Each summer, Geneva students have the opportunity to participate in challenging academic programs that promote Christian environmental stewardship at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. Through this program, students gain valuable field experience, earn college credit and develop practical methods of caring for the environment.
This year, four Geneva students have received fellowships at the Au Sable Institute: Jannah Esbenshade, Savhannah Hichman, Nathan Mansor and Katherine Michalak. Hichman, Mansor and Michalak have been designated Au Sable Fellows, which are merit-based fellowships awarded to recognize students “having abilities, interests and leadership potential in environmental stewardship.” Recipients of this award must also demonstrate the biblical principles of love, service and stewardship through daily life.
The Au Sable Board awarded the sole 2011 Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellowship to Jannah Esbenshade. Only one Leadership Fellowship is awarded each year, granted to a student nominated by their college who demonstrates both academic excellence and a high potential for leadership in Christian environmental stewardship.
Courses offered at Au Sable include Field Natural History, Wildlife Ecology, Watershed Stewardship, Insect Biology, Marine Mammals, Environmental Health and many others. Also, by attending multiple sessions, students can pursue certification as field naturalists, land or water resources analysts, and environmental analysts.
“Most Au Sable courses are field-based, providing hands-on learning and practical application in a variety of natural habitats,” says biology professor and Au Sable faculty representative Marjory Tobias. “Students have the opportunity to study ecosystems that they would not encounter in western Pennsylvania.”
Au Sable has facilities in three locations: Au Sable-Great Lakes in northern Michigan, Au Sable-Pacific Rim on Puget Sound, and Au Sable-India in sub-tropical southern India. In addition, a May-session Tropical Agriculture and Missions course is offered in Costa Rica and hosted by the Association for Development through Education (ADE), a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to the redevelopment of post-disaster regions.
The students from Geneva will spend five weeks in the program, completing two courses each. Esbenshade, Hichman and Mansor are travelling to Au Sable-Great Lakes and Michalak will be travelling to the Pacific Rim Institute on Whidbey Island between Vancouver and Seattle.
Beyond coursework, Au Sable provides a Christian community experience as students and faculty work and worship together, meeting for class, daily devotions and Sunday vesper services. The program also offers many recreational activities such as wildlife observation, wildland and tidepool exploration, snorkeling and more.
Integration of faith and learning is an integral element of the Au Sable program, and students are encouraged to apply biblical principles to environmental issues in a variety of ways. “Many classes begin with a devotional time, but that’s just where the integration begins,” says Professor Tobias. “Integration goes far beyond the academic classes as students see creation care demonstrated in the design of buildings, the use of land, the purchase and preparation of food, and other aspects of life on campus.”
Professor Tobias says the highlight of the Au Sable program is that students “learn about God’s creation in God’s creation.” She explains, “While the courses are academically challenging, students always return to Geneva talking about how much fun it was. So much learning takes place outdoors, in daily living, and in engaging conversations with other students and professors who are excited about God’s creation.”
Au Sable is still accepting applications for 2011 summer courses and summer research, and financial aid remains available. Students who are interested in enrolling at Au Sable or would like additional information should contact Professor Tobias. As the Au Sable faculty representative, she will assist students with course selection and the application process. Applications are accepted until a few weeks prior to the start of a session, but early application is encouraged.