Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Author: Marina Cull
Categories: Academics|Biology

Students from Houghton College and six other institutions will embark on a three-month journey through the Alaskan wilderness as part of the college’s new Arctic Studies program.

The off-campus semester will run from August 1 to November 11, 2017 at the Glennallen campus of Alaska Bible College. Students will take up to 18 credit hours of coursework that brings an Alaskan perspective to subjects such as ecosystems, global climate change, land management of natural resources, wilderness recreation, and Christian missions. Three Houghton professors – James Wolfe, professor of biology, Laura Alexeichik, assistant professor of recreation, and Eli Knapp, professor of human ecology – will lead the program and guide students on their adventures to places such as Denali National Park, Prince William Sound, and the Yukon River. Nathan De Jaeger, research ecologist at the United States Geological Survey, will also partner with the program to provide students with the opportunity to conduct a research project on moose browse in the local area’s Copper Valley River.

With ample opportunity to interact with Alaska’s environment and indigenous people, Alexeichik says students will engage in a “highly experiential, ‘get their hands dirty’ intentional learning” that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the country. “Although Alaska is part of the U.S.,” remarks Alexeichik, “this is a really a cross-cultural experience – the unique interactions between federal, state, and tribal lands and peoples provide students with an indigenous and first-nations experience without leaving the U.S. We want students to experience the raw and vivid human and environment interactions.”

This will mark the first time that Houghton offers a full semester program in Alaska. Wolfe, who has led several shorter trips to there since 1990 and witnessed firsthand the profound impact they have left on students, is thrilled by the opportunity for an extended stay in Alaska. “Talks about life and faith over campfires, savoring a meal al fresco after a long hike, and laughing abo"ut the absurdity of the stressful life in the ‘lower 48’ have left their mark,” says Wolfe. “For many students, their visit to Alaska has been instrumental to their career as a biologist, veterinarian, environmental analyst, or recreation leader."

For more information on the Arctic Studies program, visit