A Sense of Place
First year students begin their Sterling career with a two-week Intensive called A Sense of Place. The course is an introduction to the ecology, society, and culture of northern New England. Classes include botany, human history, land- use practices, and visits to local artists and farms. Students participate in outdoor challenge activities and small group work, learn about establishing norms of social conduct, build community, and initiate conversations about what it means to live sustainably.
First year and transfer students also take Experiential Education I, where they learn advanced outdoor skills such as shelter and fire building. Then, in December, with five or six faculty members, all new students, usually around 40 in number, take off for a four-day, three-night trek along the ridge of the nearby Lowell Mountain Range. Winter Expedition, a 33 year Sterling tradition, is an experience that bonds students to classmates and faculty and to Sterling alumni, who hold Expedition in the highest esteem.
When the semester begins, students continue to engage in the core curriculum with classroom instruction in courses like Writing & Speaking to the Issue and Critical Science & Mathematics. Because many core courses are taught both in fall and spring semesters, there is plenty of room for new students to choose electives.
In the second semester and into the sophomore year, core requirements like Ecology and Environmental Science with Lab share a student’s attention in an increasing array of elective courses. The sophomore year Internship Experience is a precursor to upper level work during which juniors and seniors shape their academic path with their faculty advisor and prepare for the Senior Capstone Project, the culminating academic experience at Sterling.