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ACM Faculty Selected to Explore Theme of Wilderness

ACM Faculty Selected to Explore Theme of Wilderness January 31, 2017
ACM Faculty Selected to Explore Theme of Wilderness

A multi-disciplinary group of 15 ACM faculty will pack up their outdoor gear, as well as their tablets and laptops, and travel to the north woods of Minnesota this summer for the sixth SAIL seminar, Wilderness in the Anthropocene.

The 10-day seminar will examine the nature and meaning of “wilderness” from a variety of vantage points — the biology of wilderness, its place in our art and our minds, its function in our current society — by drawing on the participants’ disciplinary backgrounds, which range from environmental science to history to philosophy.

Three professors proposed the topic and will lead the seminar: biologist Jesse Ellis from Coe College and Chris Fink (English) and Pablo Toral (international relations and environmental studies) from Beloit College. They are joined by three-person faculty teams from Carleton, Cornell, Macalester, and Ripon Colleges.

The group will be based at the Coe College Wilderness Field Station near Ely, MN, which provides direct access to millions of acres of protected land and waterways in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Exploration and discussion of “wilderness” will be informed by a canoe trip focused on the natural history and ecology of the area, readings and guest speakers, and meetings with local residents and experts to learn about the varied perspectives, competing interests, and controversies surrounding a proposed mining project to be located upstream from the Boundary Waters.

During the 2017-18 academic year following the on-site seminar on July 7-16, the group will develop new course modules, class exercises, and other curricular materials to use in interdisciplinary courses for juniors and seniors at their colleges. The materials will be shared with faculty across the ACM and at other colleges on the ACM Project Outcomes webpage.

Wilderness in the Anthropocene participants

Beloit College

  • Chris Fink, Professor of English (seminar leader)
  • Pablo Toral, Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies (seminar leader)

Carleton College

Coe College

  • Jesse Ellis, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Wilderness Field Station (seminar leader)

Cornell College

Macalester College

Ripon College

This will be the final in a series of annual Seminars in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL) funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Editor’s note: Participant list updated on April 6 when Devan Baty (Cornell) replaced Tyler Skorczewski (Cornell).



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