Wildlands Studies offers participants firsthand experience with important environmental and cultural issues facing our wildlands and the communities they support. We have been providing environmental field programs to undergraduates for over 36 years both in the USA and around the world. Our small project teams travel to the heart of where many of today's environmental challenges occur, and together we seek solutions for critical issues facing our world's wildlands. As a field associate, students have the unparalleled opportunity to work side by side with field study specialists, helping to search for answers to important environmental problems. Our overarching goal is to have students leave a Wildlands Studies project not only with extensive knowledge about a particular region, but with broader skills and understanding of ecological, geological, and social sciences that allow students to critically evaluate information in other settings in their future lives and careers.
Wildlands Studies courses are taught outside the classroom. Our faculty use a mixture of teaching methods from formal lecture to informal hands-on experience in a variety of field settings from backcountry excursions, to field research, information exchanges with local experts, and participation in key community events. Our hands-on approach to learning and focus on our immediate surroundings is what often ignites a student's excitement for learning and can result in increased interest in academics. On our international programs, students may be exposed to different cultures and languages, which often encourages increased interest in foreign language study.
Students leave our projects with a broadened, global perspective. Living and working in another country or region provides an eye-opening and life-changing perspective on culture, including their own. By being part of the tight-knit community of our project team, students learn to collaborate, share, and give—all life skills that transcend career choice and result in increased maturity and self-confidence.
Wildlands Studies students develop many hard skills through our projects, such as field research skills and techniques, scientific writing, oral presentation skills, synthesizing information, and thinking critically. Students also cultivate soft skills on our projects such as working in a group, learning to observe and listen, flexibility, and self motivation. Interpersonal skills are highly regarded in many career fields, and hands on experience with hard skills will give a student an edge in graduate school, the Peace Corps, fellowships, internships, and job applications. In addition, a Wildlands Studies project can ignite a new career direction for students by helping to clarify future goals through hands-on experience in a field of interest.
The small group size of Wildlands Studies courses fosters a strong sense of community among students and faculty. Students often make friendships with fellow students, faculty, and staff that last a lifetime. Connections students make with Wildlands Studies faculty, guest lecturers, and local professionals often help to open up opportunities for future endeavors. Some of our students come back to intern, work, or teach for Wildlands Studies, affirming the life-changing effect our programs can have for students and the strong sense of community that this creates.