Academic Credit

Wildlands Studies is an educational partner of Western Washington University with support from the Huxley College of the Environment’s Environmental Science Department. Students desiring undergraduate academic credit from Western Washington University will earn 5-15 quarter credits (3.35-10 semester credits) of upper division credit by participating in a Wildlands Studies project. Transcripts are issued directly from Western Washington University. Units earned may be eligible for transfer credit to both semester and quarter system campuses.

What are Field Study Projects?

Wildlands Studies field projects provide students with the opportunity to join backcountry study teams as working field associates, closely studying environmental impact assessment, environmental policy, geologic, climatic and topographic factors that support various habitats, and the relationships between environments and culture. Wildlands Studies field study projects occur entirely in the field. Although not taught in a classroom, there are definite academic expectations: participation in discussions and activities, readings, exams, projects and presentations. There are also undoubtedly long days, inclement weather, logistical challenges, and sometimes physically demanding conditions. This comes as well with unsurpassed personal rewards. Wildlands Studies projects are a rare and fascinating opportunity to study our wildlands firsthand. Students will strive toward shared goals with experienced instructors and new friends, gaining knowledge and insight as they learn about the intertwined environmental and cultural challenges facing the region of their field study project.

How do Academics work in the Field?

We integrate teaching and learning through both formal and informal learning situations including lecture, seminars, discussions, readings, field activities, information exchanges with local experts, exposure to ongoing research, extended backcountry excursions, and field research projects. Our Projects generally progress from faculty-led instruction in the beginning (i.e., more lectures and readings) to student-led critical evaluation, analysis, and synthesis at the end of the course.

How is Academic Credit established?

Western Washington University establishes academic credit based on contact hours from the amount of work expected from a typical student in class and in a laboratory or similar setting. For Wildlands Studies, as a field based, experiential, intensive, on-going learning experience, we strive to equate our courses on par with offerings at Western Washington University. On a Wildlands Studies course, we estimate that students experience an 8-10 hour contact day, six to seven days per week for the length of the project. On our projects, a typical day starts with breakfast, where a discussion of the day usually takes place, often followed by a lecture or seminar. This then leads to a field/research experience and ends with dinner and an after dinner discussion or debrief. We provide very little downtime on our projects (at most a half day or so for laundry every ten or twelve days), and expect students to be able to read the course reader/assigned textbooks, as well as prepare papers and other assignments, in their downtime in the evenings or early mornings. That being said, if we were to calculate 8 contact hours per day for an estimated 36 days (our average long project is 42 days and some run 49 days), the total contact hours are 288, double the amount required by students for an average course load of 15 quarter credits. We believe that the intensity of our curriculum and the rigor of this field based experience surpass that learned during a normal university based 15 quarter credit experience and are well justified in earning 15 quarter credits.

How is Academic Credit conferred?

Academic credit is granted upon successful completion of a Wildlands Studies project. Academic credit is conferred by Western Washington University, which is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Western Washington University credit is recognized at universities throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. We ask all participants to check with their campus registrar or academic advisor to confirm transferability before they participate on a project.

Our website provides instructions to participants for obtaining their transcript upon return from a project and to transfer the Wildlands Studies course credit to their home campus. Participants will receive a transcript automatically from Western Washington University upon completion of the program. A second transcript can be ordered following the instructions on our Transcript Information Page.Typically, transcripts are available for distribution as follows: Summer projects in October, Fall projects in January, Winter projects in May and Spring projects in July. Grades are only distributed through the transcript process.

Who are Wildlands Studies Instructors?

Faculty of Wildlands Studies programs come from around the world, and hold either a PhD or Masters of Science. Our hiring practice for instructors mimics that of Western Washington University and meets the University’s hiring requirements for adjunct faculty teaching upper division coursework. Many of Wildlands Studies faculty are college professors who direct field study work, others are researchers who want to help broaden students' exposure to wildlife and environmental issues. All are concerned about the impact of development and growth on our natural environment. Our instructors are backcountry field guides as well as academicians, and are certified in First Aid and CPR.  All projects have a minimum of two Wildlands Studies staff members, and often three or four. There is always a Lead Instructor, often a second Instructor or a Logistics Coordinator, and a Teaching Assistant.

The Wildlands Studies Student Body

Participants of Wildlands Studies field study projects are a diverse group from all over the United States and Canada. Generally our participants are undergraduate students in their freshman to senior year or recent college graduates. We occasionally have participants who have already graduated and are looking to build their resume with field research experience or intend to apply for graduate school. More and more, we are excited to welcome international students.  Over the past three years, we have welcomed students from more than 50 universities.

What characteristics make an ideal Wildlands Studies student?

Students seeking an outdoor environmental field study fit most ideally with our program students. Students will get the most out of the experience if they bring along flexibility, openness, ample patience, a sense of humor, self-motivation, and perhaps most importantly, the desire to work as a team towards a common goal. Students who excel in Wildlands Studies projects also tend to enjoy being outdoors regardless of weather, have an interest in experiencing living in rustic areas, and a general excitement and enthusiasm for new experiences, people and places.

For more information, please read our Academic Credit webpage.