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Why SFS?

About The School for Field Studies

The School for Field Studies (SFS) is one of the nation’s oldest and largest environmental study abroad programs, combining hands-on environmental studies with scientific research to develop sustainable solutions to critical environmental problems. SFS students work with communities to discover practical ways to manage their natural resources. In the process, SFS students undergo a transformational experience that assists them in advancing their careers as skilled professionals and globally aware citizens.

Key to the SFS model is working closely with local communities to address environmental issues. SFS students develop a unique perspective on what it really takes to develop long-term conservation solutions.

Academic Statement

The School for Field Studies offers semester and summer programs at each of our field centers. Each Center is staffed by a director, three resident faculty members, a student affairs manager, and a host of support staff. The academically rigorous and interdisciplinary curriculum of each program is designed to allow students to actively discover and understand the complexities of local realities related to environmental, social, and economic problems. Through teaching and research, center faculty and staff introduce students to field research methods, data collection, and analysis, and they promote student interactions and reciprocity with local communities. The curriculum and research projects are driven by local needs and interests. SFS programs integrate academic, research, social, and community activities in a holistic education model.

What is Field Studies?

Our interdisciplinary, experiential approach to education is designed to train students to learn by doing. As students engage in high-quality field research, they begin to understand the challenges of confronting environmental issues. They learn the value of experiencing another culture and of collaborating with their fellow students and with the local community to develop workable solutions. They are also given the rare opportunity to work side by side, in another culture, with an international faculty and learn state-of-the-art field research skills.

The program helped me to better understand a lot of aspects of conservation that I would otherwise not be able to comprehend through classes at a typical university. For example, I was able to see why the human element is just as important as studying the ecology of wildlife in order to preserve the environment.

I came to realize that conservation requires constant effort to balance the needs of humans and the needs of the environment. It was astonishing to see how people in certain areas are required by law to protect the wildlife that causes them so much hardship on a daily basis. Talking with people who live in situations like this is something that cannot be communicated through coursework. Experiencing this sort of human-wildlife conflict firsthand has truly developed my understanding of what conservation is.
—Paige Yager, SFS East Africa

Who Studies With SFS?

We welcome a diverse student body and promote an atmosphere open to different cultures and perspectives. Students come to us from more than 300 colleges and universities with a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences to participate in our semester and summer programs. In keeping with our interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem solving, we strive to build teams that represent a cross-section of the global student body, including liberal arts, science, and economics majors.

What Makes a Good Student?

The SFS student profile is broad and diverse. The common qualities of successful SFS students include: open expectations, flexible, good communication skills, interest in living in rustic areas, strong work ethic, enjoys the outdoors, prepared for any type of weather, and willing to be a part of a team.

What Differentiates SFS?

We think of SFS, or any study abroad experience, as an investment in a student’s education and professional development. SFS can complement and enhance a student’s on-campus experience and education and make him or her a stronger candidate for grad schools, jobs, and other opportunities, such as Peace Corps or Watson’s Fellowships, etc. With SFS, students have the opportunity to add valuable skills to their backgrounds. These include critical-thinking, field research skills, quantitative research skills, scientific writing, oral presentation skills, language and cultural competency, as well as useful skills such as GIS and SCUBA. Additionally, students gain important interpersonal skills that are highly regarded in personal and professional development: self-confidence, community service and relationship-building, flexibility, leadership, and group work.

During SFS programs, students are not just sitting in a classroom. The interdisciplinary academic schedule consists of field trips, field work, field lectures, and classroom lectures. Students learn about issues happening in their immediate surroundings, which often results in an enhanced interest in academic study. In countries with a foreign language, students have the opportunity to use the language on a day-to-day basis, reinforcing their commitment to foreign language study.

SFS program students grow close to their peers, faculty, program staff, and local community members who all impact their experiences in different ways. Students often stay in touch with these people for their rest of their lives. Students will make important connections with professionals in the environmental studies field who may open up opportunities for future endeavors. Many SFS alumni apply for internships with us, and end up gaining valuable experience to jumpstart their careers.