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Environmental Leadership: Alaska

Cultural preservation, economic growth, and environmental choices.

Summer 2019 Application Opens in December

Brown Environmental Leadership Labs (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. Students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create positive change on environmental issues facing their local communities and the planet as a whole.

This summer, Brown University, in affiliation with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Kenai Peninsula College, travels to south-central Alaska to introduce students to the beauty and complexities of present-day Alaska.

Over the course of two weeks, we will explore issues Alaskans face in balancing cultural and environmental preservation with economic growth. Learning will be fast-paced, experiential, and include widely diverse perspectives.

Watch our information session with Program Director Jane Diener.

Program Dates:

Two Week Session July 22 – August 4, 2018

Eligibility: For students completing grades 9-12, ages 15-18 by June 2018

Fees: $5,533

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Cook Inlet Tribal Council Exhibit
Cook Inlet Tribal Council Exhibit

Course of Study

Areas of Focus:

  • Alaska Native history and cultural preservation
  • Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems
  • Climate change's impact on culture, economics, and the environment
  • Oil exploration and extraction
  • Socially-responsible leadership
  • Sustainable harvest of salmon

Create an Action Plan and Take Your Learning Home

Socially responsible leadership is a lifelong pursuit that requires ongoing learning and reflection. During your time at BELL: Alaska, you will identify a pressing issue that you are passionate about. With support from faculty and peers you will create an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue upon return to you home community.

We encourage students to think about some potential Action Plan topics before they come to BELL, but most students develop their ideas during the program. For example, past students have established community gardens, written a grant to install solar panels, and coordinated an e-waste collection. More Action Plan final reports can be found here: Action Plan library.

Tidepooling in the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies on Peterson Bay
Tidepooling in the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies on Peterson Bay

Life at the BELL: Alaska

Life Outdoors

A large amount of our time will be spent outdoors in this program. Together, our goal is to explore some spectacular landscapes both through formal study and also by spending time listening and observing. You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to get dirty as we will be out, rain or shine.


Most nights, we will be sleeping on bunk beds in college dorm rooms, separated by gender. For the two evenings at the Peterson Bay Field Station, we will be sleeping in yurts 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 to students 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.


Students will have the unique opportunity to learn Alaskan history from an Alaska Native perspective. 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 that are rarely found in mainstream history books.

The Kenai Peninsula and Peterson Bay by Boat

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

Back on the mainland, students will spend the rest of the program in Soldotna at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus, a unit of the University of Alaska. This area is best known for salmon fishing so students will see salmon in the wild and consider its long-time economic and cultural value.


As we are staying in three different facilities, we will be getting food from a variety of places. 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.

Unplugging from Devices

Students at BELL intentionally reduce their cell phone use which allows us to more fully engage with our community and beautiful surroundings. We ask students (and families) to limit cell phone use to evening free time. By breaking our ties to these technologies, we are able to be more mindful of our natural environment, build more intentional friendships, and practice self-reflection.

Your program fee includes:

  • Tuition for the course
  • All lodging as part of the course
  • Breakfasts, lunches, dinners
  • All transportation, field trips and site visits as described in the program description
  • Transfer from/to airport on day of arrival and departure

Not included in Program Fee:

  • Air travel to/from Anchorage, AK
  • Textbooks and classroom supplies
  • Pre/post-program accommodations
  • Additional spending money
Hiking Byron Glacier
Hiking Byron Glacier

A Typical Day

There is no typical day in BELL: Alaska. The diversity of places and events we have planned require flexibility in the schedule. However, you can be sure that our days will start early, and each one will be packed full of activities, including field observation, educational discussions and panels, and time for team-building, recreation, and reflection. Here's an example of a potential day:

7:15am Breakfast
8:15am “The Salmon Life Cycle” presentation
12:00pm Depart for afternoon hike, bring boxed lunch
1:00pm Hike to native fishing site and waterfall, meet state regulators
4:00pm Return to university
6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Leadership workshop
9:00pm Free time
10:00pm Well-deserved rest

BELL: Alaska is academically rigorous. Given the intensity of the program there is some, but minimal, free time.

See the full schedule for BELL: Alaska.»

Please call us and ask to speak to the Program Director if any of these things are of concern so we can make sure you have enough information about the particular program, as well as options for case-by-case accommodations, to make an effective decision about participation.

Staying Safe and Comfortable in the Field

The summer weather in Alaska can vary. Please check the weather forecast for the two regions of Alaska we will be in before departure and pack accordingly, including a reusable water bottle to fill and use throughout the program.

Most hiking locations will be near a body of water, so it is encouraged to bring shoes that can get muddy and wet. Students should bring clothing and gear that they are willing to get wet and dirty while we are doing field work.

Admission Criteria

Admission Criteria

Summer 2019 Application Opens in December

Prospective students must apply for admission. When evaluating applications, the Admissions Review Committee looks for academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, social maturity, self-motivation and a readiness for participation in an independent academic environment.

A Complete Application Consists of the Following Items:

  1. A Completed Application Form
    Parents and Students: Please be sure to create only one account per applicant.
    Your application provides basic information about you. In addition, students should be prepared to write an essay telling us:
    • what you hope to learn in the program to which you are applying;
    • why this is of interest to you;
    • what contributions you hope to make;
    • and any further information you want to convey to us.
  2. A Non-refundable Application Fee (payable securely by credit card within the Student Portal)
    One application fee per application submitted
    Before 3/2/2018: $50
    3/2/2018 to 4/29/2018: $75
    4/30/2018 and after: $100
  3. An Academic Transcript or Grade Report
    Applicants must submit grades for the 2017-2018 academic term and two previous academic years. Acceptable forms include, but are not limited to, progress reports, report cards, transcripts and unofficial transcripts. Documentation must include your full name and an explanation of the scoring system in English. Applicants will upload this material in the student portal after they have submitted their application form. Academic records do NOT need to be submitted by your school or guidance counselor.
  4. A Teacher Recommendation
    Within the application applicants must submit the name and email address of a teacher who can attest to the applicant’s capabilities in a classroom setting. An email will be sent to the recommender to provide feedback to the Admission Review Committee.

Please note:

  • In some cases, additional application materials may be requested. Additional materials may include transcripts, essays, or teacher recommendations.
  • Applications will not be reviewed by the Admission Review Committee until they are complete.
  • Program admission does not guarantee enrollment in a specific course.
  • Courses may be cancelled at any time due to unforeseen circumstance.
  • Please wait to make travel arrangements until the program is confirmed.

Notification of Admission Decision

Applicants will be notified by email to log into their Student Portal to view their admission decision once it has been made.

May 2018 Update: Our admissions team carefully reviews each application submitted. Due to the high volume of applications and selectivity of our programs, admissions decisions will be made within fifteen business days of receipt of a complete application.

Confirming Attendance with a Program Deposit

Accepted students must confirm their attendance by submitting a $300 non-refundable program deposit. Students attending more than one program must submit a $300 non-refundable deposit for each program. Students will not be able to enroll in courses until a program deposit is received.


Student and parents are encouraged to review our Policies page to learn about important payment deadlines, refunds, code of conduct, and more.

Important Information for International Students

Brown University Pre-College programs welcome applications from international students. Learn about English language proficiency requirements, Immigration Guidelines, Deadlines for Submitting Documentation, How to Apply for a Visa, and more on our International Students page.

picture of forest in Alaska