Grand Canyon Semester: History of GCS


Early Years with NCHC

Chuck Barnes (NAU-Geology, NAU-Honors Program) worked with National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) to bring the Grand Canyon Semester to NAU in 1978.  Barnes  described “the offering was an extraordinarily intensive [and sometimes ragged] effort [including a near-mutiny by some students], but also educationally powerful and rich.”  Barnes restarted conversations with NCHC in 1997 to bring the program back to NAU.  In fall 1999, GCS was chosen over 31 other proposals to the NCHC Semesters Committee for sponsorship.  The 1999 GCS ran more smoothly than 1978 because of the addition of the “Resident Director” hired by NCHC.  The 1999 program was deemed “the finest of the NCHC semesters." 

The Middle Years

In 2000, NAU decided to offer GCS without the NCHC sponsorship. Several NAU and adjunct faculty circulated in and out of the program over the next several years, but GCS retained a core faculty from 1999 to 2002 (Chuck Barnes, Kit Hinsley, Pam Foti, Bob Poirer, and Jacob Fillion/Tom Pittinger at GCNP). In 2002 Kit Hinsley worked as GCS co-director and was the full director in 2003 when Barnes retired and Jim Mead took over as the geology instructor.  NAU ran several more successful GCS programs from 2003 – 2005 and again in 2007, but enrollment declined throughout those years (as did enrollment in other field-based education programs nationwide).

GCS Reborn!

In 2012, NCHC and NAU partnered again to offer the Grand Canyon Semester, which attracted honors students from 13 universities across the country. Because of the success of GCS 2012, NAU offered GCS again in the fall of 2014, and plans a third run in 5 years for fall of 2016!