Session I:  June 23 - July 2, 2024

Session II:  July 5 - July 14, 2024

SEI collage 2

What is the SEI Experience?

The Sewanee Environmental Institute (SEI) - a 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 and staff at the University of the South and utilizing its 13,000-acre campus atop the ecologically diverse Cumberland Plateau, SEI provides an interdisciplinary introduction to environmental studies.

‌‌This ten-day 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 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.‌

SEI is conducted almost exclusively in the field, featuring field mapping equipment, digital photography, and ecological assessment techniques. As part of this experience, students have the opportunity to take part in a number of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, canoeing, swimming, and caving. Additionally, students are outfitted with a bicycle upon arrival, run through a skills workshop, and then use the bicycles as a primary mode of transport for most activities. 

Who is the program for?

SEI is designed for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors interested in all aspects of environmental studies.

SEI 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?
  • Like exploring natural areas?
  • Want to learn how we manage and protect forests?
  • Thinking about majoring in environmental studies as an undergraduate or focusing on sustainability issues?
  • Want to learn more about Sewanee as a place to go to college?

Are you ready for your adventure?  Complete and submit the following forms:

SEI Application Form

** Application acceptances are emailed every week. If you have applied and not heard back, please check your spam or junk email. Feel free to check in re: status at

Admissions applications will be reviewed on a rolling schedule through May 1 with invitations to register and deposit extended to successful applicants.  A Financial Aid request form is found in the registration materials sent to successful applicants. 

SEI collage strip
Who teaches the program?

The faculty of SEI 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.

Faculty in 2022 and 2023 included:

When is it?

SEI Session I:  June 23 - July 2, 2024 - Applications are OPEN

SEI Session II:  July 5 - July 14, 2024 - Applications are OPEN

‌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.
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. A gallery of pictures can be found here.

‌‌‌During the program, participants may:

  • Experience how science, literature and contemplative practice can complement one another in the study of natural history.
  • Learn to read the map of the land using indicator plant species and debris from the past.
  • Hike across the Cumberland Plateau to investigate the work of surface and groundwater in creating one of the world's great karst landscapes, complete with caves, sinkholes and solution valleys.
  • Don a helmet and headlamp to visit one of the three dozen caves on campus to observe and discuss cave animals and ecosystems.
  • Explore a unique forest location to examine two adjacent, yet very different, forest stands. 
  • Examine tree regeneration on forested sites that are being managed with prescribed fire. 
  • Explore using Geographic Information System (GIS) to create maps and conduct spatial analyses of the Domain.
  • Use satellite imagery and aerial photographs to locate evidence of past land-use, such as old home sites and agriculture; collect data on human land-use that has affected biodiversity and ecological conditions.
  • Explore a zoological transect across a range of elevations and soil types, examining how animal diversity varies across the landscape. 
  • Use a headlamp to explore the nocturnal world of frogs and salamanders. 
  • 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 climate change and environmental ethics.

For a glimpse at the activities and what to expect: 2023 Schedule. (link has been updated, 4.9.24)

‌What will it cost?

The cost of the 2024 program is $1700 per session. Program costs cover all instruction, activities, room and board. Limited partial scholarships are available. Please inquire for more information. The full tuition balance is due by June 9, 2024. 

Transportation to and from the Nashville and Chattanooga airports is provided by a private shuttle company - Groome Transportation - at an additional cost.

Students who withdraw from the SEI program before the May 26, 2024 deadline will receive a 50% tuition refund, excluding the non-refundable deposit. Refunds will not be granted for any reason if the inquiry is communicated to our office past May 26, 2024. 

for Students Attending SEI 2024:

Once students have been admitted they will be sent an acceptance letter that contains links to various digital forms including: 1) registration, 2) release, 3) medical, and 4) financial aid request. Financial aid will be awarded on a rolling basis. Funds are limited. 

Later in the spring families will be sent a travel form and, depending on the session schedule, a waiver form for Buggy Top cave. 

As camp approaches families will receive an email with the cell phone numbers of camp staff and the camp co-directors. There will be a staff member dedicated to camper travel support and all parents and students who have a camper flying will be able to contact that staff member or co-director Sara McIntyre - especially in the event of unexpected travel snafus. 

Additionally, campers will receive the name and contact information for their assigned roommate and suite-mates (all double rooms share a restroom/shower with an adjoining double. They will also be invited to join an SEI GroupMe to enable them to connect a bit prior to camp (optional). 

When campers arrive they will be greeted with name badges, a key to their room, a prox card used for meals and the library, and camp swag: tshirt, 32oz water bottle, journal, and stickers.

Families will receive a digital packet containing directions, the schedule, a map of campus, and suggestions for sightseeing and meals. Camp officially kicks-off at 2:30 on day 1 with a group chat and introductions by Sara McIntyre, co-director. Families are welcome to stay for introductions and then campers will say goodbye and join the staff for a campus tour and other activities. 

2024 Camp information
  • Packing List
  • Session I Schedule - coming in spring
  • Session II Schedule - coming in spring
Have questions?

For more information contact Sara McIntyre, Co-Director of SEI at 931-598-1559 or via email.  

The Domain: An Immersive Experience