In the spring of 1974, two University English professors took 18 students to New Hampshire to spend the spring semester studying local writers. The trip, called the New England Literature Project, was centered on taking students out of the classroom to learn.

The program was the brainchild of Prof.Walter Clark, who had a summer home in New Hampshire. Clark has since retired, but his colleague, Alan Howes, still makes guest lectures each spring.

Clark had the idea that “studying authors in the area where they wrote would add something to the study of literature,” Howes said.

Twenty-seven years later the program has doubled in size and NELP has become a popular summer alternative for many University students.

“We accept 40 students every year, and we typically get double that amount in applications,” NELP director Jackie Livesay said.

“NELPers” spend the spring term in a camp on Lake Winnipesankee in northern New Hampshire, reading, writing, swimming, hiking, camping, and engaging in creative and educational activities. NELP participants earn eight credits while taking three English classes: Topics in American Literature, Literature and Culture, and Creative Writing.

The learning environment is flexible and molds to the desires and needs of the students. Using the idea of a former student, NELP works on a nine-day week. In one NELP week students typically take five or six required classes, and meet with a small journal group twice a week.

Livesay, who has been with the program 13 years, said it is popular because it integrates academic, creative, nature, and emotional learning opportunities together. “Students read Robert Frost and get to see where Frost lived and hiked,” she said.

NELPers participate in elective classes at least three times a week that include art, poetry, drama, canoeing, rock climbing and other workshops. Over the years NELP has also incorporated members of the local community into the program, inviting representatives of the Abenaki Indian Tribe of New England to tell stories and offer wilderness training.

“I loved it, NELP was amazing,” said LSA sophomore Maggie Baldwin, a biology major who participated in NELP last spring. Baldwin said at first she was intimidated by her lack of experience studying literature but the communal setting and informal class structure improved the learning experience.

“Another goal of NELP was to take students into a remote location where they would form small groups and learn a lot from each other,” Howes said.

Students in NELP have an important voice in how the program is run each year. Activities and classes are planned according to group interests and skills.

NELPers are not limited to their immediate surroundings. Regular trips are planned to nearby areas of interest in New England. NELP students hike and hold classes in Acadia National Park in Maine. Chris McVety, a University law student, said the trip to Acadia and climbing Mt. Cadillac stood out in his mind. McVety participated in NELP in the spring of 1997 but has thought of going back as an instructor.

“NELP introduced me to e.e. cummings, a writer who I really liked.” McVety said.

All University students are eligible to apply to NELP, including international students and students from other colleges. Financial aid is available, as well as some separate NELP scholarships that are offered to students in need. NELP runs from April 30 to June 15, and applications were due last month.

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