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Turning a City Into a Classroom

Students in The Point in Salem walking through an alley with murals.
Students break out of the classroom and gain in-depth knowledge from Place-Based Immersion Experience course in Salem.

At Endicott, breaking down the barriers of the classroom is something we like to do. One of the many great examples of how we’re doing this is with our Place-Based Immersion Experience course, which took place in Salem this year. 


This annual faculty-led, field-based experience allows students to conduct research over a weekend in a New England location that possesses cultural, historic, or environmental significance. Gloucester, a city with rich heritage that’s experiencing great change, was a past location of the course. 


Prior to departure, students participate in workshops to prepare them for the field-based experience. Following their return, students produce and publicly present creative or scholarly work based on their field experience and additional research or work.


This year, students had the opportunity to stay in the Hawthorne Hotel for the weekend and study Salem’s history, politics, and neighborhoods intensively. They met with Salem’s City Council President and another Councilor at City Hall and toured the Peabody Essex Museum and Salem Maritime National Historic Site. One student who participated in the course, Christopher Donald Cole, said, “Learning, especially when interacting with history from a first-hand perspective, generates a dynamic environment where the lessons become alive.”


A highlight of the trip was a tour of Salem’s Point neighborhood led by Endicott alumna, Abbie Allenson’16, through her work with the Northshore Community Development Coalition. Cole shared, “My favorite part was being able to learn about community development by visiting the Point neighborhood. The North Shore Community Development Coalition embodies my goal of stimulating community development through unique marketing and advertising. I also loved investigating the architecture of housing in the Salem neighborhoods and looking through the lens of Nathaniel Hawthorne as he began the writing of the Scarlet Letter. We got to visit the Custom House that he writes about in the introduction of the novel and see the influences that Salem had on the setting of his writing.” 


Associate Dean, School of Arts and Sciences and Chair of Humanities, Mark Herlihy, who co-led the course with Josh McCabe, Assistant Dean of Social Sciences, emphasized the importance of exploring our surrounding areas. “Students and faculty are so busy with the day to day work involved with taking and teaching courses. We don’t get off campus enough. We don’t explore the surrounding region as often as we should. A course like this provides the opportunity to learn about a very historic place, with the city serving as both laboratory and text. This is an incredibly rich region we live in,” he said. 


This trip allowed participants to immerse themselves in Salem and to go beyond the witch trials, which are most commonly associated with the city. Cole explained, “It was surprising to discover the history of Salem beyond its surface reputation of being ‘The Witch City’. I was surprised to learn about the extensive and intricate maritime history that surrounds Salem.”


Herlihy echoed that sentiment, “The witch trials are important to history and Salem’s tourist industry, but there’s so much more that Salem is important for.” 


Education can take many forms.  Endicott’s entrepreneurial spirit and required internship model supports that notion. For Cole, breaking out of the classroom is hugely beneficial.  “When you switch and change up the learning environment it allows for people to change their method of analyzing and conversing about a subject,” he said. “When you work in a new environment it helps stimulate new answers and thoughts that a textbook can't offer.”


To learn more about our Place-Based Immersion Experience course contact Mark Herlihy at 978-232-2178 or