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

February 8, 2017

February 8, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

There is so much happening on campus these days, from lectures and poetry readings to athletic events and theatre performances. Last week, I had the opportunity to be a judge at one of my favorite campus events—Mx. Westminster. Twelve students participated for the recognition and this year’s winner is Nathanial Woolley, who won the contest with an amazing performance, singing both the soprano and tenor parts of “Think of Me” from the Phantom of the Opera.

President Steve Morgan with Mx Westminster

Safe Haven Update

Last week I participated in a student forum hosted by Associated Students of Westminster (ASW) to provide an update on the college’s support of undocumented, refugee, international, and DACA-status students. As I outlined in my campus-wide announcement last week, we are keeping a close eye on announcements from the White House and developing plans to best support the members of our community who may be affected. The nature of this rapidly changing political climate means that many of the potential effects are still unknown, and colleges and universities around the country are working diligently to figure out what this means for higher education.

We will continue to provide information to the campus community as we hear more, and will update the list of resources available to our community online as programs develop.

This will be an ongoing effort. If you have feedback or ideas, please reach out to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion or the Office of Global Engagement, and encourage your students to do the same. Westminster has a history of coming together in support of our community and we need to continue that tradition now more than ever.

Institutional Priorities Report Card

As I mentioned in the last Post, I asked the senior team to provide me with an update on the progress we’ve made toward this year’s three institutional priorities. I’m happy to report that we’ve made great progress on all three goals so far this year. Several highlights are outlined below.

Build a Community of Learners

With leadership from AVP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Marco Barker, and many other campus leaders, we have started to develop and implement a college-wide diversity and inclusion plan. Many of our current efforts have focused on creating a safe haven during a changing national political climate, looking for ways to support all members of our community during these unprecedented times.

Innovate to Support Student Success

There has been a lot of exciting progress made toward our second goal. Some of the highlights include launching WCore last fall, approving the new Honors College, moving forward with new programs in sports management and outdoor education leadership, and redefining the role of e-portfolios.

Assure Affordability and Sustainability

Over the course of the last few months, many enrollment processes and system improvements have been put in place, helping to create more efficient and effective admissions and enrollment strategies. We have also started looking at alternative business models for the college, which are still in an early exploration phase. The comprehensive campaign has also been a huge focus this year. Since the campaign started in 2014, the college has raised $20.7 million. We are hoping to pick up even more momentum after presenting the campaign feasibility study to the board of trustees next week.

Redefined Roles for Two Senior Administrators

In order to better support Westminster’s strategic initiatives, I have redefined the roles of two senior team members. Kathryn Holmes has been serving as General Counsel and will now also serve as Chief Risk Officer. As Chief Risk Officer, Kathryn will be able to establish more effective and cohesive planning for everything related to college safety, security, and risk management. Campus Patrol, Safety, and Risk Management, as well as Environmental Health and Safety, will now report to Kathryn.

Coinciding with these changes, we welcomed our new Director of Campus Patrol, Tony Russel, who officially started last week. Tony comes to Westminster after more than two decades of service with the Salt Lake Police Department.

Annalisa Holcombe will take on the role of Chief Strategy Officer, working closely with me on strategic plan implementation, shepherding short and long-term strategic projects, and representing me in external and internal meetings and events when I am unable to attend. She will continue her oversight of community relations and provide support to the board of trustees.

Human Resources Update/Retirement Plan

Human Resources has been coordinating an administrative review of the our retirement plan, including plan fees, provider services, and investment options. This review was initially prompted by a request from the Faculty Senate to include more environmentally friendly investment options. An independent advisor has been retained to assist in the review and will make recommendations to the retirement plan fiduciary committee (Curtis Ryan, Lisa Gentile, and Julie Freestone). This review will not affect the college’s contribution levels to the retirement plan.

The review process will be completed by the end of the semester. HR will schedule information sessions before implementing any changes, to share information on the review process, and invite feedback on proposed changes.

All College Meeting

Please mark your calendar for the next All College Meeting, which will take place on Thursday, March 9 in the Gore Auditorium from 3–5:00 p.m.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a football fan or not, Super Bowl weekend has always been a fun time to spend with family and friends. This year I found myself surrounded by grandchildren who were all cheering for the New England Patriots. I told them I prefer cheering for the Westminster Griffins.

Speaking of the Griffins, I hope you’ll join me in cheering our basketball teams on this Friday, February 10. ASW is hosting a tailgate before the games at 5 pm. The women’s team will play against CSU-Pueblo at 5:30, followed by the men’s game against New Mexico Highlands at 7:30.

Go Griffins!
Steve Morgan

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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