As our flagship program, the Glacier Bay Year brings six students into an immersive educational experience in the heart of Southeast Alaska. Students will live, study, and work together for nearly six months as they consider how to be better leaders, community members, and citizens of the world. The program is built around three central pillars: academic work in the liberal arts and sciences; labor performed in service of campus and community; and democratic self-governance. Close-knit community life and wilderness exploration round out the experience. Based at our Good River and Inian Islands campuses, students will explore mossy old-growth forest, paddle through icy fjords, and climb the rugged alpine summits of Glacier Bay National Park and the Tongass National Forest.
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. A study abroad program in Toronto or London may in fact feel closer to home than the program we offer. Expect to chop 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. And expect to be challenged, to grow, to learn, and to laugh.
2023 Glacier Bay Year
Program dates: May 31st-November 11th, 2023
Early Application Deadline: January 1st, 2023
General Application Deadline: February 1st, 2023
The Glacier Bay Year is a rigorous academic experience. Students will take seminar-style classes together, studying fields ranging from ecology to literature to Alaska Native studies. Many classes at Tidelines take advantage of the culturally and environmentally rich backdrop of Southeast Alaska—discussing place-specific topics like the Tlingit food traditions, the history of the conservation movement, and Alaskan climate activism. Professors often chose to engage directly with the landscape, leading class sessions while hiking, camping, foraging, and more.
Through self-governance, Tidelines invites students to shape their own academic experience. Some classes may ask students to contribute readings to the syllabi, or lead a discussion, or select and hire the professor themselves.
Students may choose to register for college credit. Though Tidelines cannot guarantee that classes will transfer to student’s home colleges, most students have been successful in having their credits counted towards graduation requirements. We encourage interested students to ask the registrars at their home universities for further information about transferring credits.
For the 2022 Glacier Bay Year, the academic schedule was as follows. You can expect a similar itinerary in 2023, albeit with different courses – some of which you will get to choose!
- Term 1 intensive: June 6-24, Environmental History & Ethics
- Term 2: July 18-Aug 20, Political Theory, Field Ecology
- Term 3: Sept 5-Oct 15, Climate Change in Science & Society, Literature of the Ocean
- Term 4 intensive: Oct 23-Nov 11, Living with Deer in America
Labor is a central part of life at Tidelines. Glacier Bay Year students labor in service to the community for roughly 20 hours a week. Labor is organized into student teams of two or three that vary from term to term: construction/carpentry, kitchen, and homesteading/gardening. What students actually do on a day-to-day basis in labor varies widely. Frying fish and baking apple turnovers, building chicken coops and tables, making venison sausage and kimchi, harvesting spruce tips, weeding, shoveling snow, planting kale, gathering kelp, feeding the ducks, and building moose fences all fall under the umbrella of labor. Students also complete daily chores like washing dishes, stocking the outhouse, cleaning common areas, and chopping firewood. Because subsistence activities must follow natural rhythms, labor schedules change accordingly to accommodate salmon runs, favorable weather, and the tidal cycle.
Tidelines believes that a truly expansive liberal arts education includes not just intellectual work, but work with your hands and work that serves other people. Our primary goal is not to train the next cadre of modern-day homesteaders. Rather, labor serves to broaden our students’ understanding of different ways of life; to invest them with the responsibility to care for their own community; to cultivate the virtues and skills that manual work can instill; and to foster a sense of interdependence within both human and natural ecosystems.
At Tidelines, students have the rare opportunity to form a political body that partially governs their own program. At weekly student body meetings, the cohort will gather to listen, decide, and guide the program. Self-governance carries real power at Tidelines: you will decide what trips to take, how to spend your student budget, and how to organize labor. You will elect students to positions of power within the program and the organization itself. You will also serve on committees that hire professors and staff, create the curriculum for the next iteration of the program, and admit future students.
Within the context of self-governance, students will come up against many of the same questions that societies encounter on a grander scale: how do we humanely and justly exercise power over one another? How do we share resources, especially when they are scarce? How do we navigate differences of opinion and experience? How do we balance the needs of the community against the needs of the individual? These are tough, abstract, questions that are made very concrete and real by self-governance. We thus hope that students will grapple with the challenges and joys of citizenship and leadership in a way that prepares them for a lifetime of service.
More nebulous and difficult to nail down than an academic or labor commitment, community living is perhaps the most intense and personally rich component of the Glacier Bay Year. Tidelines interweaves work and life to a much greater extent than most colleges. Students live, work and play together with each other, their professors and the staff. At Tidelines, you should expect to live closely with people who are very different from you—who are of different identities, hold different religious and political beliefs, who have different intellectual and personal interests, and who carry different cultural commitments. We, of course, expect you to treat all community members with respect, humanity, and generosity.
Community is present in every sector of life at Tidelines, and you can expect to live in close physical and emotional quarters with those around you. The closeness of the community offers you the gift of growing to know and care for your fellow community members deeply, and in a way that is difficult to achieve in a traditional college setting.
Tidelines strives for a culture of open and honest communication, and frequent feedback. To this end, each year, the student body elects a review committee chair whose task is to collect and distribute feedback to each member of the program (both staff and students) about their presence in the community.
Glacier Bay Year students experience the best of the wildlands and rural communities of Southeast Alaska, moving back and forth between our Gustavus and Inian Islands campuses. Both locations are tiny human outposts amid a vast wilderness, enmeshed in the largest swath of protected land on earth. The town of Gustavus, population 400, lies at the intersection of Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage, and just east of the world’s tallest coastal mountains. The Inian Islands lie 25 miles to the west, a remote archipelago along Alaska’s rugged outer coast. Both locations offer unparalleled opportunities for outdoor exploration, and expeditions play a role in academics, labor, and self-governance. Regular visits to the region’s several unique ecosystems will constitute a core part of the learning course; optional weekend backpacking or kayaking trips will give students a chance to explore their environs. 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 reward students with firsthand experience – on land and sea – of Alaska’s majestic wilderness.