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

April 22, 2016

April 22, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Next week, the unmistakable sound of bagpipes will sound once again for family and friends to announce the Commencement ceremony for our 2016 graduates. This will be Westminster's 141st Commencement. For many of us, it's a bittersweet moment because we welcomed these students to campus just a few years ago. Now, it's time to say farewell as they move on to graduate school, jobs, and new opportunities, forever changed by the experience they had at Westminster. While we are sad to see them go, the Alumni Office is cheering because they will be welcoming 859 new alumni to their ranks.

Campus Events

Almost every day until the end of the month there are music and dance concerts, senior dinners, graduate ceremonies, athletic events, farewells, and let's not forget, final exams. Please check out the weekly What's Happening newsletter in your email to stay updated on the various special events honoring our students. You can also visit the campus events calendar.

Campus Events


April and May are also months when we say farewell to faculty and staff that are retiring or moving on to new opportunities. Mindy Wennergren, Paula Taufer, and Jan Coskey are three staff members who will retire in the next few weeks after many years of dedicated service.


While we are happy to celebrate 859 students graduating this year, we need to replace them next fall to keep our enrollment stable. Last week, our first-year deposits were even with last year; this week, they are 35 behind. May 1 is a key deadline for many of our prospective students to choose where they will attend college. Because of this, I would like to thank all of the faculty and staff that are sending emails and making calls to help us recruit the new class.

Commission on Women's Success

Last week, the Commission on Women's Success shared a report on their work and invited feedback and discussion from the campus community. The session was well attended. Participants were able to discuss the progress we've made over the past year as well as address areas where additional work is needed. The Commission will soon send a written summary of their work and the feedback gathered from this open session. I would like to thank all of the members of the Commission, in particular, students Jane Jerman and James Steur, faculty members Vicki Whiting and Michael Vought, and staff members Devin Callaway and Julie Freestone for working together to close the loop on this important work and highlighting areas we can continue to improve.

Prestigious Recognition

Prestigious national fellowship programs recently honored three Westminster College McNair Scholars. Earlier this month, 2015 alumnus Chrono Nu was notified that he is the recipient of two national fellowships: The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship from the Department of Defense. These are both three-year awards that include annual stipends of $34,000, as well as tuition. Chrono will use these funds to continue his PhD research in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan where he works in the Cortical Neural Prosthetics Laboratory. Neuroscience professors Lesa Ellis and Russ Costa, and mathematics professor, Richard Wellman, mentored Chrono's undergraduate research.

2016 graduate Katherine McLean is a recipient of the 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship. This fall, she will enter the PhD program in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. The university has also awarded her the Rackham Merit Fellowship. Additionally, 2016 graduate Stephen Tahan received an Honorable Mention in the National Science Foundation GRFP competition. Stephen will attend the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where he will earn his PhD in immunology. Katie and Stephen were both mentored by biology professor Betsy Kleba, although they contributed to different projects.

Congratulations to Chrono, Katie, and Stephen!


Last Saturday, we hosted TEDx, which is a smaller version of the now famous TED Talks. TEDx was an amazing event organized by our students that covered a wide range of topics from management by kindness to sex trafficking. All who attended were richly impacted by what they heard and experienced. Congratulations to our amazing students who secured this opportunity for us.

TEDx at Westminster College in Salt Lake City


I have been writing these Presidential Posts now for one year. I hope they have been helpful in not only keeping you updated about some of the exciting things occurring at the college, but also in sharing some of the opportunities and challenges we face as an institution. I am always constrained to keep them short, which can be difficult given all that is happening at Westmsinter.

I look forward to having you join me for next Saturday's Commencement to celebrate our students who have achieved their educational dreams.

Kind regards,

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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

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