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Bridging the Past and the Future in the Present
By Megan Bernier ’07

“We’ve known we were the Sesquicentennial graduating class since we received our acceptance letters from St. Lawrence over four years ago,” says Adam Casler ’06 of West Winfield, N.Y.  “Now, we are leaving our own legacy—not just as the Sesquicentennial class, but as 17 students who are bridging the past and the future in the present.”

For Casler and many others, St. Lawrence’s 150th birthday has demonstrated how important it is to preserve the University’s traditions.  Professors Liz Regosin of history and Steve Horwitz of economics found that one of the ways to perpetuate those traditions was to take students back to the beginning and show them where it all began. Together, they decided to teach a senior seminar celebrating the Sesquicentennial and titled, simply, 1856.

The class was divided into three teams, with one each conducting research at the University, Canton and St. Lawrence County archives. “The goal was to examine local context and link it to broader patterns and themes in the country at the time,” says Regosin.  She and Horwitz spent the first part of the semester developing an economic and historical overview of the United States from 1845 to 1865.  Following that, the students focused on their research.

“We didn’t teach St. Lawrence history,” says Regosin. “The students taught themselves and created their own story of St. Lawrence.”

Katie Stoller ’06 of New Canaan, Conn., conducted research at the St. Lawrence archives, on a topic that has attracted her for a long time. “St. Lawrence has been coeducational since its founding, and that was revolutionary in 1856,” she says. “By the 1860s, there were an equal number of women and men at St. Lawrence.  This was the first of many revolutionary trends at St. Lawrence, and is one of the reasons why we are so rich in traditions today.”

Regosin’s purpose in offering the course was not only to celebrate the 150th anniversary, but also to contribute something to St. Lawrence and provide her students with an example of why history matters.  “For me as a historian, this type of seminar allows students to see origins and connections and discover why research is meaningful,” she says.

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