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2017 Seminar

Canoeing in the Boundary Waters

On the canoe trip into the Boundary Waters during the SAIL 2017 Wilderness in the Anthropocene on-site seminar.

Wilderness in the Anthropocene

On-site portion of the seminar: July 7-16, 2017

When every inch of the earth and its climate have been affected by humans, what does “wilderness” mean?

Wilderness in the Anthropocene, the sixth in a series of Seminars in Advanced Interdiciplinary Learning (SAIL), tackles that question, along with others, such as: What places do wilderness, the wild, and nature have in our communities and campuses today? What is the value of wilderness to a liberal arts education?

Photos from the on-site seminar

Blog posts:

Fifteen faculty from six ACM colleges gathered at Coe College’s Wilderness Field Station (WFS) in northern Minnesota on July 7-16 for an intensive off-campus study experience during the on-site portion of the seminar. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest, the field station offers direct access by canoe to the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

From this base, they experienced the wilderness by canoe, spending several days afield, and spent time with local residents who make their living in this wilderness, as well as those who make their living off the resources beneath it.

The seminar syllabus included overlapping interdisciplinary, team-taught modules – in boreal ecology, environmental writing, and environmental social science – that touched on the biology of wilderness, its place in our art and mind, and its place in our current society. Faculty approached complex topics from different disciplinary perspectives, combining both specialist and nonā€specialist roles.

During the 2017-18 academic year, each participant is working to create a new course or course module on a topic related to the seminar that advances his or her teaching interests.


SAIL 2017 group

The Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar group visiting Sigurd Olson's cabin at Listening Point.

Seminar Participants

Wilderness in the Anthropocene is led by three professors who proposed the topic and site and developed the syllabus and itinerary for the seminar:

  • Jesse Ellis, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Wilderness Field Station, Coe College
  • Chris Fink, Professor of English, Beloit College
  • Pablo Toral, Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies, Beloit College

They are joined by a dozen faculty from Carleton, Cornell, Macalester, and Ripon Colleges.


For questions about the SAIL program, contact ACM Vice President and Director of Faculty Development and Grant Programs Brian Williams (312.561.5922).