Lehigh Launch Starts First-Year Students in American West

“They were really tired, really euphoric, but also very excited about everything they had learned,” says Kroll. “They said to me, ‘We don’t even know how much we’ve learned, we’re still processing everything we’ve learned about self-care, leadership, and problem-solving.’ Those are the things that NOLS does really well. “

Anne Magnan, Director of Custom Education at NOLS, says the partnership between NOLS and Lehigh improves the educational experience for students.

“NOLS works with many universities, but our partnership with Lehigh has allowed us to develop a more comprehensive curriculum than we normally get,” says Magnan. “The Lehigh Launch Program combined the curriculum and faculty of NOLS and Lehigh, making the result greater than the sum of its parts. NOLS is committed to creating transformative educational experiences and the Lehigh Launch program really took that to another level. “

New Mexico returns for Fall 2021

This fall, freshman Lehigh Launch students will have the opportunity to begin their Lehigh experience backpacking under the stars of Wyoming and learning about geology and other topics in the fields, ponds, and lakes of New Mexico.

After a week of virtual activities, including an orientation session, students spend approximately six weeks in Wyoming – first three weeks with NOLS backpacks and then the next three weeks studying in the classroom and on-site with Lehigh faculty. The courses and brief excursions on geology, water resources, politics, and literature will be relocated to Santa Fe, NM for the next three weeks. In New Mexico, says Jensen, students learn two main subjects that run through several courses: water and energy. Your home base will be Bishop’s Ridge Retreat.

“Students have the opportunity to experience things up close that they would normally see in the classroom and not be able to identify themselves in the same way,” says Jensen.

On the weekend of October 23rd, the new cohort will arrive in Lehigh for the first time as a student. Once on campus, they will spend the rest of the semester integrating into the community, living in the dormitories, and finishing their Lehigh Launch courses, according to Jensen.

While students attending Lehigh Launch in Fall 2021 won’t read the literature before their trip, as they did with the founding group, Kroll says they’ll have other benefits.

“I think what will change dramatically in the fall is that the students will have a deep, kinesthetic, experiential knowledge of these mountains, the terrain and the weather,” says Kroll. “And I think if you read the books it will be an enrichment for your reading experience if you have that first.”

Anne Meltzer, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Pat Farrell, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will support Jensen and Kroll as faculty members for the Lehigh launch program in 2021.

Lehigh Launch is open to students of all degrees who want to develop leadership skills through a challenging, hands-on, and somewhat unconventional first semester of college. The students apply via their admission portal and acquire 16 hours per week while they meet the distribution requirements in the natural, social and human sciences as well as the seminar requirements for many courses in the first year. The costs are the same for the semester as if the students were taking normal classes and living on campus, and financial support was provided, explains Jensen. Jensen also pointed out that unlike an interim semester, the Lehigh Launch students earned the academic credits they need to overthrow fraternities or sororities in the spring semester if they so choose. After a semester of immersive learning and leadership development, you will be well placed to return to campus, join groups and clubs, and partake in the broader campus experience.

For future cohorts, Lehigh will offer international studies, according to Jensen. Lehigh Launch Fall 2022 will have two locations: the American West and Ecuador / Galapagos Islands, with Matherly leading the development of the international semester option.

“We are looking for students with great leadership potential,” says Jensen. “We’re looking for students who are intellectually curious and interested in diving [to their Lehigh experience] in the West.”

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