Westminster Expedition Students in the Open American West

During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator will load books, camping gear, and themselves into a couple of vans and hit the road for a semester-long tour of the American West.

The trip is designed as an exploration into the issues at the heart of the contemporary West. Students will earn 16 credits in environmental studies and history as they study Environmental Cooperation and Conflict, Landscape and Meaning, the History of Public Lands, and the Native West.

This prolonged journey into the field will allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we expect to build a cohort of impassioned scholars with a particular breadth and depth of experiential knowledge who are equipped to build a better future for the West.

We will visit iconic, protected sites like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, contentious places like the Little Bighorn and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, working landscapes like the Butte Copper Mines, and communities from present-day Native nations to "New West" towns like Bend, Twisp, and Moab.

Meet the Expedition

Learn More About the Students and Faculty on the Expedition

Read the Latest Journal Entry

May 14, 2015

May 14, 2015

Over the past week, Provost Lisa Gentile and I have had the pleasure of attending some fantastic end-of-the-year awards and recognition events. The Honors Banquet, Arts and Science Awards Dinner, and Master Track Dinner were all reminders of the excellence our students attain through their time here at Westminster College. We also attended one of the commissioning ceremonies for our graduating ROTC students. It was inspiring to watch them receive their military designation as second lieutenants.

We look forward to continued commencement celebrations and events at the end of the month. I encourage you to attend President Brian's farewell party on May 29. We will unveil his portrait and celebrate and honor Brian and Debi for their contributions to the college.

My wife, Sandy, and I also enjoyed seeing more than 200 attendees at the 99th Silver Tea. The Silver Tea is truly a time-honored tradition unique to Westminster College. Thanks to those of you who attended and to the Women's Board for their ongoing hard work to raise funds for scholarships and other worthy projects at the college.

Last week, Dr. Tim Culver, noted retention expert from Ruffalo Noel Levitz, conducted a two-day visit to campus. During the visit, Dr. Culver asked us, 'Who owns the student success relationship?' He went on to discuss organizing around a completion agenda for our undergraduate students. He complimented Westminster on the large number of retention initiatives we are already undertaking. He also made several recommendations, such as organizing our advising around student success coaches and focusing on both freshman- to sophomore-year retention, and sophomore- to junior-year retention. Dr. Culver will soon deliver a retention report with suggested next steps for the college.

On the fundraising front, I am pleased to report that almost all of the needed funding for the new Westminster Center for Veteran and Military Services has been secured. We have hired Sylvia O'Hara to be the center's first director. She is currently the associate director of the Veteran Center at the University of Utah. The center will open this fall in Walker One, and be a welcoming place with important resources for our student veterans and their families. Many thanks go to several trustees, staff, and PIN investors who have generously supported this initiative.

In other fundraising news, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation has committed to a second grant in support of the Montessori Institute, and the McCarthy Foundation has committed scholarship support to our athletics programs. Lisa Gentile and I attended a very positive meeting with Lisa Eccles and Robert Graham of the George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Foundation, and we were pleased to hear of their continued support of Westminster.

I am also pleased to announce that The Adam R. Bronfman Family Foundation and the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, with the support of Hillel International, have offered Westminster College the opportunity to host Hillel for Utah with the funded leadership of longtime Westminster employee Dana Tumpowsky as a full-time executive director, and an operating budget for the organization. This relationship will begin July 1, 2015, and continues for at least three years as Dana and an advisory board explore the possibilities of gaining their own nonprofit status. In the next two months, we will finalize office space, reporting, and administrative details associated with this opportunity. The good news is that Dana will remain associated with Westminster College.

Last week, the Deans Council working with particular faculty and staff representatives selected our first four faculty fellows. Marilee Coles-Ritchie was selected as the Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement Faculty Fellow, Steve Hurlbut was selected as the Eportfolio Faculty Fellow, Tamara Stevenson and Gary Marquardt (a joint proposal) were selected in the Diversity & Inclusion Faculty Fellow position, and Jen Simonds was selected as the Westminster Scholars faculty fellow. The fellows will start in the fall and serve two to three year terms. I add my thanks and congratulations to these faculty members for stepping up to this new opportunity.

I am proud to recognize our men's lacrosse team for their appearance in the national lacrosse championships this week. They were one of only 16 teams nationally to make the championship tournament. The Griffins lost to Georgia Tech, but were winners in my mind just by their national appearance.

Today I will conclude meetings with departments and schools that I began when I became the acting president. It has been an amazing opportunity for me to meet the faculty and staff that make Westminster successful. I have found a tremendous amount of goodwill and enthusiasm for our future along with many challenges and opportunities. I look forward to sharing what I learned in future posts and meetings.

Best Regards,

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Expedition in the News

Two people on a canoe
Group of Students around Campfire

The Route

Our proposed route is an enormous figure eight, heading northwest first (because of potential early winter weather) and including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Course-related sites include sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation (e.g., Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; East Tavaputs Plateau tar sands; Klamath River dams; the Berkeley Pit, the Nevada Test Site, Owens Lake); National Parks (e.g., Yellowstone, North Cascades, Olympic, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Great Basin); wilderness areas (e.g., Bob Marshall, Glacier Peak); Native nations and sites (e.g., Burns Paiute, Coast Salish, Miwok, the Nez Perce trail, Colville, Pyramid Lake, Hopi); dam sites (e.g., Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, Hetch Hetchy, Snake River); and relevant towns/cities (e.g., Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page).

Expedition Route

Course Descriptions

Follow the Expedition's Progress