Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 68.39
Liaison Brian Liechti
Submission Date March 4, 2020

STARS v2.2

Warren Wilson College
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Margo Flood
Sustainability Project Coordinator
Finance and Administration
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution:

Warren Wilson College offers sustainability-focused immersive programs through the Office of Global Engagement's Study Away experiences and the Center for Community Engagement's Break Trip programs. In addition, the Center for Integrated Advising and Coaching oversees a number of internships in the region and beyond that are discipline- or career-focused.

Study Away
The Office of Global Engagement offers students the educational opportunity to travel on an international or domestic Study Away Program that complements the intentionally integrated curriculum of academics, work, and community engagement to build cross-cultural and interdisciplinary understanding. Participation in these programs is partially subsidized by the College, with a sliding fee scale for students in need of greater support.

In general, though on-campus time can vary, Study Away courses provide up to fifteen weeks of on-campus coursework, class meetings, and orientation sessions prior to travel, which is generally two to four weeks long. The semester following their travel, students complete assignments for Study Away that include sharing their observations and stories with the community. All courses are 4 credits. Study Away courses immerse students in the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability and recent examples follow:

●Indigenous Land Use In Borneo: Food, Farming, and Forest (semester-long environmental studies course on campus with three weeks of travel to Borneo) This course introduces students to tropical ethnobiology and indigenous farming and land use in the rainforests of Borneo. Readings, field work, class discussions and student research projects are used to explore issues of indigenous land rights and traditional natural resource management. During the travel component, students travel to a highland village area in the state of Sarawak and experience the food, forests, farming and culture of the modern Kelabit tribe. Students discuss environmental threats and social change with tribe members in the context of ecological and cultural survival.

●TANZANIA: Intercultural Comparisons of Agricultural and Social Welfare Systems in Tanzania and Appalachia (semester-long social work course on campus with two weeks travel to Tanzania) Through the distinct and multi-disciplinary lenses of agriculture and social welfare, students compare and contrast a myriad of interdependent social/environmental/political/economic/cultural civic engagement issues in Tanzania, East Africa, and in the southern Appalachian region of the United States from both historical and contemporary perspectives. The course aims to provide students with an intercultural understanding of agriculture and social welfare in southern Tanzania, compared to practices, structures and policies in Appalachia. The course traces the historical beginnings and necessities of the development of social welfare systems along with restrictions and conventions of agriculture and social welfare in both countries. Students examine the ways in which both Tanzania and Appalachia develop policies, programs and practices that create a safety net to address current societal issues. Focus points of the course include intercultural comparisons of approaches to agriculture and social welfare that advance community self-sufficiency while promoting active citizen participation.

●Alaska: Appalachia to Alaska: Intercultural Approaches to Environmental and Cultural Sustainability (summer course with one week on campus and two weeks in Alaska): This unique interdisciplinary course begins with a week of study on the Warren Wilson campus. While at the College, students study the most species-rich temperature region of the world. Western North Carolina has more species of trees than all of Europe combined, and more salamanders than anywhere else in the world! Using the natural laboratory of the 1050-acre campus, students learn many of the organisms that inhabit the region. To track the effects of global climate change on local flora they participate in an ongoing campus phenology study. Additionally, the group takes several off-campus field trips. To better understand the Native American culture of the area, they will travel to nearby Cherokee, NC. There they will visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to learn about the pre-European history of the region. While in Cherokee they will also meet with the head Natural Resource Biologist of the Cherokee tribe to learn about current environmental issues. In addition to immersing themselves in the study of the local natural environment in Western NC, students begin to discuss natural resources, geological features and native communities of Alaska in preparation for their fieldwork. Once in Alaska, students explore the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, while staying at the Eagle Valley Lodge. From there, the group journeys along the picturesque Inside Passage via ferry to Haines, Alaska, where they live and study at Rainbow Glacier Camp. While in Haines, the course combines classroom sessions and experiential opportunities, inspiring students to take full advantage of this amazing living laboratory to root their understanding. Field components include hiking in and around glaciers, river rafting, and interacting with local native communities during the annual salmon run which takes place every August. From these hands-on experiences students gain personal understanding of the natural phenomena, are better prepared to grasp the connections between melting glaciers and changing climate and are able to reflect on the impacts of climate change on the surrounding ecology and culture.

●Cuba: Isolation and Innovation: Self-Sufficiency and Self Expression in Cuba (semester-long social work course with two weeks travel in Cuba) Through the distinct and interconnected lenses related to social welfare, students examine myriad and interdependent social, environmental, political, economic, and cultural issues in Cuba from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Students develop an intercultural understanding of poverty and approaches to addressing poverty through social welfare. Students trace the historical beginnings and necessities of the development of social welfare and other innovative societal systems in the island nation and examine the ways in which Cuba has developed policies, programs and practices that create a safety net to address current societal issues. Students also explore how some Cuban citizens have recently found new means of expression through writing speculative fiction, using the genre’s disconnection from present-day reality as an allegorical medium for social commentary. Focus points of the course include social welfare service delivery, structures, and practices that advance community self-sufficiency while promoting active citizen participation. Additionally, students in this course have the opportunity for intercultural exchange and engagement through rigorous academic endeavor and field study in Cuba.

●Costa Rica: Peace and Environmental Justice Education (term-length education course with two weeks travel in Costa Rica): In this course, students explore the interrelated topics of peace and environmental justice education in Costa Rica. As a nation that has not had a standing army since 1949, Costa Rica has long been a model nation of pacifism, both with foreign policy and internal policies that protect social equality and democracy. Simultaneously, Costa Rica has emerged in the past forty years as a global leader in the movement for environmental justice. Recently, Costa Rica has inspired the world with their own national Green New Deal, which sets out goals for equal access to renewable resources by the year 2050. How has Costa Rica accomplished this unique position as Latin America’s leader in peace and environmental justice, in the midst of a global shift towards neoliberalism and environmental degradation? One of the keys to their success has been through their progressive education systems.

●Indonesia: Monkey Chants & Ancient Dance - Art & Social Change in Bali & Java (semester-long sociology and music course with three weeks travel in Indonesia): Bali and Java remain the most popular centers of artistic expression in Indonesia. This course uses traditional Indonesian art forms-including music, dance, and theater-as a lens through which to view social change in Bali and Java. Using an interdisciplinary framework, the course provides students opportunities to explore the ancient roots of Javanese and Balinese art, especially the performing arts, and discover the dynamic ways in which these traditional arts are changing in response to the pressures of globalization, modernization, and international tourism.

Community Engagement Break Trips
Week-long Break Trips, offered through the Center for Community Engagement, are designed by student leaders in collaboration with staff and faculty. Student leaders and volunteer staff or faculty lead these trips over fall, winter and spring breaks. By nature, these immersive experiences are sustainability related because the trips are designed to reflect the sustainability themes that Warren Wilson students select to fulfill their Community Engagement requirement.

Recent 5-day or more Break Trips include ‘Coming Face-to-Face with the Immigrant Experience;’ ‘Shovels Down, Chalk Up: Climbing and Trail Work in Muir Valley, Kentucky;’ 'The Realities of the American Dream' - a student collaboration with the Americus Mennonite Fellowship, Alterna Community, Koinonia Farm and the Fuller Center; and, 'Food, Faith and Farming'- drawing connections between historical and contemporary racial inequality, the complexities of the modern debate around immigration, and food. See https://www.warren-wilson.edu/academics/community-engagement/ for more information.

Website URL where information about the institution’s immersive education programs is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The Director of the Office Of Global Engagement and the VP for Applied Learning provided information for this report. Though the College provides a robust Internship Program through the Center for Integrated Advising and Coaching, Internships have not been highlighted as immersive programs since they are overseen primarily by participating partners.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.