Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Alaska

Discover the beauties and complexities of this remarkable region: one balancing cultural preservation, economic growth, and environmental stewardship.

BELL: Alaska has reached capacity. Please consider these other selected courses.

BELL Alaska students on a hike through the mountains.The Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. At BELL, you’ll embark on a journey of learning and reflection while building community with the fellow student environmentalists in your program.

Journey to the Land of the Midnight Sun for two spectacular weeks, where you’ll explore Alaska Native history and cultural preservation as well as arctic, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. You’ll investigate climate change’s impact on culture, economics, and the environment while learning about socially responsible leadership.

Your Alaskan adventure begins in Anchorage, where you’ll have the unique opportunity to learn Alaskan history from an Alaska Native perspective. You’ll then travel down the Kenai Peninsula and take a boat across Kachemak Bay to spend three nights at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ Peterson Bay Field Station. This remote science center is nestled in coastal woodlands—truly breathtaking and accessible only by boat—where you’ll interact with species from bald eagles to sea otters to starfish, to name a few.

Back on the mainland, you will journey back to Anchorage, staying at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, which serves as a home base for the majority of the BELL Alaska program. From Anchorage, you will explore a beautiful glacier, hike through South Central Alaska's beautiful wilderness, and meet some native wildlife species at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Over the course of your BELL experience, you’ll also identify a pressing issue that you’re passionate about. With support from instructors and peers, you’ll formulate an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue when you return home. (Wondering what this looks like? Check out past examples.)

Program Snapshot

Who

Students completing grades 9–12, ages 15–18 by June 19, 2022

What

2-week course

When

Sunday, July 24 – Saturday, August 6

Where

Alaska: Anchorage, Peterson Bay Field Station, and the Kenai Peninsula

Why

  • Join a community of young scholars who are passionate about the environment while experiencing a new part of the country or world.
  • Develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to impact environmental issues facing your local community and the planet as a whole.
  • Explore some spectacular landscapes by studying, listening and observing.
  • Concentrate on learning without the pressure of formal grades.
  • Receive a Course Performance Report and Certificate of Completion when you finish.

Experience

Over the course of BELL: Alaska, you will spend time in three different locations:

Anchorage

Alaska became a US state in 1959 but its history stretches back centuries and includes a minimum of eight native cultural groups. Alaska Native elders and teens from Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) will provide insights to cultural traditions and historical milestones.

Peterson Bay by Boat

At the end of the first week, you will travel down the Kenai Peninsula and take a boat across Kachemak Bay to spend three nights at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ Peterson Bay Field Station. This remote science center is nestled in coastal woodlands accessible only by boat, and provides access to incredible biodiversity.

  • Most nights, you will be sleeping on bunk beds in college dorm rooms separated by gender identity. For the three evenings at the Peterson Bay Field Station, you will sleep in a yurt without running water or electricity. However, there is a permanent lodge visible from the yurts with composting toilets, meeting spaces, and a fully functioning kitchen. 
  • Program staff live on-site and are available 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.

Most meals will be prepared and eaten in a college dining hall or residence hall. Some meals will be prepared collaboratively by students and staff. 

Note: All food is ordered in advance, so program staff must be notified of any dietary restrictions or allergies by April 13. Students can notify program staff by filling out the medical health history form, which accepted students receive in their student portals.

  • Matanuska Glacier: Located 100 miles north of Anchorage, students will participate in an afternoon field trip to hike on this massive glacier 27 miles long, 4 miles wide) and learn a little more about glacial activity in connection with global climate change. 
  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care.
  • Cook Inlet Tribal Council: CITC collaborates with the eight federally recognized tribes within Cook Inlet region to strengthen program and social services capacity for the region’s tribal communities. The CITC Board of Directors includes a representative from each of the tribes within Cook Inlet region and nine Cook Inlet Region, Inc. representatives.
  • Valley of the Moon Park: Located in the center of Anchorage, this is the perfect location for an afternoon picnic with members of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
  • Alaska Native Heritage Center: The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) is a living cultural center located in Anchorage, Alaska that promotes active observance of Alaska Native culture and traditions, featuring permanent collections and educational programs. Visitors to ANHC can enjoy activities on a campus surrounded by Alaska’s beautiful wilderness, never guessing that such a peaceful place could be located in the state’s largest urban center.
  • Islands and Oceans Visitor Center: The Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center takes you on a dramatic journey through the refuge's past and present . . . surrounds you with the sights, sounds - and even the smells of a seabird colony . . . and invites you to follow biologists as their research ship sails to remote islands each year.
  • Anchorage Museum: Through a combination of art and design, history, science and culture, the Anchorage Museum creates a rich, deep understanding of the human experience and offers something for everyone.
  • Kenai Peninsula: Students will explore a number of breathtaking and unique landscapes on the Kenai Peninsula, including Kenai Beach, Skilak Lake, the Russian River Trail, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and a branch of the AK Department of Fish and Wildlife.

BELL students are expected to reduce their cell phone use, allowing them to fully engage with the community and beautiful surroundings. By breaking ties to these technologies, you will be able to be more mindful of the natural environment and build more intentional friendships. On site staff will review more details about the expectations surrounding cell phone use for students once they are on site. While this may be an unfamiliar experience for many students, it is often an aspect of the trip students appreciate most.

  • The summer weather in Alaska can vary. Please check the weather forecast for the regions of Alaska we will be in (Anchorage, Homer, Kenai and Soldatna, AK) before departure and pack accordingly. 
  • You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day; be ready to get dirty as you’ll be out and about—rain or shine. Most hiking locations will be near a body of water, so you’ll want to bring shoes, clothing, and gear that can get muddy and wet. A specific packing list will be provided for accepted students.

A Typical Day

The schedule and activities vary, based on the trip’s three locations. Below is a sample of a typical day at the Challenger Center.

7:15 am Breakfast
8:15 am Morning session (Example: The Salmon Life Cycle presentation)
12:00 pm Depart for afternoon hike, bring boxed lunch
1:00 pm Afternoon session (Example: Hike to native fishing site and fishing weir, meet 
state regulators)
4:00 pm Return to campus
6:00 pm Dinner
7:00 pm Evening session (Example: Exploring Identity and Privilege)
9:00 pm Free time
10:00 pm Well-deserved rest

Program Director

  • Photo of Jane B. Diener

    Jane Diener

    Associate Director, Pre-College Programs & Environmental Studies