Coming and Going

students at the quarry

The Althouse Trellis, whose shade is provided by an array of grid-tied solar photovoltaic panels, is a favorite gathering space for students. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

The EcoLeague is off and running at Dickinson

by Tony Moore

To the unfamiliar, the EcoLeague might sound like a group of superheroes who make their way around the world righting wrongs that threaten the environment. Those familiar with the EcoLeague know that while this isn’t quite the case, the 12-year-old multischool consortium certainly does its part in safeguarding both its campuses and the future from ecological supervillains.

Embracing the spirit of adventure

Featuring a student-exchange program across a variety of natural ecosystems, the EcoLeague is a partnership of liberal-arts colleges that focus not just on teaching a sustainability-infused curriculum but on modeling sustainability through campus operations and facilities. Currently, there are six schools in the consortium—with Dickinson becoming the newest member in 2014—and one or two more are slated to be added by 2016.

Dickinson is sending its first two students off to other EcoLeague schools in the fall, and it welcomed its first visiting students this spring.

“I have the spirit of an adventurer, and I was feeling restless at my home college,” says Anya Janssen ’16, a sociology major from Wisconsin’s Northland College. “Academically, classes [at Dickinson] are the right amount of difficulty, and I personally love a challenge. The professors I have are all extremely proficient, and I have met a few particularly lovely students here whom I am blessed to have as friends.”

Sharing Janssen’s spirit of adventure is Dickinson’s Tess Zahn ’18, who will spend the fall semester at Alaska Pacific University (APU).

“I have always loved traveling and trying new things,” says the environmental science major, “so when I heard through a friend about this exchange program that was environmental-science-based, a subject about which I have become passionate, I jumped at the opportunity.”

While in Anchorage, Zahn will take advantage of the rare opportunities that APU offers, such as recreational diving and applied statistics for environmental science. “I’m hoping to focus specifically on aquatic research and fieldwork while I’m there,” says Zahn, who chose APU to get out of her comfort zone. “I wanted to experience something completely new.”


Besides the initial exchange of students—which also includes Claire Jordy ’17 (environmental science, environmental studies), who will spend a semester as far from her hometown of Taos, N.M., as can be, at Maine’s College of the Atlantic—the EcoLeague is busy with other initiatives as well.

Dickinson will host the EcoLeague retreat this spring, and in fall 2015, the faculty-exchange program will kick off. The first visiting professor will be Katie Stumpf, assistant professor of environmental studies at Northland College, who will join the Department of Environmental Studies for the 2015-16 year.

“I am excited to work with a new group of students and faculty, at a school that has a similar outlook and values as Northland,” says Stumpf, whose areas of study include behavioral ecology, conservation biology, population ecology and agriculture and food production. “Establishing new collaborations, learning about and experiencing life at the faculty level at a different college—and being able to take what I have learned at Northland and bring it to Dickinson and bring what I learn there back here—is such a unique opportunity.”

At its heart, of course, the EcoLeague is about the students, and Emily Thorner, a junior from the College of the Atlantic who is studying at Dickinson this spring, has found a rich academic environment.

“When Dickinson joined the EcoLeague last year, I knew I wanted to go here for a multitude of reasons,” says the human-ecology major, whose 2013 internship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum sparked an interest in the multilateral repercussions of the Holocaust and other genocides. “I have been able to take specific classes on these topics at Dickinson, and I have also been able to take German language classes, [all of which has] really helped me synthesize my ideas for my senior project.”

To read more about the EcoLeague or view the application, head over to the Dickinson’s EcoLeague page.

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Published April 9, 2015