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Great Smokies course a memorable experience for students


A woman and man inspecting a map on the forest ground. The Great Smokies course offers students a fully immersive field experience. Photo by Michael Williams

May 15, 2016 – A summer course in Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides students from Virginia Tech, the University of Georgia, and Purdue University with a unique education opportunity. Students, who stay at the park’s Tremont Institute, take sessions on topics ranging from wildlife management to field journaling techniques.

“Many students in traditional classes can go outside or go on two-hour field trips, but this is a weeklong immersive learning experience,” said Professor Don Linzey, the lead instructor. “It allows them to explore more in depth in their field, investigate new topics, and come away with a number of life aspects of natural history in the Great Smoky Mountains.”

New last year were a session on employment opportunities with the National Park Service and nonprofit organizations, and a presentation by a Cherokee guest speaker on the history of his people. Based on the positive student feedback, both sessions will be incorporated into this year’s course, now in its 21st year.

“Best class experience I have ever had, and has helped facilitate new interest in wildlife conservation,” a student said of the course, which Virginia Tech students may substitute for FIW 2324 (Wildlife Field Biology). “You’ll take away more than you can imagine in such a short period of time. . . . It is an amazing experience that will open many doors for your future,” another student advised.

Class instructors include Linzey, professors from Purdue and the University of Georgia, National Park Service personnel, wildlife biologists, Tremont Institute staff, and numerous guest speakers. For information on the 2016 session, beginning Aug. 3, email Don Linzey.

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