Program Location and Academics

Students working at a picnic table

Lehigh Launch Learning Outcomes

Both Lehigh Launch locations have the same essential characteristics and program learning outcomes that were developed by the faculty committee that first developed the vision for Lehigh Launch. These learning outcomes anchor the Lehigh Launch experience, whether in the American West or in Ecuador—both programs are an immersive, place-based experience where students learn from the local people, places and culture while:

  • Developing skills of leadership, teamwork and social responsibility
  • Acquiring productive habits of mind
  • Developing subject area skills through hands-on experience
  • Strengthening communication skills

Semester in the American West: Wyoming Rocky Mountains and Santa Fe, New Mexico

Pre-Departure: Program Virtual Orientation and First Week of Classes

The first week of the Semester of the American West takes place before students depart for Wyoming. The orientation will introduce students to their faculty and to the themes of the program. Following the orientation, students will have one or two class meetings for each of their four courses before heading west. Following this remote portion of the program, students will fly to Wyoming for the start of the semester.

Wyoming: Rocky Mountain Backpacking Expedition

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) will lead students on a two- to three-week field program in the Rocky Mountains. NOLS is internationally known for its wilderness education programs. The NOLS expedition is physically rigorous, so students should prepare over the summer, but no camping or backpacking experience is required. While some Semester in the American West students have camping and backpacking experience, more have limited or no experience in these activities.

Wyoming: Classroom- and Field-based Learning

Following the NOLS expedition, students will pursue five weeks of coursework in the classroom, outdoors, and on short field trips in west-central Wyoming.

New Mexico: Classroom- and Field-based Learning

The final six weeks in the American West take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bishop's Ridge Retreat is the home base for Lehigh residential and classroom activities. Students complete their time in the west and return home before Thanksgiving, and complete a final week of remote learning as students complete final projects and prepare presentations for January.

Bethlehem: January 2023

In January, Lehigh Launch students will move into Lehigh residence halls several days before most of their peers. The Semester in the American West students and the Semester in Ecuador students come together to share final projects, explore Bethlehem, and have an on-campus orientation. Lehigh Launch students begin on-campus coursework with the start of their spring semester courses.

Lead Faculty Members: Christopher Driscoll, Associate Professor of Religion Studies, and Jennifer Jensen, Professor of Political Science

Coursework Info

Lehigh Launch is led by Lehigh faculty and staff and is deeply connected to the Lehigh community. Students will earn 16 credit hours through classroom-based and experiential learning, while fulfilling distribution requirements in natural science, social science and the humanities, as well as the first-year seminar requirement for many programs. Specific course offerings will change each year.

Partner Information: National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

NOLS is the world's leading wilderness school. A nonprofit based in Lander, WY, the school provides students the opportunity to step forward—whether on an expedition, wilderness medicine or custom course. Students of all ages graduate from their courses prepared to step forward and lead their communities in a changing world. Graduates have a lifelong desire for leadership, commitment to continued skills development, and ongoing education. Since 1965, NOLS has embraced and explored the unknown through outdoor and classroom-based experiences.

NOLS is a national leader in custom education, and Lehigh joins the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina, Philips Exeter Academy, the C5 Foundation, and other leading educational institutions in partnering with NOLS. NOLS has also worked with businesses such as GE and Timbuk2 to help them improve their communication skills, practice decision-making techniques, and coalesce around community values. The same lessons NOLS uses to prep astronauts for the unpredictable rigors of space will help you learn to lead in today’s unpredictable world.

Learn more about the NOLS core curriculum and learning outcomes >

Three people hiking on a path

Semester in Ecuador: Quito, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands

Location Information and Schedule

Quito, Ecuador

Students will be based in Quito, Ecuador for the majority of the semester, with the final three weeks spent on the remote Galapagos Islands. Located in an Andean valley, Quito is Ecuador’s capital and second-largest city. Its vibrant neighborhoods and Spanish colonial architecture contributed to Quito's designation as the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Courses will include educational excursions in and around Quito throughout the semester. Students will also visit the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest, and will have the unique opportunity to spend several days at a research station in the Amazon Rainforest.

Lead Faculty Member: David Casagrande, Professor of Anthropology, Joint Appointment with the Environmental Initiative

Coursework Info

Lehigh Launch is led by Lehigh faculty and staff and is deeply connected to the Lehigh community. Students will earn 16 credit hours through classroom-based and experiential learning, while fulfilling distribution requirements in natural science, social science and the humanities, as well as the first-year seminar requirement.

  • Biology: Environmental Diversity of Ecuador (fulfills natural science requirement)
  • Anthropology: Indigenous Cultures of Latin America (fulfills social science requirement)
  • Spanish: Spanish language and culture course at the appropriate language level (fulfills humanities requirement)
  • Integrative Seminar: Inquiry and Integrative Thinking (fulfills first-year seminar requirement)

Partner Information: International Education of Students (IES)

Founded in 1950, IES Abroad is a not-for-profit provider with 140+ study abroad and internship programs around the world for college/university students. In their program centers based in cities across the globe, they educate students to become global leaders through premier study abroad and internship programs, which offer students worldwide experiential learning opportunities that meet the highest standards of academic quality.

IES Abroad has centers located in both Quito and the Galapagos, with full-time staff who will work in partnership with Lehigh University to deliver a high-quality program for students. The centers will serve as the academic base for students throughout the program and will also be accessible to students as a central place to meet up, hang out and have lunch, ask a question of the staff, or relax and mingle with other students between classes.