The summer getaway is about to get studious, as the Great Tradition takes on the great outdoors in the 2018 Glacier Bay Session, a four-week summer conference in southeast Alaska. Two Hillsdale students will be selected to study American writing about the outdoors — think Whitman, Berry, and Thoreau — in its natural habitat.
“Twelve students will spend the month exploring the classics of American nature writing, forming and governing their own small-scale political community, and learning the skills required to survive and thrive on a frontier homestead,” executive director Laura Marcus said in an email.
The scholarship, made possible by a private donation, will be awarded to two Hillsdale students via an online application for a work-study program that grafts labor onto learning.
The program takes place at the out-of-the-way Inian Islands Institute, a 20-minute boat ride from Elfin Cove, Alaska, which features limited Wifi and cell service, the better to study Berry with. Undergraduate students are selected from only one of seven institutions, including Yale, the University of Alaska, City University of New York, and Deep Springs College.
The project follows the “three pillars” of the Arete Project, according to the program website: “intensive academics in the liberal arts and sciences; physical labor performed in service of campus and community; and student self-governance over each other and over the program as a whole.”
Students will spend 20 hours per week doing physical labor, including gardening, construction, and food preparation.
This educational approach is rooted in the history of the Arete Project and its connections to the Telluride Association and Deep Springs College, a two-year institution founded to balance serious academic study with manual labor, all within a culture that fosters self-governance, according to the program website.
Professor of philosophy Nathan Schlueter heard about the program from Marcus, a Yale alumna, whom he taught in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute more than 10 years ago.
“It looks to me like a program that fits well with the kind of students Hillsdale attracts,” Schlueter said. “But since the college is not sponsoring the event, students should do their own due diligence in researching it.”
Hillsdale students are interested in the program for the way it brings together learning and life, both now and in the future.
“I’ve always dreamed of being mostly self-sufficient when I’m a homeowner. The Glacier Bay summer program appeals to me so much not simply because it teaches skills of self-sufficiency, but because it does so through intellectual lens; the participants read history, philosophy, and literature. I’m constantly pondering the question of Man’s relationship with Nature, a question that this program addresses head-on,” senior Patrick Lucas, an applicant to the program, said. “I strongly identify with the sentiments of their cooperation along with the idea that being in the wilderness allows one to be his truest self — both of which are expressed by Henry David Thoreau, who’s an author the program employs to teach self-governance. I also like exploring, and Alaska is one of many places I have never been.”
Marcus offered to reserve two students for the seminar based on her past experience with students in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute honors program.
“I am quite eager to have Hillsdale students participating in this course,” Marcus said. “I’ve always been deeply impressed with their outstanding character and intellectual rigor. It would be especially valuable for us to have a couple students who already had some familiarity with Thoreau, Whitman, Berry, and the like.”
The program, which runs from July 17th to August 13th, is free to the two students selected, thanks to an anonymous private donation. This includes airfare, room and board, local transportation, and a stipend. The application deadline, available online at the Arete Project website, is February 10.