Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 47.23
Liaison Keaton Schrank
Submission Date Aug. 15, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Westminster University - Utah
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Kerry Case
Environmental Director
Environmental Center
"---" 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, including how each program addresses the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability:

Westminster offers an semester-long Environmental Studies Expedition course that looks at multiple sustainability issues around the American West. The College also offers courses during the one month May Term that allow students to go on immersive trips. Several of the trips focus on sustainability, or include sustainability as one of the main focuses by one faculty trip leader, complimented by other faculty focuses. This provides students with an interdisciplinary perspective on each trip.

Courses offered in the 2016-2017, 2017-2018 academic year include:

Misperceptions of Cuba: Science, Language, Policy, and Culture:
Since the Cuban revolution ended in 1959, the US embargo of Cuba began in 1960, and the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion failed in 1961, Cuba has held a unique place both in the western hemisphere and in the American psyche. For many Americans, this has resulted in the formation of a myriad of perceptions and misconceptions about Cuba, which in many cases are based on very little information or fact. This May Term Study Experience will provide students with a first-hand opportunity to evaluate their own perceptions of Cuba and confront their misconceptions of this Caribbean island nation through the lenses of environmental science, environmental policy, politico-economics, music, dance, language, and culture. Students will explore themes such as how the US embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in Cuba becoming a world leader in organic farming. During a visit to an organic farming collective, science will be paired with the political and economic reasons for this transition, with students learning about how organic farming and mechanized farming with fertilizers and pesticides differ in their impacts on soil chemistry and biology. Other themes will include the Cuban health care system, Cuba’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and other charismatic leaders of the Cuban Revolution. We will also explore how Cuba’s history has influenced its approach to environmental policy and conservation, then see the results of these efforts firsthand when we visit terrestrial and marine national parks. Students will get to exchange world views with average Cubans, and compare this to impressions gained from our meetings with Cuban academics and artists in Havana. Students will also be immersed in the Spanish language during home stays, interview assignments, and the famous music and dance of Cuba, with multiple half-day Salsa lessons and opportunities for students to apply their newfound skills under real-world settings in Jazz and Salsa clubs.

Trekking the Camino de Santiago, Spain:
In this MTSE we don’t just study pilgrimage, we become pilgrims as we trek along the Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees to Finisterre— the end of the earth—on Spain’s Atlantic coast. This is a journey of body, soul, and mind for students who crave adventure and want an immersive experience. As we trek along what was once a primitive trade route, we will discuss the entrepreneurial drive that has supported and shaped the pilgrim experience. As we skirt mountains and move through verdant valleys, we discover how the environment has shaped the trail and how the pilgrim experience has shaped the world around it. In small villages and along the trail we immerse ourselves in language and culture as we communicate with residents, business owners, hospitaleros, and other pilgrims. The physical demands of this pilgrimage, coupled with the camaraderie of students and faculty, create a transformative adventure that will define your college experience.

Exploring Hopi/Diné Nations:
This course introduces students to Hopi and Diné cultures. It includes social, educational, environmental, political, economic, artistic, health, and caring aspects of lived histories and practices. Students will have the opportunity to explore the complex histories, world views, and perceptions of the environment, relationships, and values of Hopi/Diné people through a variety of perspectives. All students will participate in a nine-day field trip designed to explore health issues, educational practices, and ecosystems on Hopi and Diné nations in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Students will visit Indian Health Services and private health care facilities, schools, Hopi and possibly Diné families, museums, and national park sites. Students will participate in a guided field and river trip on the San Juan River. Students will also visit related organizations in Salt Lake City after field experience. Students from all majors are welcome.

Westminster Expedition:
During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator loaded 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 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 allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we 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.

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