Westminster Expedition Students in the Open American West

During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator will load books, camping gear, and themselves into a couple of vans and hit the road for a semester-long tour of the American West.

The trip is designed as an exploration into the issues at the heart of the contemporary West. Students will earn 16 credits in environmental studies and history as they study Environmental Cooperation and Conflict, Landscape and Meaning, the History of Public Lands, and the Native West.

This prolonged journey into the field will allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we expect to build a cohort of impassioned scholars with a particular breadth and depth of experiential knowledge who are equipped to build a better future for the West.

We will visit iconic, protected sites like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, contentious places like the Little Bighorn and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, working landscapes like the Butte Copper Mines, and communities from present-day Native nations to "New West" towns like Bend, Twisp, and Moab.

Meet the Expedition

Learn More About the Students and Faculty on the Expedition

Read the Latest Journal Entry

January 12, 2016

January 12, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I hope the holiday break was a joyous and memorable one for everyone. Sandy and I spent a lot of time with family, saw the latest Star Wars movie, and taught two of our granddaughters how to ski.

Steve, Sandy, and Granddaughters Skiing

With a new year upon us, it's a time of resolutions and recommitment as well as an opportunity at the midpoint of our academic year to assess how we're doing on the goals we set for ourselves. I have asked the Senior Team & Deans to give me a report card on our three institutional goals, which I will share in the next Presidential Post.

Enrollment Update

Last Friday, I welcomed over 100 new students during orientation for spring semester, most of them transfer students. I was pleased to see 17 new international students as well, coming from as far away as Vietnam and Qatar. Actual results for spring won't be in for several weeks, but early indicators are that undergraduate enrolled hours are off slightly from budget and that graduate enrolled hours are still trending behind budget. Retention continues to look strong, and now our focus will turn to enrollment for summer and next fall.

Year-End Gifts

December is typically a strong month for giving, and we received several notable gifts from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Kaufmann Foundation, the Eskuche Foundation, Intermountain Healthcare, and many smaller gifts too numerous to list from committed alumni and individuals as part of the year-end Annual Fund Drive.

Diversity and Inclusion

Before the holidays, Lisa Gentile and I met with a group of students who expressed concerns about the college's efforts to improve campus diversity and inclusion. Please check out a draft of the new Diversity and Inclusion website to see the progress we are making. We still have much to do, and I invite you to participate in the many activities planned for the week of January 18-22, beginning with our annual Westminster Rally and March through Sugar House and a special guest speaker from the Bastian Lecture Series on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and culminating in three days of on-campus discussion sessions that focus on lived experiences related to diversity on campus. I am also pleased to announce that Daniel Cairo will be joining us on February 1 as our new Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion.


Later this week, I will be attending my first NCAA Athletic Convention in San Antonio to learn more about the process that moves us to full membership by 2018. Our athletic teams are doing well in the first year of participation in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and I encourage you to attend one of the four games scheduled for this weekend. Please join me and cheer on the Griffins as they play Regis and Adam State.

Unexpected Personal Challenge

In early November, I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem after a routine chest x-ray. It was originally thought to be a benign growth on my left thyroid gland, but my doctors recommended that it be surgically removed, which happened in early December. However, when the pathology reports came back, I was disappointed to learn that the thyroid gland was malignant, making removal of the right thyroid gland necessary as well, which was done on December 30. Fortunately, it was normal, but as a precaution, my doctors recommended that I undergo one radiation treatment, which will be done in the next 2-3 months. My doctors are incredibly optimistic about my prognosis and feel it should not affect my presidency or active lifestyle, so I am very encouraged. Of course, Sandy and Emmalee will make sure I take this seriously and don't overdo it.

Final Thoughts

A lot can happen in a year. For me, it has only been six months since I was given the opportunity to lead Westminster. It has been a privilege for me to serve in this capacity, and I have grown to love the people who work here even more as I witness daily how they help the college succeed. While we have many challenges, we also have incredible opportunities. Not every day is a picnic, and certainly some unexpected surprises occur, but my confidence remains strong in our future. Thanks again for your support and service, and may 2016 be our best year ever.

All the best,

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Expedition in the News

Two people on a canoe
Group of Students around Campfire

The Route

Our proposed route is an enormous figure eight, heading northwest first (because of potential early winter weather) and including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Course-related sites include sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation (e.g., Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; East Tavaputs Plateau tar sands; Klamath River dams; the Berkeley Pit, the Nevada Test Site, Owens Lake); National Parks (e.g., Yellowstone, North Cascades, Olympic, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Great Basin); wilderness areas (e.g., Bob Marshall, Glacier Peak); Native nations and sites (e.g., Burns Paiute, Coast Salish, Miwok, the Nez Perce trail, Colville, Pyramid Lake, Hopi); dam sites (e.g., Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, Hetch Hetchy, Snake River); and relevant towns/cities (e.g., Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page).

Expedition Route

Course Descriptions

Follow the Expedition's Progress