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

The Journey Begins

August 18, 2017

Brent Olson

The Expedition is a dream come true­­—spending a full semester in the field, traveling from place to place, building a committed community of learners. Many of our colleagues have been bringing students into the field for years, including Bonnie Baxter with the Great Salt Lake Institute and our beloved late friend Ty Harrison. The idea also builds on our experience with short environmental studies field courses, as well as the popular May Term Study Experiences that take Westminster students around the world. Classrooms, lectures, and books are all valuable, but there's nothing like actually going to the places you're studying.

The American West contains extraordinary landscapes, full of overlapping and sometimes conflicting stories. The Expedition gives us the chance to learn many of those stories, learn from those landscapes, and meet some of the people who live and work in the West: Native peoples, the descendants of pioneers, and the men and women who manage our iconic public lands.

The students accompanying us on the expedition bring their own energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm to the trip as well. Collectively, they are committed to untangling the complicated knots of Western history and environmental issues. Individually, they are climbers, artists, writers, filmmakers, activists, and scientists. As we travel through the West they will be sharing their own observations and stories here.

On to the Greater Yellowstone!

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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