Semester in the West trailer
Several Semester in the West students access course materials through a satellite Internet connection, while others prepare lunch in front of the program’s multipurpose trailer.

NOTE TO MEDIA: You are invited to visit the “Westies” along their journey, enjoy a campsite meal or even stay overnight.

WALLA WALLA – One Whitman College professor, 21 students, two staff members and a dog named Maggie have hit the road for a more than 20-stop, three-month educational voyage across the western United States.

Phil Brick and MaggieProfessor Phil Brick pets his dog Maggie during a break from student orientation at the Johnston Wilderness Campus.

Whitman’s “Semester in the West” (SITW) program, led by Phil Brick, Miles C. Moore Professor of Political Science, left the college on Aug. 28 with its high-tech centerpiece in tow – a 16-foot horse trailer that has been configured to serve as a traveling classroom, communications center, library, computer lab and administrative office. The multipurpose unit is equipped with desks for up to nine students, a satellite Internet connection and six 100-watt solar panels that generate electricity for computers and lights.

This is the fifth edition of the biannual academic adventure, which offers Whitman students a unique interdisciplinary approach to learning. Members of the mobile classroom travel in a caravan of SUVs and pickup trucks, stopping to set up camp at various spots throughout the West for two to five day stays.

“The trailer will be our happy home for the next few months,” said Brick, to whom Maggie the Dog belongs. He is leading the student adventurers, who represent a range of academic majors, through seven western states to meet with an eclectic mix of experts, including writers, ranchers, miners, labor organizers, historians, economists, cowboys and Native Americans.

The theme of this year’s interactive curriculum is, “Seeing Landscapes Whole,” and it is focused on the changing ecological, social and political landscapes of the American West. Brick’s interdisciplinary traveling classroom will make its way through “all those little green spots on the map,” exposing students to the western landscapes where the impacts of climate change and policy issues are having physical effects.

“We’re going to visit forests that will one day be grasslands and see ecosystems that simply won’t exist in 30 years from now,” Brick said to his students.

The program’s goal is to integrate traditional academic learning with a series of rigorous field experiences. Students receive 16 credit hours for successful completion of the semester, with credits divided across four academic disciplines – politics, environmental studies, biology, and rhetoric and film studies.

In addition to reading assigned texts, available wirelessly in PDF format, SITW students will spend the semester conducting in-depth field research and intense dialogue with various experts they’ll meet along the way. Participants are required to keep a field journal and regularly present ideas developed from their entries. Additional projects include a final capstone radio production, for which each student is asked to create a “broadcast-quality radio show about a significant aspect of the American West, as experienced during the semester.”

To learn more about the SITW program, click here. Below is the tentative schedule:

August 25-27: Orientation, Johnston Wilderness Campus, Umatilla County, Oregon
August 28: Depart for Wallowa County, Oregon
August 29-September 3: Wallowa County, Oregon
September 4-9: Baker County, Oregon
September 10-11: Dufur, Oregon/Bend, Oregon Area
September 12-13: Mono Lake Area, near Lee Vining, California
September 14-18: Owens Lake Area, near Lone Pine, California
September 19-26: Escalante, Utah area
September 27-29: Wells, Nevada area
September 30-October 4: Hailey, Idaho area
October 5-8: Dinosaur, Colorado area
October 9-12: Paonia, Colorado
October 13-15: Aspen, Colorado area
October 16-19: Green River, Utah area
October 20-23: Bluff, Utah area
October 24-25: Four Corners area, TBA
October 26-30: Near El Valle, New Mexico
October 31-November 4: Bandelier, New Mexico
November 5-9 Southern New Mexico, TBA
November 10-11: TBA
November 12-13: Yucca Valley, California
November 14-16: Tejon Ranch, near Bakersfield, California
November 17-19 Travel, stops in SF Bay area, Bend, Oregon
November 19 or 20: Arrive, Johnston Wilderness Campus, begin work on final projects
November 25: Thanksgiving at Johnston Wilderness Campus
November 30: Western Epiphany Presentations, 4pm
December 1: Western Epiphany Presentations, 4pm
December 3: Program ends, noon

** Please note that this schedule is subject to change.

Media: For details or to schedule a visit, contact Ashley Coetzee, interim media relations officer, at 509-527-4917 or coetzeal@whitman.edu.