Session 1 June 24 - July 3, 2023 and Session 2 July 8- July 17, 2022

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What is the Field Studies Experience?

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 and staff 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?

The program is designed for rising high school sophomores, 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 manage and 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?

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

Application Form 
Teacher Recommendation Form
Deposit Form

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Who teaches the program?

The faculty of the Pre-College Field Studies Experience 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 2019, 2021 & 2022 included:

When is it?

Session 1 June 24 - July 3, 2023- Not yet accepting applications.

Session 2 July 6 - July 15, 2023- Not yet accepting applications.

‌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.

Our successful 2021-2022 college year demonstrates that we can offer the SEI Pre-college Field Experience safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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 a student blog for more details. A gallery of pictures can be found here.

‌‌‌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.
  • 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.
  • Strap on 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 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.
  • Inventory plants and examine tree regeneration on forested sites that are being managed with prescribed fire. 
  • Explore their world using a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create maps and conduct spatial analyses as you investigate 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 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.
  • 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. 

For a glimpse at the activities and what to expect: 2022 Schedule.

‌What will it cost?

The cost of the 2023 program is $1700, per session. Program costs cover all instruction, activities, room and board. Limited partial scholarships are available. Please inquire for more information. Transportation to and from the Nashville and Chattanooga airports is provided by a private shuttle company at an additional cost.

Required Forms for Students Attending the 2022 SEI: Pre-College Program

This section is for admitted and deposited students. The following pdfs are required for attendance and will need to be received no later than a week prior to your arrival. You can either submit them via email or mail them to the SEI mailbox. 

2023 Camp information
  • Packing List
  • Session I Schedule - coming in spring
  • Session II Schedule - coming in spring
Have questions?

For more information contact Kristen Cecala, Director of Sewanee's Pre-college Field Studies Program at 931-598-1992 or via email.  

The Domain: An Immersive Experience