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.

In Summer, 2017 the Honors Field Studies Program will offer the following courses:

Summer Quarter A Term


HONORS 230 B: The Ecology of Urban Seattle: A Classroom Without Walls (I&S)

Meets Honors Social Science core requirement

Instructor: Richard Conlin /
Credits 5 
T Th 9:40-12:30
Enrollment limit: 12

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 Centers 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 great and diverse urban communities. We’ll also look at the underbelly of the city, the parks, watersheds, water systems, and other elements of the ecology and consider how they interface with the urban systems.

By examining 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 220B Jointly listed with ENVIR 495 C "Landscape Change in the Pacific Northwest"

Meets Honors Natural Science core requirement

Tim Billo, Program on the Environment / timbillo@uw.edubr/> Credits: 5
Enrollment limit: 5

Field wilderness backpacking trip to Olympic National Park: July 8-July 16, 2017.

Course fee: In addition to regular UW tuition, students will pay a $160 course fee.

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 8-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 from native Americans and other marginalized groups.

Photo of Tim Billo's class on a mountainside
Photo Credit: Tim Billo

Course fee (in addition to regular UW tuition) is $160. 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 10-11 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: