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Program Courses

Outdoor Leadership

(NRS 482, 3 credits)

In this course you will explore the practice of leadership, using the wilderness as a classroom. You will learn backcountry skills, develop an awareness of your leadership preferences and learn to be effective team members. Emphasis is placed on putting theory into practice by using the group experience as a leadership lab. Topics include small group dynamics, decision making, communication, and expedition behavior. The goal is to develop a leadership practice that will aid you in addressing complex challenges after your Semester In The Wild.

Field Ecology

(NR 322, 2 credits) Co-requisite, Ecology, NR 321

This field ecology course is designed to help students formulate and critically evaluate relevant research questions about ecological processes. This will be done through the analysis of biophysical controls on the dynamics of the biota that exist adjacent to the Taylor Wilderness Research Station. We will use common ecological field methods to collect data and explore aquatic and terrestrial systems. Scientific communication skills will be emphasized through written assignments and discussion of peer-reviewed scientific literature. The practice of keeping a thorough laboratory/field journal will be required along with group based-decision making and critical thinking.


(NR 321, 3 credits)

This course covers fundamental principles of the science of ecology. Major topics include the physical environment, how organisms interact with each other and their environment, evolutionary processes, population dynamics, communities, energy flow and ecosystems, human influences on ecosystems, and the integration and scaling of ecological processes through systems ecology. Recommended Preparation: Introductory botany and zoology.

Environmental Writing

(ENG 316, 3 credits)

One of the basic premises of this class is that you can’t learn to write in a vacuum. This is perhaps especially true of environmental writing. It’s important look at compelling work by other writers, discuss this work with teachers and classmates, and experiment with your own writing “voice” with these models in mind. It’s also valuable to engage directly with the surrounding environment—in fact, writing about the place where you’ve living enables you to sense and understand your own habitat more profoundly than would ever happen if you didn’t try to put your experiences into words. This class focuses on mastering the building blocks of the personal essay of environmental experience, on writing effectively about philosophical topics and environmental issues, and on developing your confidence as a writer and public speaker so that you can be an engaged citizen. The class often includes contributions by faculty members from such fields as ethnobotany, ornithology, and environmental policy in addition to the primary writing instructor. You’ll enjoy and benefit from this class whether you’re an environmental science major or a music major, an experienced writer or a beginner. A surprising benefit of this class is the great practice in public speaking that you’ll get as well.

Principles of Sustainability

(ENVS 436, 3 credits)

Our journey will start with reading the first couple of chapters from Our Common Future. The publication of Our Common Future marks the beginning of a global interest in sustainable development and the definition of sustainable development that is still used today was first published in Our Common Future. After this we will explore how the principles of sustainable development in the US can be traced as far back as the establishment of National Parks and National Forests in the late 1800s, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons and Meadows’ Report for the Club of Rome. Once we have explored the roots of sustainable development, we will look at how sustainable development slowly made its way into the local planning framework in communities, government agencies and the private sector throughout the US and the world. Finally, we will look at how global thinking about sustainable development has evolved from the publication of Our Common Future in 1987 to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. You will not only discover that outside the US, sustainable development has a much broader meaning. We will also explore how recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, are significantly changing the way we think about sustainable development.

American Environmental History

(HIST 424, 3 credits)

Environmental history is the story of humans interacting with the nonhuman world over time. It puts nature into history and history into nature. The Semester in the Wild version of American Environmental History especially focuses on the historical legacy in the public and wild lands of the American West, including those surrounding Taylor Wilderness Research Station.

What are the prerequisites?

English courses: Potential students must have completed first-year English composition.

Will I be graded?

Yes. Transfer credit courses must be assigned grades and it is the intent of every instructor to assign letter grades.

Semester In The Wild faculty choose to teach outdoors, using Taylor's unique environment as a visual aid.

The Semester In The Wild Difference

Why is this program worth more than regular classes?

  • It’s a once in an undergraduate opportunity to live and learn in the heart of the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness.
  • Semester In The Wild weaves educational outcomes into nearly every facet of our time together in the wild. By making the wilderness your classroom, you will develop a richer and more nuanced understanding of ecological principles, environmental writing and history, and the ecological and sociological aspects of wilderness and protected area management. You will also have practical experience in communicating ideas about wilderness and science to general audiences.
  • Through our leadership curriculum and this immersive living experience, you will gain the skills and awareness you need to be an effective professional.
  • After the Semester In The Wild experiences, you will return to your program energized and engaged. You will become a leader and initiator in your classes and field of study.

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