First Person: New Perspectives in Unexpected Classrooms | St. Lawrence University

First Person: New Perspectives in Unexpected Classrooms

The college experience, especially at a residential liberal arts school like St. Lawrence, may at times feel like living in a bubble. Surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of the North Country, we know that our “bubble” is not reflective of the outside world. St. Lawrence has recognized this too, and my experience with the Community-based Learning (CBL) program has allowed me to explore my academic passions, discover the community I am living and studying within, and understand how my studies fit into a broader context.

I have taken two CBL courses but one, in particular, has had a major impact on both my academic career and my personal journey. In the spring of 2020, I had the opportunity to take a history course with Professor Liz Regosin at the Riverview Correctional Facility. The class was a small group, made up equally of St. Lawrence students and incarcerated individuals. We sat across the table from each other, just a room full of students ready with notebooks and pens, eager to start our new class.

The conversations were energetic and multifaceted. The range in life experiences made for much more in-depth conversations and allowed for the historical topics to become fluid, moving from past to present. One moment from our last day visiting the facility stands out to me in particular. We knew it was likely that we would be going home for the rest of the semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we were saying our goodbyes and having a conversation about what we had all taken away from the semester.

In front of the class, an individual who had been relatively quiet all semester raised his hand and Professor Regosin called on him to speak. He said that never in his life had he considered himself a feminist or been interested in the plights of women, but that after taking this class and hearing the perspective of the women in the classroom, he now considers himself a feminist.  This moment helped me understand the powerful ability of education to promote understanding through diverse perspectives, and that it plays a role far beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.

The class solidified for me that my academic passion is history and inspired me to declare my history major as I finished my sophomore year. It also introduced me to the amazing Professor Regosin, who is now my academic advisor.

By breaking down the traditional walls of the classroom, my CBL experience allowed me to develop a special relationship with my professor and uncovered my eagerness to learn more about the United States correctional system. I had never been in contact with a family or person that had been affected by the correctional system, so this greatly changed my perspective on incarcerated people, correctional officers, and the system’s presence in our country. The course helped me understand and analyze the system’s flaws, discuss possible solutions, and forced me to think more critically about its prevalence in our society.

As my academic journey progresses, I’m passionate about further investigating the U.S. correctional system through projects and papers across classes and disciplines. I hope to share what I learn with others and am eager to continue learning from first-hand experiences that differ from my own.