3-Week Course Aboard the Brig Niagara

Waves of the Past, Leaders of the Future is a three-credit 200-level history course unique to Mercyhurst University. Students embark on a three-week adventure aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara at the conclusion of the spring semester, May 15-31. Students live and work aboard the 19th century warship alongside the crew while learning about the history of Lake Erie. During the Summer 2019 experience, the ship will make port in Detroit, Michigan, and Put-in-Bay, Ohio (site of the Battle of Lake Erie).

This course is open to undergraduate students from all colleges and universities, regardless of major or class year. Mercyhurst students can fulfill the REACH Curriculum history requirement with this course; students from other colleges or universities will earn three transferrable credits. 

Tuition and Registration

Mercyhurst students can enroll in this course via Self-Service. Most Mercyhurst students enroll in this course as part of Mini 4, so the course tuition is included in their flat billing for the spring semester (provided they have not yet reached their maximum credit load for the semester). Another option for Mercyhurst students is to enroll in the course in Mini 5 of the summer semester; this option will incur additional summer tuition costs. 

Visiting students from other colleges and universities can register for this course via the link below; summer tuition for this three-credit course is $1,740 for visiting students. A one-time $75 summer registration fee is charged per student. 

Each student will also be charged a $1,500 fee from the Flagship Niagara League to cover use of the ship and supplies. 

Course Content

This award-winning course—recognized for its ingenuity at the 2019 Pennsylvania Museums Annual Conference—explores the maritime history of Lake Erie, including the interactions between native peoples and European empires, the advancements of sailing, the War of 1812, and industrialization. It concludes by assessing the future of Lake Erie by asking students to reflect upon what they have seen and experience while on the voyage.

Besides lessons in square-rig seamanship and maritime history, students will acquire a deeper understanding of the seafaring culture. They’ll learn sailing terminology, physical skills, familiarity with the ship and the social structure of shipboard life.

While onboard the U.S. Brig Niagara, student live, eat, and work as one of the crew learning valuable insights about teamwork, leadership, and sacrifice. They learn what a group working towards a common goal can achieve through the U.S. Brig Niagara’s motto: Ship, Shipmate, Self.

A Transformative Experience

Living, working and studying aboard the Niagara, one of America’s most historic vessels, offers rare insight into the history and significance of the Great Lakes region. You’ll acquire innovative leadership skills and a deepened appreciation for the Great Lakes, both of which are essential in this region’s ongoing revitalization efforts. 

As each individual aboard the Niagara is expected to contribute as part of the crew, this course offers excellent experience in teamwork, maintaining unity and working toward a common goal. This approach makes this course an excellent option for athletes. 

Students also get a firsthand experience of the business concept of systems thinking, a holistic approach to analyzing the structure of businesses and organizations. The ship is a great example of interlocking parts, with each part affecting the rest of the ship. Students will see how component parts function independently, as well as how these components influence each other as parts of a larger system. 

Contact Us

Benjamin Scharff, Ph.D.
Chair, Thomas B. Hagen Department of History
Office: Preston 118
Phone: 814-824-2326
Email: bscharff@mercyhurst.edu