Cultural preservation, economic growth, and environmental choices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
|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|
BELL: Alaska is academically rigorous. Given the intensity of the program there is some, but minimal, free time.
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.
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.
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.
Applicants will be notified by email to log into their Student Portal to view their admission decision once it has been made. Admission decisions are usually made within ten business days of receipt of a complete application.
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.
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