sustainability. They can transform management education through experiential learning. They can create new models of undergraduate education in healthcare. They can deepen any major with rigorous global academic work and firsthand experience. They can make waves that contribute to the entire academy.