There are many students who are participating in Occupy Wall Street in New York City. There are also many more students who are participating in local versions of the demonstration in cities across the country. But Henry Perkins is the only student I have heard of who is earning college credit for participating in this event.
Perkins is a 21-year old junior at the University of Alabama. Recently, he approached his professors with a plan for an immersion research project that would allow him to earn credit while living in the open-air “frat house” that is Zuccotti Park in New York City.
“I asked my professors and they said to go for it,” said Perkins. “They’re living vicariously through me.”
Perkins is taking full advantage of his current situation. He took a train from Alabama to New York City. His only possessions are a cell phone, a computer, a toothbrush, a tarp, and a few books.
“I learned a lot here,” he said. “I realized that I never want to be in any system, and you can make it work.”
Perkins has been sharing his experience with his classmates and professors back in Alabama. He has been communicating with them twice a week via Skype. He listens to class lectures and also tells stories about what is going on in the epicenter of this global movement.
“I’m like a celebrity back home,” said about his new-found fame on his school’s campus as the guy who is camping out almost 1,000 miles away from the campus.
Perkins’ parents also support his decision to “study” at Occupy Wall Street. In fact, his mother seems to think that the $8,600 in-state tuition that is being paid is worth it for Perkins to have this experience.
“I’m sure he’ll learn more in two week sin New York than in two years in college,” said Danielle Juzan, Perkin’s mother. “What impressed us the most was the fact that he was able to negotiate this with his professors.”
Luckily, Perkins is studying an interdisciplinary program which requires students to pursue an independent learning projects. This project requires students to create their own curriculum and keep a log of their experiences. At the end of the experience, Perkins must write and submit a final report to his professor, Catherine Roach.
“Henry had a burning desire to go up and join the protest,” said Roach. “For the independent learning project, I told him he could research and write about the Occupy Wall Street movement [and it's importance in] the larger context of civil disobedience within American History.”
That sounds like a pretty awesome curriculum to me.