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By Bailey Fernandez and Erik Maloney

Photo Credit: UNC Chapel Hill

Last semester, Bland Simpson, a professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature, and Brent McKee, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences, offered a new interdisciplinary class last semester entitled “The Changing Coasts of Carolina.” The course took students into the field to conduct hands-on research in the coastal ecosystems of North Carolina. “The opportunity to put hard science and creative writing together and put the focus on our magnificent coastal plain,” said Simpson, “is really one of the thrills of a lifetime of teaching.”

The class, cross-listed as English 473 and Marine Sciences 473, sought, in McKee’s words, to “foster a generation of young writers who are honing their skills in creative writing but write on environmental issues, especially coastal issues.” The course cultivated rigorous and socially effective modes of writing by melding methods of the environmental sciences with creative writing’s communicative ability to reach a wider audience.

Joining these two perspectives helped students who primarily identified as creative writers to express their interest in ecology more precisely, while giving young scientists the rhetorical tools they needed to communicate the results of their research. The course thus encouraged the public expression of science and the public humanities. “You need science to help explain the world, but without writing, you can’t express your research,” said Blythe Gulley, a student in the course and an ECL major.

For footage of the course and more perspectives from its instructors and students, see the course video. Also, check out the post on the class by the marine sciences department.

Photograph of students kayaking in coastal ecosystems
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