Brown Environmental Leadership Labs: Alaska

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

BELL: Alaska 2023 has reached capacity.

Please consider our Summer@Brown Biological and Natural Sciences courses.

Students investigating water life in Alaska.



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.

Experience 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, nestled in coastal woodlands—truly breathtaking and accessible only by boat—is where you’ll interact with species from bald eagles to sea otters to starfish, to name a few.

You will spend time learning about Alaska’s important cultural and ecological history at site visits to the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Cook Inlet Tribal Center and Matanuska Glacier. 

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 develop an Action Plan to apply your new leadership knowledge to this issue when you return home.

Program Snapshot


Students completing grades 10 to 12, ages 16 to 18 by June 18, 2023


2-week program


Wednesday, July 19 to Tuesday, August 1, 2023


Alaska: Anchorage, Peterson Bay Field Station near Homer


  • Join a community of young scholars who are passionate about the environment while experiencing a part of the country or world that will be new to many students.
  • Develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to impact environmental issues facing your local community and the planet as a whole.
  • Explore 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 successfully finish.


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 collect students’ phones and return them during specific parts of the program, including off-site field trips. While this may be an unfamiliar experience for many students, it is often an aspect of the trip students appreciate most. We expect students to plan ahead to be without their cell phones during most of the program, however the group will always be reachable via the program cell phone, which will be held by the on-site staff. The phone number to the program cell phone will be provided to families of accepted students prior to the program.

Some site visits listed are weather-dependent and subject to change. 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. A specific packing list will be provided for accepted students.

Residential and Student Life

  • Most nights, you will be sleeping on bunk beds in residence hall 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. There is, however,  a permanent lodge visible from the yurts with composting toilets, meeting spaces and a fully functioning kitchen. During this portion of the trip, you will not have access to showers.
  • At the end of the program, you’ll spend one night at a hotel near the Anchorage airport before departing.
  • 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 12, 2023. Students can notify program staff by filling out the medical health history form, which accepted students receive in their student portals.
  • Program staff live on site and are available 24 hours a day to provide support and supervision.

A Typical Day

Being a part of BELL Alaska will provide you with an experience similar to that of a research laboratory and all that entails. Though the term “lab” typically brings up imagery of standing over a microscope or collecting samples in small glass vials, there is much more that goes into being a member of a lab. Some days are more active than others and some days are more focused on  concept development and exploration. Each day is different but typically includes field observations, classroom discussions, leadership workshops and time for team-building and reflection.

8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Breakfast
9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Community tasks (everyone pitches in)
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Morning lesson or field trip
11:30 a.m. to Noon Break
Noon to 1 p.m. Lunch (students help with set-up and clean-up)
1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Solo time (recharge, reflect and be by yourself)
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Afternoon session or field trip continued
5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Free time
6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dinner (students help with set-up and clean-up)
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Evening lesson
9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Free time
10 p.m. Well-deserved rest

Program Photos

Program Director

  • Photo of Jane B. Diener

    Jane Diener

    Associate Director, Pre-College Programs & Environmental Studies