students sitting around a campsite fire

Westminster Expedition

Westminster’s location in the American West offers the opportunity for you to take the seemingly endless expanse of picturesque landscapes as an opportunity for interactive, place-based learning. Why confine your education to classroom walls when you could hop in a van, hit the road, and learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from the people who live, work, and study in those places?

During the Westminster Expedition faculty members Jeff Nichols (History program) and Brent Olson (Environmental Studies program) lead you and your peers along the journey to becoming a cohort of impassioned scholars that are equipped to build a better future for the West. As you visit iconic, protected sites, contentious places, working landscapes, and communities from present-day Native nations to New West towns, you will earn 16 credits from courses in the Environmental Studies and History programs.

two female students playing in a light snow in the mountains

students gathered around a container of soil collected from a learning site

The Route

The proposed route is an enormous figure 8. Before fall break, the expedition will head to the Pacific Northwest. After fall break, the expedition will continue to the southwest and return to Salt Lake City before Thanksgiving. The expedition visits various states, including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah.

Each stop of the expedition was selected for its potential to teach profound lessons about humanity’s relationship to the environments of the West while providing the chance to meet people who can  encourage students to reimagine how to live in landscapes.

Course-related stops include:

  • Sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation: the Holden Mine, Klamath River dams, the Berkeley Pit, Coeur d'Alene, the border with Mexico, and Los Alamos
  • National parks and monuments: Yellowstone, North Cascades, Glacier, Organ Pipe, Great Basin, Mesa Verde, and Bears Ears
  • Wilderness areas: Bob Marshall and Glacier Peak
  • Native nations and sites: Burns Paiute, The Dalles, the Nez Perce trail, and Hopi
  • Dam sites: Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, and the Snake River
  • Relevant cities: Winthrop, Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page, and Flagstaff

Follow Along

Dispatches from the Expedition

two hands forming a bird in front of a campfire

Two stars and one flower
Dos estrellas y una flor

Rocky cliffside next to waterfallAlhondra LopGa   Dec. 16, 2021


expedition trailer with Westminster logo driving on windy country road

A leaf

portrait placeholderBoaz Hill    Dec. 13, 2021


View Journal Entries from this year's expedition →View Journal Entries From THe first expedition →

student wearing a hat and smiling while sitting in red rock desert

Information for Enrolled Students

Planning Your Trip

You will live closely with your peers as a traveling community of scholars, with everyone actively contributing to the community. You can expect to build lasting friendships and profound memories while on the expedition.

About 4 out of every 5 days will be spent camping, with the fifth day spent in a motel/lodge.  Approximately every 2 weeks, the expedition will visit a larger city. 

You should bring versatile, outdoor clothing for weather ranging from warm sun to snow, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad for proper preparation. A week’s worth of clean clothes should be enough to use between laundry stops. You may also want to bring a camera, games, music for the van, etc. After registering for the expedition, you will receive a complete packing list in the spring.

Group equipment such as cooking and dining equipment, tents, etc., will be provided by Westminster. You and your peers will prepare most meals using this equipment. When you are in town, you will have a stipend used for finding food on your own.

Maintaining a healthy and safe atmosphere and committing to accessibility is a top priority of the expedition. While you will be camping on the trip, and may take hikes, this trip is not a wilderness outdoor recreation trip. You will never be far from the vans or medical care. At least 1 member of the leadership team will be a wilderness first responder, and other team members will be wilderness first aid certified. If necessary, medications can be kept cool, and regular access to medical care can be made available, and meals can accommodate any dietary restrictions Remember that this trip may also be emotionally challenging for you at times.

The expedition will work on off-setting the trip’s entire carbon footprint.

Course Descriptions

The expedition explores issues at the heart of the contemporary West. You will earn 16 credits from courses in the Environmental Studies and History programs, which can be applied towards a degree in those programs.

This course will examine the link between the landscapes of the West and the cultural meanings attached to them. The natural landscapes that surround us contain a world of meaning. The earth is home, habitat, playground, resources, and waste-sink. It is seen as dangerous and peaceful, bountiful and depleted, crowded and open. How do we reconcile these contradictions? What do they mean in terms of the cultural and political ecologies of particular places? How do the cultural values we attach to natural landscapes challenge our understanding of their history and our own involvement in the natural world? By looking at the cultural geography of the environment we can analyze how the meanings of nature are actively created and why it is contested by different people in different places. And, perhaps most importantly, why it matters.

Honors College students can take ENVI 332: Landscape and Meaning as an Honors seminar course.

Native peoples inhabited all of the American West; today’s Native nations exercise sovereignty over fragments of their former territory. This course investigates the Native history of some of the West, based upon the expedition itinerary. We will visit contemporary Native nations and investigate their roles in land-use issues; meeting with Native peoples, public lands managers, scholars, and activists on our route.

ENVI 333: The Native West can fulfill your Engaging the World course requirement.

In 1872, the U.S. Congress declared the Yellowstone region the world’s first national park. In 1916, Congress created the National Park Service, which works to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife found in our national parks. Today, the Park Service manages over 400 units with more than 20 different designations — including national parks, monuments, historical parks, military parks, preserves, recreation areas, seashores, parkways, lakeshores, and reserves — and nations around the world have created their own versions of national parks. In this course, we will investigate the implications of national parks on natural and human history.

ENVI: 330D America's Best Idea can fulfill your Writing Emphasis course requirement.

Wars, ambushes, evictions, occupations, political and personal arguments, murders, and feuds. The environmental history of the West is full of conflict, but it is also full cooperation, agreement, help, love, encouragement, and collaboration. In this course, we will visit the sites of this conflict and cooperation. We will debate subjects, learn about the process, and work to understand the surrounding context.

Assignments

Community and shared learning are important parts of the expedition. A portion of your grade will be earned by your participation in all parts of the expedition.

Before departing on the trip, you will do some reading during the summer. During the trip, you will be expected to keep a journal in which you will record and reflect upon what you learn and do each day. Along the route, everyone will present short, informal vignettes about people, events, and places along the route. You will also work on other assignments such as interviews and will be responsible for doing some short writings for the web and social media.

Upon returning from the trip, you will complete a story map, a photographic essay, and a research paper on a topic of your choice that was identified during the expedition.

Costs and Financial Aid

Applications will be due March 1, 2020 and applicants will hear something by March 8, 2020. Deposits and financial agreements will be due at the time of registration (March 30).

The cost for the semester (in addition to your Westminster tuition) is $6,800 (including a $500 deposit), which covers all of your transportation, lodging, food, programming, guest speakers, park and museum entry fees, etc. This cost replaces and is similar to on-campus housing and meal plan costs for the semester (or off-campus living estimates included in financial aid calculations). The course fee will be due before the first day of classes.

There are some funds available for need-based aid to partially cover the fees for the expedition. You do not have to do anything to apply for this aid. After it is determined who will be going on the expedition, the names will be forwarded to the financial aid office who will adjust the course fee based on your FAFSA information. It is intended that your specific financial obligation will be back to you before you register for the expedition.

two students exploring in a river

students around a campfire

Share your memorable moments.

Learning beyond the classroom can be a truly transformative experience. Sharing those experiences invites, inspires, and encourages others to step outside their comfort zones and try something new. Whether you’re embarking on a Field Semester, Expedition, May Term Study Experience, or Non-Credit Trip, follow a few tips for sharing your experience on social media.

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