Loras College Crest

Black Earth Society Benefits English Majors

Robert Waterbury

Through a partnership with the Black Earth Institute (BEI), English majors at Loras College have access to internships and other opportunities to expand their experiential learning, working with established authors.

BEI is an organization dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society. According to their vision statement, they “seek to help create a more just and deeply interconnected world and promote the health of the planet. To do so, artists are appointed as Fellows for a term and Scholars join as advisors. BEI then encourages and supports its present and past fellows and scholars to address social justice, environmental issues and the spiritual dimensions of the human condition in their art and work.”

Loras students have access to two different internship options. The first runs through an academic semester where they work from campus to promote BEI programming through digital media, coordinate meetings of the BEI Board and Fellows, help to organize and coordinate the annual meeting/seminar and help set up the annual fundraising campaign.

The second option is a summer internship where students live onsite at Brigit Rest (home of BEI) in Southwest Wisconsin. They help to promote BEI summer events, but also tend to the organic gardens, prairie, and tree groves on the grounds, as BEI is committed to earth preservation in alignment with the mission. Summer interns also do readings from the About Place journal and other works, and discuss the works they’ve read. 

A BEI board member himself, Kevin Koch, PhD, professor of English at Loras, was instrumental in making these internship opportunities available to Loras students.

“The affiliation arose from connections between myself and BEI Director Michael McDermott and one of the board members, former Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander. My own writing about the spirituality of place, particularly in the Driftless and in Ireland—had close connections with the vision of BEI.  Michael thought that a college like Loras with a spiritual mission might make a fit for BEI interns,” Koch explained.

Beyond the student internships, Loras has a standing invitation to invite guest authors to speak from among the BEI fellows, which has included a visit by author Austin Smith. 

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