Students applying to Lehigh for Fall 2020 will have a unique opportunity: to spend their first semester not on Lehigh’s campus, but instead in the American West or Ecuador. Lehigh Launch, an experiential, integrative learning experience for intellectually curious and independent students, is open to students of any major who wish to develop leadership skills through a challenging, hands-on and somewhat unconventional first semester of college.
“Lehigh Launch provides a unique opportunity for students to matriculate,” says Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for international affairs. “The program is designed to introduce students to those experiences that are distinctive to the Lehigh experience, such as interdisciplinary, problem-based learning.”
The development of the program was, says Jennifer Jensen, deputy provost for academic affairs and professor of political science, “a wonderfully collaborative process” involving faculty, administrators and staff from across campus.
Participating students will gain new perspectives, take on demanding coursework and participate in active fieldwork experiences during an immersive, inquiry-based semester in either Lander, Wyoming and Taos, New Mexico or Quito, Ecuador, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. Following their Lehigh Launch semester, participants will arrive on Lehigh’s South Bethlehem campus for the spring semester.
The Lehigh Launch experience keeps students deeply connected to the Lehigh community, as Lehigh faculty and staff lead both programs. In addition to earning 16 credit hours and fulfilling distribution requirements in natural science, social science and the humanities, as well as the first-year seminar requirement, students will develop leadership and teamwork skills, work collaboratively with peers to tackle complex problems, strengthen communication skills, and learn much about themselves and others.
“From the first planning meetings for Lehigh Launch, we committed to making sure that the program would be accessible to any student admitted to Lehigh, regardless of financial need,” says Matherly.
As a result, Lehigh Launch participants pay no more than the cost of an on-campus semester: Lehigh tuition plus room and board.
“We’ve been able to work with our partner organizations to provide a best-in-class learning experience in wonderful parts of the world, and the semester has the same tuition and room and board costs as a regular semester at Lehigh,” says Jensen. “And students can use their financial aid to pay for the program costs.”
Lehigh has partnered with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an internationally recognized nonprofit global wilderness school, to create an exciting program in the American West. Students will spend the first month of the semester in Lander, Wyoming, located in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains. There, they will spend three weeks on classroom-based coursework, with excursions to nearby towns and wilderness areas. They will also stay at NOLS’s Wyss Wilderness Medicine Institute for a two-day wilderness first aid course. Next, students will participate in a two-week NOLS-led backpacking expedition in the Wind River Range, followed by an eight-day canoe expedition in Utah before the transition to the second half of the semester in Taos, New Mexico. In Taos, students will experience six weeks of classroom- and field-based learning, housed on Southern Methodist University’s small and scenic Taos campus.