Let nature be the classroom
Sierra Institute programs cover an array of subjects. With credit conferred by relevant departments at Humboldt State University, its class curriculums have been designed to include the landscapes and cultures in which they are taught. Groups are small (typically10-12 students), which allows for lively discussion, hands-on fieldwork, and individual attention from instructors.
- natural history
- field botany
- conservation biology
- ecology and evolution
- nature philosophy
- cultural studies
- bioregionalism and sustainability
- environmental ethics
- environmental education
- wilderness skills
Anyone 18 or over can apply to Sierra Institute programs regardless of campus affiliation, class standing, or major. Even those not enrolled in college or those who have completed their undergraduate work are encouraged to apply. Seasonal programs are designed to accommodate students from either semester or quarter system schools.
Few people today have the opportunity to spend a season in the wilderness or immersed in another culture. The Sierra Institute is based on the value of that opportunity. By backpacking and base camping in wilderness, we attain access to remote areas of beauty and inspiration for study and self exploration. By living and working with people of other cultures we gain unique, in-depth knowledge and understanding of those people and of ourselves. Our experienced instructors select exceptional and little-known destinations:
California: Sierra Nevada, White Mountains, Big Sur,
Death Valley, Lost Coast, Yolla Bolly Mountains
Belize: The Rain Forest and the Barrier Reef of the Caribbean
Argentina and Chile: Patagonian Cordillera and Andean forests
Guatemala: Ancient Mayan temples and current communities
Sierra Institute field programs are challenging. Readings and course work are extensive and faculty expectations are high. Students must be prepared with any required textbooks and should expect to work hard to earn a letter grade. Papers, examinations, and oral presentations are part of the evaluation process.
Upon successful completion, academic credit for Sierra Institute program courses will be conferred by Humboldt State University (HSU) which is accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) and a campus within the California State University system. HSU credit is generally recognized at other universities and colleges throughout the United States and abroad. All students, including those within the California State University system, should check with their campus registrar or academic advisor to confirm transferability.
Most programs are 9 weeks in length and grant 12 semester units. Occasionally, some shorter programs of 3 and 6 weeks are offered, granting a maximum of 4 or 8 semester units. Humboldt State University is on the semester system (1 semester unit equals 1.5 quarter units).
Please note that it takes approximately two weeks after the semester ends for grades to be available. Grades are accessible via the Student Telephone Information System [ (707) 826-4877] and also the HSU website. For more information, see GRADES.
For non-HSU students who wish to transfer credit from Sierra Institute program courses to their home campus, request an official HSU transcript. Although unofficial transcripts can be obtained by the student at no charge, there is a fee for official transcripts. For more information, see HSU Distance & Extended Education's information on TRANSCRIPTS.
Sierra Institute students (prior to 2004) may request transcripts from UCSC.
Call UNEX: (408) 861-3700 or go to: UCSC Extension Online Transfer Request Form
The Sierra Institute and HSU Distance & Extended Education are not able to provide direct financial aid for program participants. However, since Sierra Institute credit may be applied towards a degree, students with an existing financial aid award may, in some cases, use their financial aid for a Sierra Institute program.
Given that financial aid packages vary as to makeup (e.g., loans, grants, scholarships, AmeriCorps, etc.), it is impossible to generalize about using financial aid for a Sierra Institute program. Thus, it is up to the student to check with his/her financial aid adviser in advance of applying in order to determine eligibility.
HSU students with financial aid packages should contact the HSU Financial Aid Office. If it appears that you may be able to use your financial for Sierra Institute, then you should complete a “fee deferment” form (provided by the Office of Distance and Extended Education). Note that if your financial aid will not cover the entire amount of fees, you will be expected to pay the balance at the time you register.
It is usually not possible to transfer financial aid from one school to another. However, students from other schools should check with their own campus financial aid adviser for a determination. (As an example, at some schools, a “consortium agreement” may be put into place which facilitates the awarding of your aid.)
Another option is to register with the Sierra Institute program on an audit basis and enroll for the academic credit at your home campus (for example, ""independent study"" with a faculty sponsor). This home enrollment may allow for the normal reception of your financial aid.
After the program has ended, the Sierra Institute instructor will forward the letter grades you earned to the academic adviser you have identified. Credit will thus be direct home campus units, while the transcript from Sierra Institute/HSU will indicate “audit” (fees paid to HSU are unchanged). Applicants choosing this "double-enrollment" option must be sure to inform the Sierra Institute of your arrangement.
If you are applying for California Wilderness in the summer or spring and have a demonstrable financial need, you are invited to apply for a Kenton Dornbush Memorial Scholarship ($500). Complete application and send no later than the spring or summer program application due date.
The Sierra Institute programs are administered by the Office of Distance and Extended Education at Humboldt State University. Non-HSU students should arrange for a leave of absence if they plan to continue academic studies at their home college after their Sierra Institute experience. Contact your campus registrar or advisor for the necessary procedures and forms.
Students who need an official verification of current enrollment may request this verification in writing from the Office of Distance and Extended Education. There is no fee for this service.
The Sierra Institute does not provide primary health or medical insurance for students. Students are required to have their own coverage while participating in programs. Programs are designed with safety foremost, but learning in the field is not the same as studying on campus -- there are the normal risks of backcountry travel (distance from medical services, etc.) associated with all our programs. Instructors have first-aid training and cover basic safety concerns at the beginning of each program.
We anticipate that you will follow the rules and procedures the Sierra Institute uses for the protection of the individual, the group, and the land. Illicit drugs or inappropriate personal conduct are not acceptable on Sierra Institute programs. The Sierra Institute reserves the right to dismiss anyone who is a danger to the environment, herself/himself or others, or for general misconduct on the program. Please see Student Code of Conduct.
The application fee is only refundable if you are not accepted or if the program is cancelled. For accepted students a refund of fees (other than application fee) prior to program start is on a case-by-case basis. Any refund is subject to administrative fee of $25. Fees are non-refundable once they have been obligated on student's behalf for goods or services, or once the program has started.