When picturing an English capping course, you might imagine writing 20-page essays or reading massive books.  But this spring, Dr. Moira Fitzgibbons’ English capping class revolved around the possibility of creating a Hudson Valley Specimen Garden on Marist’s campus.  The 17 graduating English majors in the class have spent the semester researching Hudson Valley archival material, exploring gardens and landscapes throughout the region, and assessing the presentation of student-run gardens on other college campuses.

After teaching capping four years ago, Professor Fitzgibbons became “interested in thinking of all the different ways that English majors, being good writers, being creative thinkers, could contribute to the study of Hudson River Valley history, literature, and culture.”  She was inspired to pursue the idea of a garden by hearing about “different initiatives students have had in terms of…having a mindful student experience, trying to have some space [on campus] for relaxation.  This [garden] seemed to be one way for that to happen.”  She was also inspired by Junior Alec Lee and alum Alexa Kovlakas, who, for their Honors Program Thesis last semester, created a proposal for a more food-based community garden at Marist.

Each student in the class has been working on an individual project that will contribute in some way to the execution or enhancement of the potential garden.  They will be presenting these projects this Wednesday, May 3, at 3:30 pm.  The students’ work focuses on everything from bee conservation to education about local food insecurity.  Cristina Lupo and Kristen Dalli are producing a website and a blog, respectively, for the garden.  Marisa Maccaro and Christina Coulter are writing “dissension letters” that will get increasingly more demanding as they address potential issues with the garden.  Dylan Reggio will be focusing on adding music to the garden and making the garden “a place for student performances.”  Bernadette Hogan will be creating a map of the Hudson River Valley, highlighting the location of different Hudson Valley legends.  “There’s so much folklore and opportunity for creative writing in the Hudson River Valley,” Hogan says.  She wants to write some stories of her own and create prompts for future students to keep the garden alive. 

Professor Fitzgibbons believes that this capping class will, in some way, benefit every senior in the class.  She acknowledges that students, at this point in their college careers, are very focused on their lives after college.  “I’ve tried in the course to talk about this project as a…case study of project management skills that the students are going to bring to their professional work beyond college,” Fitzgibbons said. 

The students seem to be hopeful that this specimen garden could become a reality. Reggio attended the Buildings & Grounds Committee meeting on March 23 to propose the potential garden to Marist administrators.  “I was kind of hoping…that I [would be] able to put a little more influence into the project,” Reggio said.  He admits that he hadn’t spoken to administrators in such a professional setting before and he was a little anxious about how they might react to the suggestion, but that anxiety quickly dissipated.  “They already seemed like they approved [of] the garden before we even said anything about it,” Reggio said.  As to the future of the garden, Reggio “[sees] it coming in small steps” but says that the administrators at the meeting definitely recognized the potential of a campus garden project.

The student presentations will take place in the lobby of, and outside of, Fontaine Hall at 3:30 pm on May 3. Anyone is welcome to attend and refreshments will be provided. 

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