This semester, many freshmen are taking their first-year seminar DELL courses. Some courses deal with hate speech and symbols, others go over what’s Mexican about Mexican food, and some teach students about fly fishing.
Yes, fly fishing is part of Dr. Adam Dean’s course, Are Humans a Part of Nature? So are nature walks on the campus trails. In a course that teaches about how sport hunting and fishing can be related to conservation, outdoor trips provide a practical application of what is taught.
“I can talk about why fly fishing appealed to Americans in the past all day, but students need to try the sport themselves to be able to fully understand,” Dean said.
The class covers U.S. environmental history from before the arrival of Europeans to the present. Students are encouraged to form their own opinions and answer questions: What does “wilderness” mean? Can capitalism and the environment coexist? How does war change the environment? Are national parks the best way to preserve ecosystems?
“My favorite topic in class was our discussion on the environmental impact of the world wars,” Lily Rhodes ’23 said. “I loved this unit because we explored many ideas I had never thought of before.
“Dr. Dean encouraged us to form our own opinions on the subjects covered in class, and, although it focused on history, provided context for present-day issues, such as climate change.”
Carmen Murray ’23 said, “So far, my favorite topic has been learning how to ‘read the land.’ In addition to what we learned in the classroom, we went on a walk near the dam at College Lake and on one of the campus trails to learn about what plant species we have here.
“I believe this class will change how most of us view our relationship with our environment.”
Dean grew up backpacking, skiing, and trail running in Utah, where his grandfather began teaching him how to fly fish in the fifth grade. Later, Dean would work for the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Growing up going to national parks, like Grand Teton, and working with the outdoors greatly influenced Dean’s academic work. He has written a book about the establishment of national parks and also teaches about the history of sport hunting and fishing.
Dean said part of the reason he enjoys teaching for the DELL program is because he can teach about his personal and academic passions.
Rhodes said that was obvious in the classroom. “You can tell he is passionate about the subject, making him really fun to listen to,” she said. “Dr. Dean always makes lectures interesting.”