COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Below are details of courses we currently offer on expeditions.

Our courses can be taken for degree credit or, upon approval, for audit/continuing education credit. Each year, courses offered depend upon faculty selections and student interest levels. 

FUTURE STUDENTS: Course details below apply each time that course is scheduled. To learn how a course applies to your degree, go to Student Opportunities or Continuing Education. To see which courses are scheduled this year, go to Upcoming Expeditions.

FUTURE FACULTY: If interested in teaching a course below or in proposing a new expedition course, go to Faculty Opportunities

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Sacred Ground and the New Story

Aurora Borealis, Denali NP (NPS photo)

Since our beginning, we have been storytellers. Stories have helped us make sense of the world, of its mysterious phenomena and powers. They have expressed how creation came to be and defined the human role within creation. Above all, creation stories have been our guide. They penetrate into the depths of the psyche and inform behavior, especially when it comes to how we treat others and the world around us. But, creation stories can lose their effectiveness over time. If new knowledge contradicts or discredits a creation myth, then that story can lose its functional role. That is our great challenge today. We are in trouble now because we are, as Thomas Berry says, in between stories. Not only is the current story being discredited by science, but our current story does not provide the guidance we need for dealing with environmental devastation. It places the human at the pinnacle of creation instead of, as evolutionary and cosmological knowledge reveals, as a derivative of creation. And yet the new scientific story does not yet provide a meaningful context because it deals primarily with how the physical-material world came into being and does not deal with the Universe's psychic-spiritual dimension manifested so eloquently in and through human consciousness. For this reason, a new cosmogonic myth must be shaped, a metanarrative inclusive of creation stories of our past as well as the knowledge we now have about our universe. It is part of the great work of the human species as we transition from this terminal phase of the Cenozoic Era, the last 65 million years of Earth history, into an Ecozoic Era, where humans become a viable presence. This course, therefore, aims to help us see how a new cosmogonic myth, one that deals adequately with the sacredness of creation within the framework of the evolutionary story, as the primary context for how we become a mutually enhancing presence to the earth community. 

[THEO 332: 3 credit hours; CORE Credit, Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, General elective, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

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Ecology, Ethics, Place: Wilderness

  Student backcountry camp (XE photo)

Student backcountry camp (XE photo)

This course aims to foster a profound kind of ecological literacy by integrating phenomenological concepts into wilderness immersion experiences as a means to cultivate a deeper understanding of an ecological imperative or primordial ecological ethic informed most clearly through the wilderness experience. The purpose of cultivating a phenomenological comportment to the land around us is to prepare ways for students to discover firsthand the relation between meaning and mystery and, in turn, to see the importance of preserving mystique as a fundamental principle to safeguarding the health of the landscape. This course also emphasizes the need for limit language, that is, a public theology, which can convey an ethical stance palatable to the public sector, whereby separation of church and state is of utmost concern. This will provide students with comprehensive tools for engaging in and facilitating thought-provoking discussions about pressing environmental issues and how these issues may be resolved.

[THEO 440; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

[THEO 640; 3 credit hours; M.A. Theology, Humanities elective for other grad degrees]

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Environmental Philosophy & Wilderness

  Forest Rays (Amy Jerup photo)

Forest Rays (Amy Jerup photo)

Ecology is largely responsible for exposing complex issues and interdependencies that raise philosophical questions about how we ought to live on the land. Inevitably, the need to define a more comprehensive ethic of inhabiting any environment becomes a philosophical endeavor into the nature of that environment. In other words, defining any environmental ethic requires engaging in environmental philosophy. A primary emphasis of this course, then, is to survey the wide variety of philosophical ideals about the human in relation to the other-than-human and whether these ideas merely extend human-centered ethics to the natural world or reveal human-centered ethics as subordinate to a primordial ecological imperative. This will allow us to emphasize how emerging/re-emerging environmental issues and new knowledge about our relation to the earth community calls for a new way of thinking about philosophy itself. This new way of thinking brings into question the challenge of assigning value to holistic subjects like communities, ecosystems, bioregions and habitats and the problem of emphasizing human rights over rights of the earth community.

[PHIL 220; 3 credit hours; CORE Credit, Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences].

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History of Environmental Conservation

  Dr. Leon's "Water Owns Us" lesson (XE photo)

Dr. Leon's "Water Owns Us" lesson (XE photo)

It's all a question of story. To understand how conservation might change over the next century, and why it might need to change, we first need to understand where we are now, and how conservation emerged. In this course, we explore the history of conservation in America, with special emphasis of how and why it emerged and how and why it gained momentum as a result of environmental movements. The detailed approach of this course will be prepared by a History Professor.

[HIST 3xx*; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Social Sciences, Theology] *Course identifier not assigned yet.

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Ignatian Spirituality and Wilderness

  Gros Ventre Wilderness (USFS photo)

Gros Ventre Wilderness (USFS photo)

This course offers an intensive, immersion experience into Jesuit theology and spirituality in the context of awe-inspiring wilderness. Students will explore how Jesuit theology and Ignatian spirituality can deepen our appreciation for and relationship with ourselves, the Divine, others and the Earth. Equipped with Ignatian spiritual "tools", students will critically and creatively reflect on their lived experiences to discern and follow their deepest desires in order to better foster a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. They will integrate their wilderness experiences and resulting insights as they cultivate their own spiritual credo. Lastly, students will place Jesuit theologians in conversation with contemporary eco-theologians, and examine how the Jesuit tradition inspires us to respond compassionately and justly to present and future challenges emerging from our ecological crisis.

[THEO 220; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

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  Newspaper Rock, Chaco Canyon (NPS photo)

Newspaper Rock, Chaco Canyon (NPS photo)

Native American Lifeway

Native American teachings and rituals can appear, on the surface, appealingly simple to those seeking connectedness and meaning in their lives. But below the surface, these teachings and rituals are profoundly complex and deeply embedded in worldviews that are shaped by an ongoing experience-story dynamic whereby the way of life itself is a ritual path. Along this path, stories give context to direction, often affirmed through a rich tradition of symbolic expression, while experiences themselves become expressions of struggle and celebration along the way. In this course, we respectfully explore, with open mind, how sacred myths and rituals give context to life paths in Native American cultures. The goal is to combat tendencies to trivialize and marginalize American Indian peoples by cultivating appreciation and respect for the depth and diversity of wisdom teachings, rituals, and symbolic expression and their essential contributions to this age of ecological uncertainty.

[THEO 392; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

[THEO 692; 3 credit hours; M.A. Theology, Humanities elective for other grad degrees]

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Lynx, Wrangell-St. Elias (NPS photo)

Place, Identity, Imagination:

Wilderness has long inspired the imagination of thinkers. In this course, we will consider the possibilities that writers of place provide as they attempt to reimagine the human role in the ecological narrative. We’ll ask the following questions, and more: What role does the literary imagination play in how we view both place and self? How do the stories we tell affect the actions we take? Do our dominant narratives encourage or discourage a sense of alienation or interdependence? Do we still have a sense of place? How does displacement, either figurative or literal, affect our identity? To reorient our own relationship to the environment, we will do some of our own writing. Immersion within the Yellowstone landscape will heighten our sense of connectedness and may inspire us in unexpected ways. Since writing involves the senses as well as language, this opportunity is ideal for taking time to write and practice engaging more deeply with our surroundings. 

[ENGL 205: 3 credit hours, CORE Credit, E/RS focus, General Humanities elective]

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Theology & Ecology                                            

  Wyoming Big Growth Moon (NPS photo)

Wyoming Big Growth Moon (NPS photo)

By immersing ourselves among the wondrous flora and fauna of wilderness, by walking along a bear-tracked trail deep within a seemingly endless pine forest, by sitting quietly on the banks of a rushing glacial stream, by listening to wolves howling while under the stars and by a campfire, we will explore the disconnect between our nostalgia for paradise and the wilderness reality of creation. We will explore wilderness as the pristine expression of the Earth Community as our primary teacher and the Universe as the only self-referent reality. In so doing, this course aims to challenge and inspire students to grasp the human story within the Earth story, and the Earth story within the Universe story. Here, we will begin to gain a deeper appreciation for the broader community that brought us into being and now sustains us in every expression of human life, including: our physical nourishment and health; our intellectual perceptions; our emotional and aesthetic sensitivities; and our sense of the divine. In so doing, we will discover firsthand how our ecological relation to the world is a manifestation of our theological relation to divine mystery and, at the same time, how our theological relation to divine mystery offers a meaningful context for a mutually enhancing ecological relation to our world. In other words, if theology is to have contributions of merit in the public sector with regards to the ecological crisis, it must be informed by intimate experiences of the sacred (or mystique) in the world around us and convey those experiences in ways that overcome taken-for-granted assumptions about our world.

THEO 388a; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

[THEO 575a; 3 credit hours; M.A. Theology, Humanities elective for other grad degrees]

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Wilderness and American Philosophy                

  Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton NP (XE photo)

Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton NP (XE photo)

The Wilderness theme is vital to American Philosophy. According to Frederick Jackson Turner, "What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bonds of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, the ever retreating Great West has been to the United States directly." For "Classical American Philosophy," land, freedom, and democracy are intertwined. So long as there is land, the conditions exist for possibility and novelty. Students will be introduced to major figures in American Philosophy (Emerson, Thoreau, Leopold, Muir, Royce, and Bugbee) within the context of wilderness experiences, particularly in Yellowstone National Park and the Teton, Gros Ventre and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Areas. The importance of wilderness in the shaping of ideas and the need for its preservation will be emphasized throughout.

[PHIL 404; 3 credit hours; Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

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Wilderness and Religious Imagination

  Tracking griz, Washakie Wilderness (XE photo)

Tracking griz, Washakie Wilderness (XE photo)

Discover the Earth community as primarily a wilderness community that will not be bargained with or made into an object of any kind. Awaken to our sacred Earth by entering into the revelatory power of wilderness. Let your imagination "run wild" on the shores of a quiet alpine lake or on a bear-tracked trail within a seemingly endless pine forest. This course includes lessons, discussions and reflections in some of the world's most wild places. Throughout this course, we will explore how the Paleolithic world of mystery and power brought religious ideas to life in the human mind. We will, at the same time, explore how, even today, the landscape invokes religious imagination and how that imagination plays a fundamental role in how we may address the ecologial crisis. We will also discern how religion imagination has fostered and continues to foster an intimate, viable relation between the human and more-than-human world. We will ask the following: how can religious imagination contribute to a new era of conservation? How does religious thinking (limit thinking) inspire humans to recognize the intimate connection between preserving mystique and safeguarding the earth community?

[THEO 388; 3 credit hours; CORE credit, Biology, Education, ER/S focus, Env Science, Env Studies, General elective, Health, Liberal Arts, Natural Science, Peace Studies, Social Sciences, Theology]

[THEO 575; 3 credit hours; M.A. Theology, Humanities elective for other grad degrees]


ARE YOU A FUTURE EXPEDITIONS TEACHER?

If you are interested in joining us on an expedition and teaching one of these courses or proposing a new course, click the button below.

ARE YOU A FUTURE EXPEDITIONS STUDENT?

If you are interested in enrolling in an expedition, but you are not sure how these courses will apply to your degree, click the button below.