Interdisciplinary Honors Field Studies

Summer Interdisciplinary Field Studies Courses

Students observing orcas

Ursula Valdez and students observe a pod of Orcas near San Juan Island

The Honors Program is excited to offer Summer Quarter courses in the Interdisciplinary Honors Field Studies Program (IHFSP). Courses within the IHFSP demonstrate “field studies” in its broadest and most inclusive sense offering place and community based learning across a broad range of disciplines. These courses are purposefully designed to challenge students to explore interdisciplinary education through experience and create important connections between community and classroom. IHFSP courses happen domestically, providing an exciting alternative to international programs that allow students to explore the diversity and complexity of American culture, environment, and identity.

Students who wish to receive Honors Experiential Learning credit for these courses must complete the Experiential Learning Application for summer term. Unless you will be assuming a leadership role in the class, or the class has a focus in service, research is the most eligible category for Experiential Learning.

Field Studies Information Session: Wednesday, 2/28 from 3:30-4:30 PM in MGH 206

Summer 2018 Field Studies Courses:

Summer Quarter A Term (June 18 – July 18, 2018)


Ecology of Urban Seattle, A Classroom Without Walls

5 credits

T TH 9:15-12:45

Richard Conlin, Urban Design and Planning (

Enrollment limit: 20

Notes: Class time includes up to 30 minutes transportation time at beginning and end of class

In this field studies course we will examine the ecological, social, and political factors in urban systems that promote the integration of urban communities and ecological realities. We will do this by traveling to a range of places, from the Northgate Urban Center to the Columbia City Urban Village to the Cedar River watershed, to understand how they work and to hear from and interact with communities and experts. We’ll walk the streets and pathways and look at how the built environment functions to create urban communities, and how these relate to social justice and cultural and community diversity. We’ll also look at the underbelly of the city, the parks, watersheds, water systems, and other elements of the ecology and their interaction with the human community.

By seeing and discussing these, we will gain a deeper awareness of how these systems function in relationship to each other, to social and economic diversity, and to growth management and climate change. Decisions about how to manage human requirements for the use of natural resources like land, water, energy and the interaction of human activities and communities can shape positive or negative relationships with the local and larger ecosystems.  This course uses viewing and assessing communities and their contexts on the ground to tell the story of the emerging urban paradigm that can lead to long term sustainability. The class is designed as a core text for those who are beginning to delve into urban issues, and a critical unfolding of realities for those who want to understand how urban systems and ecological realities intersect and co-exist.


HONORS 220A / Offered jointly with ENVIR 495

Landscape Change in the Pacific Northwest

5 credits

Tim Billo, Program on the Environment (

Enrollment limit: 5


Field Wilderness backpacking trip to Olympic National Park July 7 – July 15, 2018

Course fee: In addition to regular UW tuition, students will pay a $215 course fee, which includes food on trip.

Students who are interested in this course should contact Professor Billo via email to find a time to meet and discuss their interest in the subject material and physical challenges of the course as well as confirm their availability for the dates of the backpacking trip. This course is entry code restricted, and entry codes will be given by Professor Billo.

Between 1895 and 2015, the Seattle area grew from 40,000 people to over 4.2 million. In the next 25 years, Seattle will grow by another 1.5 million. While it is debatable exactly how “wild” the landscape was prior to European settlement of the region, it is undeniable that now virtually every piece of accessible habitat in the lowlands of the Puget Trough has been severely impacted by humans at one time or another, in some cases irrevocably. It was by stroke of luck (due in part to the inaccessibility of the terrain in the early days), and a big dash of courage from some forward-thinking leaders around the turn of the 19th Century, that Olympic National Park and other areas like it were saved from the ax and/or development. In only 25 miles as the crow (or eagle) flies from Seattle, an international hub of high tech industry, one can begin a walk into the Olympic Mountains, a roadless area of over 1 million acres (approximately 1600 sq miles), not to mention similar areas in the Cascade Range. It is this short gradient from ultra-urban to “wilderness”, that makes the region such an appealing place to live, as well as a unique place to reflect on landscape change (past, present, and future), and ramifications of this change (namely, the loss of “wild” spaces) for society in the Anthropocene.

Course format is a 9-day wilderness backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. Activities on the trip include: 1) student-led discussion of student-chosen readings and themes of the course, 2) contemplation and journal writing on the value and management of “wilderness”, and 3) direct observation of the effects of climate change and fragmentation on species and ecosystems. Prior to the trip, there will be online reading and discussion assignments. After the trip, an essay on a topic of each students’ choosing and general written reflection in the form of a blog post, will be required. Readings will draw from some classic American nature writers, as well as other sources including psychology, ecology, history, philosophy, local writers, and perspectives on “wilderness” and outdoor recreation from native Americans and other marginalized groups.

Course fee (in addition to regular UW tuition) is $215. UW will supply group camping gear and transportation. Students should supply sleeping bag, ground pad, backpack, and clothing–UW has some equipment to loan if needed. Course is limited to 10 students. No prior camping/backpacking experience is required or expected, but students should expect the trip to be physically challenging and should prepare for that challenge accordingly. The 9 day trip runs from a Saturday through to a Sunday, such that students working a summer job should only need to miss one 5-day work week.

More information on the course can be found here: or contact Tim Billo:


Summer B Term (July 19 – August 17, 2018)


Natural and Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest

5 credits

TH 8:30 – 1:30

Ursula Valdez, IAS

Enrollment limit: 12

Students must attend at least one overnight field trip including days of the weekend in addition to class meetings.

This course aims to provide a hands-on introduction to the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest through the study of contemporary and historical issues. Students will develop an understanding of the interconnected relationships between human and natural systems in the Pacific Northwest and its influence in the global context. This will be achieved through the discussion of place-based case studies about patterns in the use of resources and the resulting impacts on society, the environment, and the economy in local and global contexts. Course topics will include biodiversity, natural history and conservation, rural and urban resource use and approaches to sustainability, traditional use of resources among others. An emphasis will be placed on understanding past and contemporary socio-environmental challenges and solutions in the Pacific Northwest. Students will also explore various forms of relations between natural systems and human communities, such as with Native Americans, urbanites, rural communities, loggers, fisherman, and others.

In this course, students will develop an understanding of key ecological and social processes affecting Pacific Northwest ecosystems. In addition, students will gain a basic understanding of economically and ecologically important species and ecosystems found in the region. Class time will include occasional lectures from the instructor or guests, discussion of case studies and time will be mainly spent in local field trips. During field trips students will be conducting observations, data gathering and will be trained in basic fieldwork skills. Local field trips will be during class time, however, students will be required to go on at least of these overnight field trips: Olympic Peninsula to study PNW culture and forest/marine ecosystems (3-5 Aug-Early friday to late Sunday) and to San Juan Islands (Friday Harbor Labs)  to observe Orca Whales and other marine ecosystems(10-11 Aug Friday-Sat).

The course will include the cumulative development of a project that uses scientific methods to approach a topic of interest. 

Specific Course Goals: 

– To gain an understanding of the history and complexity of natural and human systems and key socio-environmental relationships in the Pacific Northwest. 
– To be exposed to the challenges and solutions to environmental, economic, and social relationships found in the Pacific Northwest in the local and global context.
– To develop a basic understanding of the natural history of the Pacific Northwest 
– To apply the scientific method, gain analytical and professional skills, and to gain skills in data collection and field research.
– To improve the ability to synthesize and communicate information effectively to a diversity of audiences.
– To help students form an educated opinion on the issues discussed in class in ways that empowers them personally and as engaged participants in society.



In Your Name: Education Inside Prison

5 credits

T TH 11:30-12:20 (on campus)

W 11:00 – 5:00 (at the prison: July 25, Aug. 1, 8, 15)

Claudia Jensen, Slavic

Enrollment limit: 12

Take a class that will change your life and change the lives of others! Join us this Summer B Term (2018) for a series of classes at the Monroe Correctional Complex (about 45 minutes outside of Seattle, transportation provided). We will study collaboratively with a group of student-inmates at the Twin Rivers Unit and we will tour the facility and meet with the prison’s administrative and correctional staff.

This class will offer an extraordinary opportunity to be involved in the creation of an educational effort that will potentially have very large impact. We will be working with student-inmates to craft and define the education components of a larger program designed to facilitate educational opportunities inside prison and their continuation after release from prison. This project emerged from previous sessions of this Honors class, so you will be building on work accomplished by many other students, both from inside the prison and at the UW.

Our class sessions at the prison will be on Wednesdays during B term (leaving from campus at 11:00 am, returning at around 5:00 on the following dates: July 25, Aug. 1, 8, and 15). These classes are at the heart of this course, so please be sure to check your calendars and verify that you’ll be able to attend all of these sessions. On-campus sessions will include visits to local nonprofits working in the area of prison education.

Students do not need to be in the Honors Program to enroll. All students must be over 18 and must receive clearance from the Dept. of Corrections; class size limited to 12 (no auditors). Please note that accommodations may not be possible in some cases, due to the nature of the prison environment. Contact the instructor, Claudia Jensen (, for more information and for the add code for this class.


Early Fall Start Period  (August 21 – September 14)


Foods and Cultures of Hispanic and Latino Communities

5 credits

Tu 10:30 – 12:30

Th 10:30-2:30 (area excursions will be weekly on Thursdays)

Ana Gomez-Bravo, Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Enrollment limit: 15

Because of the Early Fall Start timing, registration for this course will happen through the Study Abroad Office. Consider it a Study Away!

There is an associated course application that is due April 9th, 2018. You can find the registration information and application on the Study Abroad website here:

Please note that the course fee is INSTEAD of paying tuition for this course.

Please contact an Honors adviser if you have questions.

In this course we will explore the culture of food in the Hispanic World and study the material aspects of food. The course offers a focus on topics that include food and sociability, modes and techniques of food preparation and consumption, urban and rural traditions, and artifacts. The course provides an in-depth introduction to the issues of food access, preparation and consumption, including dietary laws, as they relate to the formation of individual and group identities. Students will look at ingredients and their sources, learn about urban and rural markets, and analyze local food culture in the home and public spaces. Foods and cultural practices will be traced from their roots (Prehistory and pre-Columbian times) to the present. The study of ingredients will look at biological and cultural exchanges among Spain, the New World, the Middle East and Asia. The course will explore Hispanic food in and around Seattle as a microcosm of the larger Hispanic world, and will include an exploration of foodways and spaces with many hands-on activities, direct contact with Latinos and people from a variety of Hispanic countries as well as visits to local markets and other food sites. By examining the interaction of various Hispanic communities with other groups by means of food practices, the course provides an introduction to: issues of urban planning and design that pertain to food (i.e., the development of ethnic neighborhoods, stores and markets to suit food needs); issues of diversity and multiculturalism; food and material culture; foodways and gender roles; diet and hygiene; the role of food in religious and civic celebrations and rituals; and ingredients and food preparation techniques as they relate to Hispanic identities.

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the major dietary components in the different areas of the Hispanic World
  • Recognize main food ingredients and their cultural significance
  • Describe the major cultural trends and historical developments associated with food production and intake
  • Distinguish food production and cooking methods associated with the Hispanic World
  • Recognize and use Spanish vocabulary associated with food
  • Think critically and reflect on ethnic communities, international contacts and cultural movements
  • Enrich their exploration of the Hispanic World through an engagement with Hispanic culture
  • Identify urban and rural areas with significant Hispanic impact in Washington State and establish successful contact with Hispanic communities