For her Learning Community course this semester, Ashley Lapierre studied the famous Lizzie Borden trial. The title of her project: "I got away with murder."
Lapierre's thesis was that the outcome of the trial-an all-male jury found Borden not guilty of killing her parents with an axe despite overwhelming evidence-was based on sexist and classist beliefs of the 19th century.
"I like the way she made a connection between a sensational murder case and the larger social issues," said HCC Professor Jack Mino, coordinator of the HCC Learning Communities.
That kind of connection illustrates what Learning Communities are all about.
Lapierre, who is from South Hadley, was just one of dozens of students taking Learning Community courses this fall who presented their research at a poster conference Friday, Dec. 16.
"In Learning Communities, we basically take two classes and integrate them along a common theme that informs both classes," said Mino.
HCC Learning Community courses are all interdisciplinary and team taught. Students collaborate on their work and their assignments are graded by each teacher from their two respective classes.
"They range from developmental classes to honors classes and everything in between," said Mino, who team teaches a Learning Community class that combines environmental literature and ecological psychology, playfully called, "When Gaia met Psyche." Gaia is the Greek goddess of the earth, Psyche the goddess of the mind.
Other posters on display dealt with issues such as happiness and resilience, environmental sustainability, racism and heroes and media.
Shaitia Spruell examined the evolution of instant photography for her Learning Community course, "YouTube Nation: Technology, History & Youth Culture," which combined history and English.
"Everything is getting faster, stronger, clearer, more digital," said Spruell, who is from Springfield.
Other student exhibits presented the history of the Sony Walkman ("A New Way of Listening to Music"), the boom box revolution ("How did the boom box benefit urban culture?"); another looked at feminism by studying the late comedienne Lucille Ball's professional career.
Lapierre's class, "American Dreams: Facts, Fictions, Myths and Realities," combined English and Anthropology. Lapierre examined the Lizzie Borden case in the context of the women's suffrage movement of the era and the fact that women were gaining power that men did not want to give up.
In her conclusion, Lapierre wrote: "By finding Borden not guilty, the jury showed their belief that women were unable to think and act by themselves."
"If they jury would have admitted she committed the murder, they would be admitting a woman had power over men," Lapierre said.
Photos: HCC students Shaitia Spruell (left), from Springfield, and Ashley Lapierre (right), of South Hadley, display posters presenting research from their Learning Community courses.