The Blue Ridge Session is an intensive, residential eight-week summer program for college-age women, based on the campus of Arthur Morgan School in Celo, North Carolina.

The program offers a unique opportunity for young women to prepare themselves for lives of dedicated service and leadership. Based on the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance, education at the Arete Project engages students in body and mind towards the fulfillment of this mission.

Intellectual rigor, maturity, diligence, and generosity are expected of all students. The Arete Project is an educational program vastly different from that offered at most universities. For Arete students, there are stakes to education beyond individual achievement. Students must be willing to hold one another to account in the classroom and in their responsibilities to the community. They must have the curiosity required to discover intellectual vitality in a wide variety of endeavors. They must possess the humanity to navigate the frictions of a close-knit community of living and learning. And they must exhibit the selflessness required for service.

The Blue Ridge Session operates on a “pay what you can” model, explained in greater detail in our FAQ.  Academic credit is available.

Prospective applicants should read this page and our “What to Expect” page in full before submitting their applications.

Note: The 2023 application deadline has been extended through February 2019!


The Blue Ridge Session gives students the opportunity to critically engage with the questions that arise through their day-to-day activities as Arete participants and those that will animate their thinking and being for the rest of their lives. This intellectual core of the program incorporates lively classroom discussion, intensive writing, and personal creative, active, and contemplative practices. Students should expect to spend 2-3 hours a day in class, 5 days a week. Regular reading, writing, and other work will be done during students’ free time.

Discussions that begin in class rarely end there, and students often find themselves reviving topics from class in spirited dinner conversations or discussing ideas for a homework project while harvesting vegetables in the garden. Likewise, experiences in labor and self-governance tend to find their way into classroom discussion. Learning in the same space where one lives and works makes the academic experience intensely personal, interpersonal, and undeniably relevant to a student’s life–both within and beyond Arete.


Each participant will labor for 20 hours every week on the Arthur Morgan School campus under the direction of an AMS staff labor coordinator. Students should expect that throughout their time at Arete, on average 75% of their time will be dedicated to campus and garden labor tasks and 25% to internal labor tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Participants will have the opportunity to work in roles including but not limited to vegetable gardening, animal husbandry, cooking, construction projects, forestry, and trail maintenance.

We have designed the labor program to balance two competing priorities: the desire to give students the opportunity to experience many different labor roles and the desire to give students the opportunity to hone their skills in one particular area. Consequently, students are likely to serve in multiple labor positions over the summer, but will usually stick with each one for a week at a minimum. We hope that students will also have chances to work all together on big labor projects as well as to undertake projects of their own imagination and design. Though the specific, practical skills acquired through this labor are certainly desirable in and of themselves, the primary purpose of the labor program is not to teach these skills but rather to give students the opportunity to independently troubleshoot and learn greater self-reliance, as well as to foster in them the spirit of service. The daily activity of necessary labor also provides a beneficial counterpoint to more traditional academic curricula.


Participants in the Blue Ridge Session will form a self-governing Student Body, which will authority to govern the actions of its members. What the Body concerns itself with and how it structures its processes is largely up to the students. The necessity of governing the day-to-day functions of the program will require the Student Body to meet multiple times per week. Additionally, Arete’s cooperative partnership with Arthur Morgan School gives students the opportunity and challenge of working and communicating with another organization founded on similar principles. In their role as responsible community members, it is expected that Arete participants respect the guidelines, property, and people of AMS. This partnership provides real consequences to student actions as participants will daily encounter real issues that need addressing: everything from logistical questions such as how to divide students among the possible labor positions to larger, more ideological questions such as how to share space and collaborate with another community and how to imagine the long-term future of the Arete Project. It is a fundamental belief of the Project that when committed individuals are given responsibility beyond what their prior experiences would seem to warrant, those individuals will rise to meet the challenges and in the process learn more than they ever could from textbooks and seminars. Arete’s self-governance program allows students to determine together how best to live and manage the project which is their charge.


The Blue Ridge Session takes place only a stone’s throw away from the Appalachian Trail and immediately opposite the highest mountains in the east. This setting affords tremendous opportunities for outdoor exploration, from afternoon rambles to multi-day backcountry adventures. Students take responsibility for planning and executing one lengthy field trip, held as a capstone event over the final weekend of the session. In the intervening weeks, there are regular opportunities for hiking, camping, swimming, and other outdoor adventures. Students are additionally invited to participate in the annual Celo Community Solstice Hike, a stunning 17-mile day hike taking participants right from our front door, along the ridge of the Black Mountains, to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, and back down again. We highly encourage students with the relevant experience to bring their outdoor gear; though the program involves substantial formal engagement with the natural world, recreation is a wonderful way to explore the dramatic landscapes that surround us.

About the Arthur Morgan School


Arthur Morgan School (AMS) is a small, coed boarding and day school for middle-school-aged students outside of Burnsville, North Carolina. Located in the rolling mountains of Appalachia, the 100-acre campus sustains a vegetable garden and animal husbandry operations that are integral to the school’s pedagogical mission. As with Nunnian education, AMS students undertake academic coursework, participate in work projects dedicated to the upkeep of the school’s farm and facilities, and participate in self-governance through the weekly all-school meeting. Students also have the opportunity to contribute to their local communities through service-oriented trips and projects and to experience the wilderness of the mountains on an annual backpacking trip. During the school year, boarding students reside in family homes led by house-parents. Some day students live in the nearby communal settlement of the Celo Community.

Arete at AMS

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What will Arete life be like at the Arthur Morgan School? It will be rustic, communal, vibrant, and intense. Our 15-18 students will be housed in three, three-sided Appalachian-Trail-style shelters (pictured below) – simultaneously protected from and open to the elements. The shelters have no electricity, but students will be able to make use of the classroom and other indoor spaces that are warm and lit. Meals will be taken communally in the cookhouse – three meals a day are served during the week and two on weekends. Summers at AMS are typically quite warm, but rain is frequent. Students are encouraged to come prepared for all kinds of weather! For more information about next summer, please visit the “What to Expect” page. Applicants should be sure to read this page in full prior to submitting their application!

Daily Schedule

*Please note that this is a sample weekday-only schedule, roughly based on the schedule from past years. While this next year’s schedule will likely be similar, it is subject to change not only on the particular requirements of the Arthur Morgan School’s labor needs at the time but also based on the students’ decisions in self-governance, as they decide how best to organize their time together.