The 2018 Glacier Bay Session

The 2018 Glacier Bay Session will run from late July 17th to August 13th, 2018. During a four-week summer session, students will live, study, and work at a remote field school stationed on an island archipelago near Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska.

The Glacier Bay Session will immerse students in their natural surroundings. All students will participate in the “three pillars” of the Arete Project’s educational model: intensive academics in the liberal arts and sciences; physical labor performed in service of campus and community; and student self-governance over each other and over the program as a whole. We require prospective students to read this page and our “What to Expect” and “FAQ” pages in full before submitting their applications.

Please note that the Glacier Bay Session is open to students only from designated institutions: Berea College, the CUNY system, Deep Springs College, Hillsdale College, the University of Alaska system, and Yale University. We will also admit one Arete Project alumna, from any institution. If you are a student or faculty member and would like your school considered to participate in subsequent years, please email


The wild landscape of the Inian Islands offers unique opportunities for intellectual engagement with the natural world. All students will participate in a daily interdisciplinary humanities course that considers the question: how have humans defined their relationship to nature? Engaging with both classic and critical texts from literature, philosophy, and history, students will come to understand the unique role that land and wilderness has played in American life – as well as the many ways that role has been interpreted. We will consider the the viewpoints of conservationists, subsistence practitioners, Indigenous communities, and scientists, to name only a few.

Students should expect to spend attend class four days a week for 2-4 hours each day, but the intellectual life of the program does not end when class ends. In addition to outside reading, writing, and projects, the close-knit community of students and educators welcomes continued engagement with course themes throughout the summer. Conversations about geologic history, about ecosystem diversity, about nature poetry should and will spill over into meal time, labor time, and free time. Learning in the space where one lives 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 Inian Islands Institute campus under the direction of an Arete Project staff labor coordinator. During the work week, students will spend three hours a day on one of four labor rotations: meal prep, construction and maintenance, gardening, and subsistence activities. The latter constitutes a uniquely Alaskan experience in living off the land. In addition to chopping firewood, canning kelp salsa, and harvesting wild blueberries, we hope to provide each interested student with a chance to fish salmon, halibut, or rockfish in the rich waters of the outer coast.

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 to cultivate crucial habits of mind – perseverance, teamwork, problem-solving, and humility – 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 Glacier Bay Session form a self-governing Student Body, which will have the 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 day-to-day functions of the program will require the Student Body to meet multiple times per week.

Many student self-governance decisions will circle around two central questions: (1) how to balance the needs of the individual with those of the community and (2) how to distribute resources where those resources are subject to natural constraints. For example, electricity at Inian Islands Institute is generated by a small hydroelectric system, but the power supply is sufficiently limited that students will have to make deliberate choices about how best to use it. Consequently, decision-making by the Student Body is no mere simulation; it has real stakes for all community members. It is a fundamental belief of the Arete 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 to manage the project which is their charge.


The Inian Islands Institute campus is a solitary human outpost in the midst of the wilderness. Enmeshed in the largest swath of protected land on earth, it also lies at the intersection of the open ocean and the Inside Passage, and just south of the world’s tallest coastal mountains. The site consequently offers unparalleled opportunities for outdoor exploration, and expeditions will play a role in all three pillars – as well as simply for recreational purposes. Weekly visits to the island’s several unique ecosystems will constitute a core part of the academic course; optional weekend backpacking or kayaking trips will give students a chance to explore the rest of the archipelago and the mainland. Students should come prepared for intensive activity in the wilderness – the ability to move over uneven terrain is a must in a land without established trails. Though challenging, these forays will reward students with firsthand experience – on land and sea – of Alaska’s majestic wilderness.

About Inian Islands Institute

Inian Islands Institute is a living-learning field station for environmental education and research, located in the heart of the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. Dedicated to training the next generation of rising environmental leaders, Inian Islands Institute provides its students unparalleled opportunities for experiential education, field research, and wilderness expeditions. The property, a five-acre former homestead and fishing lodge, offers a base camp for exploration of Alaska’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Through work and play, living and learning, investigation and reflection, students at Inian Islands Institute form deep and lasting relationships to the natural world – relationships that will shape their lives as dedicated stewards of that world.

Arete at Inian

What will the Glacier Bay Session be like? It will be rustic, community-oriented, vibrant, and intense. Our 10-12 students will be housed in a two-story Student Bunkhouse with lofted sleeping quarters, a living area, shower room and a small kitchen. Bathroom facilities take the form of composting outhouses. Faculty and staff will be housed a short walk away, near the classroom, shop, and dining facilities. Most meals will be taken communally in the Main House. Summers in Southeast Alaska are cool, with daytime highs typically in the 60s. This being the rainforest, 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. The actual schedule will vary somewhat from day to day, based on the needs of the academic pillar, decisions made in student self-governance, and the vicissitudes of weather and tide.