The Associated Colleges of the Midwest has partnered with Augsburg University Center for Global Education and Experience to offer their River Semester to students at ACM member institutions, beginning with the Fall 2023 course offering.
Started in 2015, the River Semester is a unique educational expedition where students spend 100 days—an entire semester—traveling down the Mississippi River, primarily in paddle- and sail-powered catamarans. Participants begin at the Headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota; travel through St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans; and end at the Gulf of Mexico—camping, cooking meals, conducting field research, holding classes, visiting sites, and hearing from guest speakers along the way.
“The River Semester is a unique addition to our place-based programs that will enhance and complement our students’ on-campus experience.”
– Sonya Malunda, President of the ACM
The curriculum, primarily based in environmental studies and interdisciplinary social science, draws on critical, democratic, and place-based pedagogy, allowing student input into the program’s structure. In addition to learning course content, students gain leadership skills and a greater sense of self-confidence, resilience, and vocational discernment.
“We are thrilled to provide ACM students interested in environmental studies, political science, social justice, and other social sciences with the opportunity to participate in the River Semester,” said Sonya Malunda, President of the ACM. “With its coursework, experiential learning, guest lectures, and directed research, all taking place along the Mississippi River, the River Semester is a unique addition to our place-based programs that will enhance and complement our students’ on-campus experience.”
“We look forward to helping ACM students achieve a deeper understanding of the diverse history, literature, food, music, and culture of the American Heartland along the Mississippi River.”
– Joe Underhill, River Semester Program Director
One goal of the program is to actively engage issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and provide opportunities for students from underrepresented groups. The non-traditional learning environment allows for discussions on matters of race, equity, and environmental justice woven into the natural science curriculum. The diversity of students and locations—from major cities to small rural communities—likewise provides significant opportunities for learning about diverse perspectives and life experiences, and for understanding the barriers to engagement with environmental issues and outdoor education for underrepresented minorities.
In addition to student participation, ACM faculty can apply for the position of Visiting Faculty, with responsibility for being the instructor of record for one course of their choice and design, as well as assisting with the overall educational programming, curricular design, and mentorship of students on the journey. ACM faculty will also have the opportunity to spend anywhere from 2 to 14 days with the program as a visiting lecturer.
“Augsburg is excited about the opportunity to work with the ACM and its member colleges on providing this unique, place-based, and highly educational experience,” said Joe Underhill, River Semester Program Director. “We look forward to helping ACM students achieve a deeper understanding of the diverse history, literature, food, music, and culture of the American Heartland along the Mississippi River.”
Student applications for the Fall 2023 semester will be available in July 2022.