Last night, students from the UMass Lowell Honors College First-Year Seminar in all things Lowell went on the road in Kerouac’s Lowell. I teach one section of the 22 sections of this required course in the Honors College. Nearly 400 students are learning about Lowell in a directed way this fall. In the first weeks, we have (1) visited the National Park Visitor Center at Market Mills to see the history exhibits and watch the short orientation film about the city; (2) walked the sculpture trail to find out about the $1 million Lowell Public Art Collection near the canals downtown; and (3) looked at the downtown places featured in the books and life of author Jack Kerouac (Kerouac Park, SUN building, Lowell High School, Bon Marche’ building, etc). Next week, we’ll get a tour of the Pollard Memorial Library and a briefing about research resources there, and then watch a part of the City Council proceedings from the balcony in the chamber. The following week we have been invited to Holy Trinity Church in the Acre, where the students will have an opportunity to see this architectural gem (exterior and interior) and hear from the priest and a few long-time church members about the church and Greek community’s journey in Lowell.
Each faculty member designs a customized introduction to Lowell for his or her students, which includes readings, guest speakers, and field experiences. Five of the sections are using my book “Mill Power” as the main text for the course. I’m also using “The Big Move,” a collection of interviews with immigrants and refugees who found their way to Lowell (the book is edited by UMass Lowell history professors Bob Forrant and Christoph Strobel). This Honors College seminar course is another example of UMass Lowell’s commitment to bring city and campus together for the benefit of everyone. Students who are more aware of what Lowell is about and what it has to offer are more likely to participate in community life and make the city a bigger part of their campus experience.