About the Grand Canyon Semester
History of GCS
Early Years with NCHC Accordion Closed
Chuck Barnes (NAU-Geology, NAU-Honors College) 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 Accordion Closed
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! Accordion Closed
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 fifth run for fall of 2022!
Field trip destinations
GCS field trip destinations change from year to year because we follow opportunities as they arise and try to match some of the trips with specific student interests. We can’t promise that GCS 2022 will visit the exact same places as we’ve gone in the past, but can promise that the destinations will be just as beautiful, complicated, thought-provoking, and inspiring as the samples shown here.
Grand Canyon National Park–South & North Rims Accordion Closed
As one might anticipate, much of our field time is devoted to visiting the Canyon! Students spend time camping in Mather Campground during orientation week and visit the park for lectures, activities, and service projects throughout the semester. Students have conducted research projects at the park, assisted with the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art (auction), explored the Canyon on personal backpacking trips, ridden in a mule train, and watched the sunset over the North and South Rims. We promise that you’ll get to know Grand Canyon National Park intimately over the course of the semester.
Grand Canyon Trust’s Kane and Two Mile Ranch Accordion Closed
A highlight for many GCS 2018 students was time spent at the Kane and Two Mile Ranches, which are owned and managed by the Grand Canyon Trust in order to develop and implement ecologically sustainable grazing practices that minimize wildlife and habitat impacts. The 840,000 acre ranches span nearly 5,000 feet of elevation, so habitats here range from riparian areas and desert grasslands to high elevation spruce-fir forests. This area is host to ranchers, endangered California Condors, the Kaibab Band of Paiute, and it’s adjacent to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. This spectacular place captivates all who visit it.
Hopi Lands, Black Mesa, and the Kayenta Coalmine Accordion Closed
From seeing Ancient Puebloan ruins and providing volunteer support at the Water is Life run to visiting a sheep ranch and learning about the socioecological complexities of mineral extraction and energy production on tribal lands, students partake in unequaled educational experiences while exploring the spectacular landscapes of the Navajo and Hopi Nations.
Museum of Northern Arizona Easton Collection Center Accordion Closed
Students receive an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the state-of-the-art museum collections facility at the Museum of Northern Arizona. The Easton Collection Center, dedicated in 2009, incorporates traditional architecture concepts from Colorado Plateau tribes with LEED certified green building techniques to create a unique and innovative twist on collection facility design. MNA Director, Dr. Robert Breunig, provides insight on the intricacies of designing and constructing a building that addresses needs and concerns of tribal people and rises to the challenge of conserving textiles, pottery, and other valuable artifacts. Students also participate in a guided tour of the collections themselves and catch glimpses of ancient treasures from dinosaur bones to Hopi squash blossom necklaces to dozens of species of native dragonflies.
Frequently asked questions
What does “honors eligible” mean? Accordion Closed
It means that we are looking for students who are up for an academic challenge. You do not have to be enrolled in an honors program or college to participate in the semester, but we do need someone at your university to vouch for your academic motivation.
Do we have to live in the GCS housing? Accordion Closed
Basically, yes. If a student had a extenuating circumstance that required living elsewhere, we would be open to working something out, but we want students to be able to hang out, study together, and live as a community during the semester.
Do I have to have a lot of outdoor experience to participate? Accordion Closed
No, but you will have a lot by the end of the semester.
Are there any physical requirements that I should be aware of? Accordion Closed
This program involves camping and backcountry hikes. If you’re interested in applying to the program, take a minute to read over our summary of the program physical demands to make sure you’re comfortable with them.
How do I get my GCS credits to transfer to my home university? Accordion Closed
We can send you syllabi from past semesters that you can share with your academic advisor at your university. If possible, you should get the classes pre-approved for transfer to your school and major before participating in the semester.
Will you tell me what to bring? Accordion Closed
Of course! Please check out our packing list for suggestions.
Can I bring pets? Accordion Closed
Sorry, but no.