…in terms of climate and the natural surroundings:
Southeast Alaska is home to one of the most dynamic ecosystems on earth, featuring old-growth forests, flower-strewn alpine summits, massive ice fields, and the rich marine waters of the Inside Passage. This is your home for the next nine months. In the tiny outpost of Gustavus (pop. 450), you will live on the shores of Glacier Bay National Park, developing the knowledge and skills to live sustainably in place. Following natural rhythms, we will migrate throughout the year to a remote homestead on the Inian Islands, following the bounty of seasonal harvest and immersing ourselves in the wilderness through work, study, and adventure. Moderated by the ocean, the climate is temperate throughout the year. Summer highs are in the 60s and 70s, winter lows are in the 20s and 30s, with occasional cold snaps. Daylight varies from 20 hours a day at midsummer to 6 hours a day in midwinter. Much of our work, study, and recreation takes place out of doors, so be prepared not only to get wet, but also to move and hike on rugged terrain: through steep, pathless forest, across wet peat bogs, and along rocky coastline.
…in terms of campus life:
Think about the Glacier Bay Year like you would a study abroad program. We may operate in the United States, but rural Alaska is culturally distinct from much of America – especially its urban centers. Because our students come from all across the country, though, it is likely that you will have peers who share some of your experiences and your understanding of the world.
Nevertheless, a study abroad program in Toronto or London may in fact feel closer to home than the program we offer. Expect to chop your the firewood that heats your living quarters. Expect the internet to be too spotty for Netflix. Expect to work closely with people who hold different political, religious, and cultural commitments than you. Just as if you were in a foreign country, we expect you to adapt to these new ways of being in the world. And we expect you to treat all community members with respect, humanity, and generosity.
….in terms of housing:
Students should prepare for an intensely community-oriented living environment and a limited supply of personal space. In Gustavus, students will live in either a yurt or small cabin with between one and three roommates. Your accommodations will have basic electricity and be heated solely with a wood stove. Rainwater catchment provides drinking water, and a burner or hotplate will allow you to prepare hot water or simple snacks. Full kitchen, dining, shower, and laundry facilities are available at the main house.
At the Inian Islands, students will live in the Student Bunkhouse. Downstairs is a storage room, living area, kitchen, and changing room. An upstairs loft has twelve barracks-style bunk beds. Full kitchen, dining, and laundry facilities are available at the main house, and the shower is down on the dock.
Both campuses use composting outhouses, available a very short walk from accommodations.
….in terms of work load:
Prepare to be busy. On your average weekday you are likely to spend 4 hours doing labor, 2-3 in class, and 1-2 on self-governance. And that’s not counting homework, independent projects, down time, meals, and sleep. The Glacier Bay Year will be fun, but it is also intense, challenging, transformative. You will be stressed sometimes. You may get less sleep than you want. You may wonder how you’re going to get everything done. But you won’t be alone. And you definitely won’t be bored.
…in terms of food and cooking:
At both campuses, Glacier Bay Year students will take most meals in the Main House, where breakfast and dinner are served daily. Students will also be able to pack a bag lunch each morning, which students can eat wherever they prefer. Limited kitchen facilities in student accommodations may be also be used to prepare lunch, snacks, and weekend meals. Student cooks will be largely responsible for preparing meals as one rotation of the labor pillar, and will receive supervision and training to be able to perform that responsibility. The Arete Project can accommodate some but not all dietary restrictions; for instance, we regularly have vegetarian students. It is much more challenging for us to accommodate students with severe allergies, especially those who will have a reaction just by being in the presence of a particular food. If you have questions about whether we can accommodate your dietary needs, please email us at email@example.com.
…in terms of communication with the outside world:
Limited wifi will be available for student use at both Main Houses, but not in student accommodations. There is very limited cell service at both campuses, but a public landline is available. Private spaces can be made available for student phone calls. Students are encouraged to consider technology use as a question of self-governance, and will have the authority to govern that usage within these parameters. Students will be able to send and receive mail regularly in Gustavus and roughly every week or two while at the Inian Islands. Students may have guests while in Gustavus, but guests are not permitted to stay overnight on campus. All guests must comply with state and local Covid-19 mandates before making contact with Glacier Bay Year students.
…in terms of prior experience:
Some students will arrive at the Glacier Bay Year with more relevant experience in academics, labor, or self-governance than others. Some students may have majors that provide them with a better foundation for the coursework; others may already know how to weld, cook, or filet a fish; others may already have experience running meetings and organizing political bodies. If you are applying with a strong background in one or more of these areas, you should be aware that you will likely find yourself in an informal mentorship position vis-a-vis your fellow students. It is up to you to take advantage of that role, or to consciously step back to let others give it a try. Participants range in age from roughly from 18 to 24, so there is a range in terms of experience; you should not expect to come here to find that everyone is on equal footing in all areas. That said, since some people will be strong in certain areas and weak in others, there is great opportunity for and likelihood of reciprocal knowledge-sharing between students.
…in terms of physical health:
Work at the Arete Project is physically demanding, involving both strenuous labor and long hours of study. Over the course of the year, students will be asked to chop firewood, paddle several miles in a day, and traverse steep and pathless terrain. And, as we’re located in a rainforest, you can expect to get rained on while doing any or all of that. While we are committed to working with students with physical limitations, we also ask that prospective students are realistic in thinking about what will be required of them this summer. All applicants must carry their own health insurance policies. Any applicant with questions is encouraged to contact us to talk with a staff member or former student.
Applicants with known health problems, including allergies and asthma, are encouraged to talk to their physicians and our staff about options for this summer. Students with severe food or environmental allergies (including to bee stings) are asked to contact us and to bring a supply of epi-pens. Because of limited health resources in rural Alaska, we recommend that students whose underlying conditions put them at high risk for Covid-19 complications (e.g. immunocompromised state, serious heart condition, etc.) do NOT apply to the 2021 Glacier Bay Year at this time.
The town of Gustavus has a small clinic where prescriptions can be filled and check-ups performed. Anything more serious than a mild ailment requires a trip to Juneau or Sitka. Inian Islands Institute, on the other hand, is a remote field station with no on-site physician. Two staff members are certified Wilderness First Responders, and we have arranged for a consulting nurse practitioner in Gustavus willing to have confidential skype consultations with students for minor medical issues. More severe medical issues may warrant a student’s overnight trip to the clinic in Gustavus or the hospital in Juneau or Sitka. In an emergency, students will be Medevaced by boat, helicopter, or float plane to Juneau. All students will receive medevac insurance, which is covered by your course fees. Students are required to bring at least a two month supply of all prescription medications with them. New prescriptions will be handled through the Gustavus clinic as needed.
…in terms of mental health:
The Arete Project is a high-stress environment, even for students with no history of mental illness. We highly recommend that prospective students with mental health challenges have a stable and effective treatment plan in place well in advance of arriving this summer. Students will have access to private space to talk on the phone to their counselors or therapists, and we can connect students to therapists in Juneau willing to provide consultations over the phone. No formal mental health services are available on-site, and mental health emergencies will be treated – like physical health emergencies – as cause for rapid evacuation to professional care.
…in terms of outdoor safety:
During program orientation students will undergo a thorough safety training to prepare them for physical dangers they may encounter while working, studying, and recreating outdoors. Gustavus is home to some of Alaska’s most charismatic megafauna, including black and brown bears, moose, and wolves. All students will be thoroughly trained to safely handle wildlife encounters. Since many trips will be conducted by kayak, students will also learn water safety skills. Two certified Wilderness First Responders will be present on-site and will accompany major wilderness outings.
…in terms of the local community:
The Glacier Bay Year takes place at twin campuses, one in the coastal town of Gustavus, AK and one at a remote homestead/field school on the Inian Islands. The community of Gustavus is tiny, with a year-round population of just 450. The town is the gateway community to Glacier Bay National Park, and many individuals work either for the park itself or for tourism businesses that operate in and around it. Fishing – both commercial and sport – is the town’s other major industry. Though small, the town has a vibrant social and cultural life, and is home to many artists and scientists. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, we expect many of our community events to be canceled in the coming year. We are evaluating on an ongoing basis the nature of the the Glacier Bay Year’s direct engagement with the community out of an abundance of caution both for our students and our many at-risk residents.
At Inian Islands Institute, we will be a community unto ourselves. This remote homestead, nicknamed “the Hobbit Hole,” has a long history as an important community meeting place: first as a fish camp for the Tlingit people, then as a homestead in the early twentieth century, then as a fishing commune in sixties and seventies, and most recently as a B&B. Locals to this region, may occasionally pass through the property, though that too is less likely because of Covid-19.
At both campuses we gratefully dwell on the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit, the indigenous residents of this place. Studying Tlingit history, cultural, and traditional ecological knowledge will form a core component of our coursework, and students will have the opportunity to learn directly from Tlingit culture-bearers.