August 7-10, 2016

Register Now

Do you remember the first day of a new college semester at Colby? The first words of the professor or questions from peers that made you want to dive deeper into the topic? That experience isn’t behind you. Colby College provides a unique lifelong learning opportunity that allows all alumnae and alumni to relive that experience at Alumni College on campus each summer.

We have worked with Colby faculty to craft and align the lectures with core academic themes taking place on the campus so that all Colby alumni, students, and faculty may contribute perspectives and knowledge to these broad academic themes in their own unique way.



The human impact on the natural environment will likely be the predominant social, political, and scientific problem of the 21st century. Through social and natural sciences as well as the arts, Human/Nature will reflect upon nature, the built environment and the ways in which our relationship to the natural world has shaped human existence.

2016 Featured Faculty
Annie Kloppenberg (Theater and Dance)
Elizabeth Sagaser (English)
Gary Green (Art)
Jim Fleming (Science, Technology, and Society)
Kerill O’Neill (Classics and Director, Center for the Arts and Humanities)
Keith Peterson (Philosophy)
Loren McClenachan (Environmental Studies)
Raffael Scheck (History and Alumni College Faculty Advisor)

A link to register for the program will be available in June 2016. Former attendees will receive an email when registration is open along with a printed program brochure.

Program Fees
$600 Full session (tuition, on-campus housing, meals Sunday dinner-Thursday breakfast [participants may leave on Wednesday evening])
$475 Off-campus package (tuition and meals Sunday dinner-Wednesday dinner)

Program Details

Sunday, Aug. 7
2–5 p.m. General registration
5 p.m. Reception and dinner
6:30 p.m. Raffael Scheck welcomes Alumni College 2016. Kerill O’Neill provides an introduction of the annual humanities theme
7:30 p.m. Live Music Entertainment: Miner’s Creek – traditional bluegrass, folk, and Appalachian music

Monday, Aug. 8

7–8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9–10:30 a.m. Human/Nature in Antiquity
Featured Lecturer: Kerill O’Neill
10:30 Break
10:45-noon Human/Nature in Poetry: Birds and Cognitive Flight
Featured Lecturer: Elizabeth Sagaser
Noon Lunch
2 p.m. Discussion
4:30 Audubon Birds of America Page-Turning
5:30 Reception and dinner
7 p.m. Movie

Tuesday, Aug. 9

7–8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9-10:30 a.m. The Concept of the Anthropocene in light of Critical Environmental Philosophy
Featured Lecturer: Keith Peterson
10:30 Break
10:45–noon Human/Nature in Photography
Featured Lecturer: by Gary Green
Noon Lunch
2 p.m. Discussion
Afternoon Free time
5:30 Reception and dinner with speaker
7 p.m. Human/Nature in the Anthropocene
Featured Lecturer: Jim Fleming

Wednesday, Aug. 10
7–8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9–10:30 a.m. Turning Back the Clock on Ocean Declines: Using Historical Ecology in Marine Conservation
Featured Lecturer: Loren McClenachan
10:30 Break
10:45-noon Colby on Tour: We Don’t Have an Algorithm for This
Featured Lecturer: Annie Kloppenberg
Noon Lunch
2 p.m. Wrap-up presentation and discussion
Featured Presenters: Kerill O’Neill and Raffael Scheck
3 p.m. Dance performance featuring Colby alumni
5:30 p.m. Final reception and lobster bake
8 p.m. Room check-out (optional)

Thursday, Aug. 11
8-10 a.m. Room check-out (final)


Sunday evening (7 August):
Welcome: Raffael Scheck, Katz Distinguished Teaching Professor of History
Introducing remarks on the annual humanities theme: Kerill O’Neill (Classics and Director, Center for the Arts and Humanities)

Raffael Scheck is Katz Distinguished Teaching Professor of history at Colby, where he has taught since 1994. He published five books and more than thirty articles and chapters on German and French history 1871-1945. His book Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940 (Cambridge University Press, 2006), was translated into French and German. His latest book is French Colonial Soldiers in German Captivity during World War II (Cambridge University Press, December 2014). Scheck started a new project on the forbidden love relationships of French POWs and German women during the Second World War.

Monday, 8 August:
Kerill O’Neill, Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics and Director of Center for Arts and Humanities
Lecture: “Human/Nature in Antiquity”

No different from people in our times, the Greeks and Romans exhibited a wide range of behavior vis-à-vis the natural world: awe at its majesty, greed for its resources, and fear of its secrets. The witches of antiquity, however, laid claim to special status because they said that they could control, dominate, and destroy nature. What dread powers did they claim to possess? How and why did ordinary people turn to them for help? What connection did Roman poets share with these purveyors of spells?

Kerill O’Neill is Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics, and the Director of Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities. A native of Ireland, he received his B.A. in Classics from Trinity College in Dublin, and earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University. O’Neill’s research interests range from Latin love poetry to Greek tragedy and Aegean archaeology. He is the Field Director of the Mitrou Archaeological Project, a collaborative endeavor between the Greek Archaeological Service and the American School of Classical Studies to excavate and survey a prehistoric site in Greece.

Elizabeth Sagaser, Associate Professor of English
Lecture: "Human/Nature in Poetry: Emily Dickinson, Birds and Cognitive Flight"

For centuries, poets have represented birds as messengers, spirits and poets themselves, and have invoked birds as metaphors for abstract ideas: “Hope is the thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson famously writes. But some poets, Dickinson prominent among them, also sometimes strive to do something quite different—to represent birds as individual embodied others that should not be readily subsumed into human worldviews. In these poems, poetic craft becomes a tool for focusing observation and generating new questions about both the observed and the observer.  We’ll expand this discussion by comparing a few Dickinson representations of birds to John James Audubon’s representations in the Bien edition of his Birds of America, on loan in Special Collections. 

Elizabeth Sagaser is Associate Professor of English at Colby College where she teaches courses examining literature in the history of ideas, including “17th-c. Literature and the Natural World,” “Poetry and the Nature of Being,” and “Shakespeare in 19th-c. America.” Her scholarship includes articles on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Milton’s representations of time, Renaissance women, poetic address across centuries, and the history and biology of poetic form and meter. Her current research focuses on the ways poetry and history are illuminated by, and themselves illuminate, recent work in cognitive science.

Evening: Movie

Tuesday, 9 August:
Keith Peterson, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Lecture "The Concept of the Anthropocene in light of Critical Environmental Philosophy"

The themes of anthropocentrism, the intrinsic value of nature, and an ecological worldview have preoccupied environmental philosophers for decades. What are some of the common ways that philosophers have considered these topics, and which of their conclusions are relevant today? We’ll consider whether anthropocentrism motivates the concept of the Anthropocene, how intrinsic value theory bears on the commodification of ecosystem services, and ask whether an ecological worldview is the best meta-scientific stance for environmentalism in this period of global climate disruption.

Keith Peterson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colby College. His primary areas of interest include philosophies of nature and environment, value theory, philosophical anthropology, and Continental philosophy. He teaches courses in all of these areas, and is currently completing a monograph on environmental philosophy entitled A World not Made for Us: Topics in Critical Environmental Philosophy.

Gary Green, Associate Professor of Art
Lecture: “Human/Nature and Photography: Picturing the Built Environment in America”

Photographers have always considered the built environment as a singularly important subject for the medium. Despite the images we often associate with camera clubs and conservation-minded photographers such as Ansel Adams, most landscape photography from the 19th century to the present includes at least fragments of the built environment. From the survey photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan and Carleton Watkins, to the New Topographics work of Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, to the "ruin porn" of contemporary artists like Andrew Moore, pictures of the places we live give us a way to measure our growth and decline as a nation. This slide talk consider what we learn from this work and how it might inform choices we make in the future.

Gary Green is Associate Professor of Art at Colby College, where he has taught photography since 2007. His photographs have been exhibited extensively and are held in many permanent collections. His recent book After Morandi will be published this summer by L'Artiere Edizioni in Bologna, Italy.

Special dinner talk:
Jim Fleming, Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society
Lecture:“Human/Nature in the Anthropocene”

The neologism Anthropocene (or age of humans), coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and popularized by geochemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, has recently struck a cultural nerve, pointing as it does to what may be the decisive epoch of our planet. What does it mean for humanity to be moving from the age geologists call the Holocene—where the historical records originated, to the Anthropocene—where it seems we may meet our demise? Are humanists and social scientists wise to appropriate this term, and what can we say about the history and cultural implications of what are apparently multiple Anthropocenes? What is the influence of this concept on us?

Jim Fleming is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Colby College. He established the STS Program at Colby in 1988. His books include Historical Perspectives on Climate Change (Oxford, 1998), Fixing the Sky (Columbia, 2010), and Inventing Atmospheric Science (MIT, 2016).

Wednesday, 10 August:
Loren McClenachan, Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Lecture: "Turning Back the Clock on Ocean Declines: Using Historical Ecology in Marine Conservation"

With impacts ranging from overfishing to climate change, the oceans are in need of immediate conservation attention. Historical marine ecology is an interdisciplinary approach that uses information taken from historical documents -- including photographs and early nautical charts-- to better understanding the cumulative effects of humans on marine ecosystems. Research has revealed long-term, and previously unknown, changes to marine species and ecosystems, providing information vital for managing and conserving marine resources. This talk will use examples from around the word and diverse taxonomic groups to demonstrate the benefits of historical data in assessing long-term ecological change, and the ways in which historical data can improve marine conservation.

Loren McClenachan is the Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College. A marine conservation ecologist, she is interested in understanding long-term changes to marine animal populations. She specializes in historical ecology and the applied use of baselines, sustainable fisheries and local seafood systems, and extinction risk and consequences in the sea. Her research quantifies ecological change and identifies conservation success over centuries and across large geographic areas in order to provide the perspective needed to halt declines and promote recovery of fisheries and large marine animals.

Annie Kloppenberg, Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance
Lecture: “Colby on Tour: We Don’t Have an Algorithm for This”

In September, Colby Professor Jim Fleming opened his talk on the Anthropocene by promising to offer “Something to upset you; Something to challenge you.” A series of sponsored lectures served as source material for the collaborative construction of We Don’t Have an Algorithm for This, an original dance theater work featuring nine Colby student performers. In this lecture/demonstration, Kloppenberg will discuss and reveal elements of the creative process for making the piece, which premiered in New York City in January 2015. Using methodologies that unrolled from a 2011 CBB Mellon Grant for collaborative faculty research, this work deliberately interrogated hybrid practices in theater and dance. In response to the Human/Nature theme, it explored ideas from multiple disciplines that encouraged the creative team to reflect upon nature, the built environment, and the ways in which our relationship to the natural world has shaped human existence. The creative process of making original performance allows students to sift learned information through personal experience, explore, and assemble fragmented memories and imagined futures. This group of students worked tirelessly, with deep commitment and sophistication.

Annie Kloppenberg, completing her sixth year as Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance at Colby, has been called “a fierce yet coy force of energy” (ThINKing Dance) and “a choreographer of nuances” (The Boston Globe). She has performed, shown choreography, and presented scholarly work at conferences and festivals nationally and internationally and serves on the Board of the American College Dance Association. Current research interests investigate pedagogies of choreography and performance as research. For more information, please visit:

Afternoon Dance Performance

Evening: Lobster bake and barbecue