students in the lab

Environmental Leadership: Alaska

Cultural preservation, economic growth, and environmental choices.

2019 Application Closed

This program has reached capacity and is no longer accepting applications.

Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) combines concepts in environmental studies, ecology, and leadership, with a mission of developing socially responsible leaders. At BELL, 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, will travel to south-central Alaska to introduce students to the beauty and complexities of present-day Alaska.

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

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 your home community.

We encourage students to think about potential Action Plan topics before they come to BELL, but most students will 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: BELL Action Plan library.

Program Dates:

Two Week Session July 28 – August 10, 2019

Eligibility: For students completing grades 9-12, ages 15-18 by June 2019

Fees: $5,810

Important Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: March 25, 2019
Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until the Program is fully enrolled or deadline occurs.

Program Deposit Deadline: May 8, 2019

Program Confirmation: On or before April 17, 2019

*NOTE: Do not book your flights or purchase plane tickets until you receive an email from Brown confirming the program

Program Forms & Flight Information Deadline: May 22, 2019

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

Life at BELL: Alaska

Life Outdoors

A large amount of our time will be spent outdoors. 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 and about, rain or shine.


Most nights, students will be sleeping on bunk beds in college dorm rooms separated by gender identity. For the three 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.


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 are expected to reduce their cell phone use, allowing them to fully engage with the 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 and build more intentional friendships.

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
BELL students had the opportunity to try muktuk (bowhead whale) with one of the Elders from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
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. The two weeks of BELL: Alaska are divided into three distinct segments:


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.

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 accessible only by boat, and provides access to incredible biodiversity.

The Kenai Peninsula

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.

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

Please contact 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 your 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. 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.

About the Program Director: Jane B. Diener

Assistant Director, Pre-College & Environmental Programs

Jane received her B.S. in Forest Resources, Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching, and Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia (UGA). Prior to joining the Brown Pre-College team in September 2017, Jane worked as the Sustainability Coordinator for University Housing at UGA, where she ran educational programs to promote environmentally conscious decisions among the 8,000 students living on campus. During the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016, Jane worked part time for the BELL: Rhode Island. In her current role with Brown Pre-College Programs, she is responsible for planning and overseeing all BELL programs, including Alaska, Florida Keys, and Rhode Island. Jane is passionate about environmental advocacy and fulfilled by this role, which allows her to facilitate a unique experience for high school students each summer.

Admission Criteria

How to Apply

This program has reached capacity and is no longer accepting applications.

Admission Criteria

Prospective students must apply for admission. When evaluating applications, the admissions team 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. Although the essay prompt may differ depending on the program you apply to, in general, you should be prepared to tell us:
    • what you hope to learn in the program to which you are applying and why that program is of interest to you;
    • what areas of study you are interested in;
    • what contributions you hope to make in and outside of the classroom;
    • 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 3/1/2019: $50
    • 3/1/2019 to 4/29/2019: $75
    • 4/30/2019 and after: $100
  3. An Academic Transcript or Grade Report

    Academic records must be submitted in the application form by the applicant. They do NOT need to be submitted by your school guidance counselor. Applicants must submit grades from the 2018-2019 academic term and at least two previous academic years. Acceptable attachments include, but are not limited to:

    • Progress reports;
    • Report cards;
    • Narrative assessments; and/or
    • Unofficial transcripts.

    Documentation must include your full name and the academic term(s) represented. Please also be sure an explanation of the grading scale used by your school(s) (i.e., A = Excellent, 5 = Average, etc.,) appears on the documents, or provide one for us, along with an English translation as appropriate.

  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 admissions team.

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. Our admissions team carefully reviews each application submitted. In most cases, admission decisions are made within 10 business days of receiving a complete application; however, during high volume times, it may take up to 15 business days.

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.

For Pre-Baccalaureate Students: Please note that we must receive your completed application, including your teacher recommendation, by April 15th, in order to ensure sufficient time to review your application, and, if admitted, process I-20 materials. If you currently hold valid F-1 status, or are Canadian, you may be still eligible to participate in the program. Please email for more information.

picture of forest in Alaska
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