Sewanee’s Pre-college Field Studies Experience

Summer 2014 dates: June 29 - July 12, 2014.

There is still time to apply for 2014. Apply now!


What is Sewanee's Field Studies Experience?

The Sewanee's Pre-College Field Studies Experience is a summer residential program for talented students who are passionate about the outdoors and interested in advancing their knowledge and skills in the study of the environment.

Led by full-time faculty at the University of the South and utilizing its 13,000-acre campus atop the ecologically diverse Cumberland Plateau, the program provides an interdisciplinary introduction to environmental studies.

This two-week experience explores the diverse ecosystems of the Cumberland Plateau: its forests, coves, streams, lakes, wetlands, and caves. Students participate in ecological exploration with senior faculty examining the plant and animal species that inhabit these ecosystems and use archeological techniques, along with GIS and GPS technology, to study how people have used and changed these ecosystems over time. Students learn how conservation strategies are currently being employed to protect the integrity of Plateau ecosystems into the future.

The experience is conducted almost exclusively in the field, featuring field mapping equipment, digital photography, ecological assessment techniques and group research projects. As part of this experience, students have the opportunity to take part in a number of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, bouldering, canoeing, caving, and mountain biking.

Who is the program for?scott

The program is designed for rising high school juniors and seniors interested in all aspects of environmental studies.

This program is for students who:

  • Enjoy finding and identifying trees, wildflowers, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals
  • Are fascinated by rocks and minerals and the role they play in the landscape
  • Are interested in ecological systems and how they function
  • Want to understand what an archaeologist does
  • Like exploring natural areas
  • Want to learn how to protect forests
  • Are thinking about majoring in environmental studies as an undergraduate or focus on sustainability issues
  • Want to learn more about Sewanee as a place to go to college

Who teaches the program?

The faculty of the Pre-College program represent a top-notch team of educators who bring depth in their field of study and connect to each other in a true interdisciplinary fashion. Their interests and backgrounds are showcased in the seminar program schedule

2013 Faculty included:

  • Dr. Jon Evans, Professor of Biology, Director of Sewanee's Pre-College Field Studies Program
  • Dr. David Haskell, Professor of Biology
  • Dr. Martin Knoll, Professor of Geology
  • Marvin Pate, Director of Sustainability
  • Gina Raicovich, Farm Manager
  • Dr. Jerry Smith, Professor of Religion
  • Dr. Ken Smith, Professor of Forestry
  • Dr. Sarah C. Sherwood,  Professor of Archaeology
  • Dr. Chris Van de Ven, GIS Instructor and Lab Manager
  • Dr. Emily White, Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. John Willis, Professor and Chair of History

When is it?

For the summer 2014 program, participants arrive on Sunday, June 29 and depart at noon on Saturday, July 12.



Where does it take place?

The program takes place on the campus of Sewanee: The University of the South. With over 13,000 acres representing a diversity of Southern Appalachian habitats, the University’s campus is an unparalleled resource for study and recreation.

Ecological features include:

  • Old-growth forests rich with wildflowers and diverse tree species
  • Caves complete with ancient Native American petroglyphs (cave art) and rare salamanders
  • Sandstone rock outcrops with spectacular views, lizards and rare desert-like plants
  • Vernal pools, lakes, streams and waterfalls
  • Old fields and abandoned nineteenth century home sites that reveal clues about early Appalachian pioneer life
  • Bottomland forest along the floodplain of a creek that disappears into an enormous sinkhole
  • The program also takes advantage of the brand new ecology and biodiversity laboratories and classrooms of Spencer Hall and Snowden Hall including the Landscape Analysis Lab – a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) computer mapping facility.

What are the living arrangements?

Program participants live together in an air-conditioned University dormitory and all meals are served at McClurg Hall, the University dining facility.

What are the daily activities?


Each day consists of a morning, afternoon and evening session. Each of these sessions consists of a specific activity that includes the whole group or subgroups of participants. Activities usually involve both academic and outdoor recreational skills. You can check out the student blog for more details.cave

During the program, participants may:

  • Take part in an archaeological excavation of a historic farmstead on the Domain and visit a prehistoric Native American archaeological site nearby
  • Hike into a wild cove to investigate elements of some of the world's best Karst topography. They come to better understand how the erosional forces of water have sculpted features like sinkholes, vertical shafts, caves, and solution valleys in a limestone terrain
  • Explore a unique forest location to study two adjacent, yet very different, forest stands. They study the natural history of the stands by measuring differences in species composition, tree properties, and soil characteristics
  • Use satellite imagery and aerial photographs in the Landscape Analysis Lab to locate evidence of past land-use, such as old home sites and agriculture; they also collect data on human land-use that has affected biodiversity and ecological conditions
  • Explore by mountain bike along a zoological transect across a range of elevations and soil types, examining how animal diversity varies across the landscape. Particular attention is given to endemic snails and breeding birds
  • Learn how Land Trusts are working with scientists at Sewanee to create a conservation plan for the Southern Cumberland Plateau. See how GIS is used to examine how biodiversity can be protected across a regional landscape through the use of wildlife corridors and buffers.
  • Examine the value of land from a number of perspectives, focusing on the conflicts of land use that arise from differing land values.
  • Discuss such topics as global change and environmental ethics during evening group sessions. There will also be photo and video presentations from the day’s activities prepared by participants and instructors.

What will it cost?

The cost of the program is $1750. This will include all instruction, activities, room and board. Transportation to and from the Nashville and Chattanooga airports is provided by a private shuttle company at an additional cost.

For more information email or call 931.598.1258

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