The SFS study abroad model is unlike any other. We offer your students faculty-directed research, environmental field work, and an SFS community based at one permanent field station. The following will help you advise students, learn more about our academic model, and facilitate course approval and credit transfer. Documents to download or share can be found at the bottom of the page.
All SFS locations offer fall and spring semester options. These are 100 days long each, except for Australia, which is 95 days. Students take three 4-credit courses focused on topics of ecology, natural resource management and conservation science, socioeconomics and environmental policy, and ethics. Students in Bhutan, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Panama, Peru, and Tanzania take an additional 2-credit language and culture course. All programs culminate in a 4-credit Directed Research course including at least 100 hours of field work. Program activities take place six days per week with at least part of one day devoted to community engagement, and one day off per week. Semester applicants must have completed one college-level biology, ecology, or environmental studies/science course (or related coursework, as assessed by SFS), and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8. There are no language prerequisites.
All locations except Peru offer at least one summer session with most locations offering two back-to-back sessions. Two four-week long sessions are offered in Australia, Costa Rica, Tanzania, and TCI. One four-week long session is offered in Cambodia and Panama. One six-week long summer session is offered in Bhutan. Any Session I course (Bhutan excluded) can be paired with any Session II course to gain field experience in two countries and ecosystems. Each four-week session is 4 semester-hour credits in environmental studies; the six-week Bhutan session is 6 semester-hour credits in environmental studies; Summer Combined offers 8 semester-hour credits. Summer sessions have no specific coursework prerequisites and can be especially appealing to students with an interest in the natural sciences but not pursuing it as a major. Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.6 for SFS summer programs.
The SFS academic model is cross-cultural, rigorous, and research-intensive. Through coursework, research, and community engagement, students learn firsthand the value of incorporating local knowledge when identifying, defining, and addressing environmental challenges. Courses are led by permanent faculty members to provide a background to a theory and skills needed to understand and address both the local environmental issues and global environmental topics. Lectures are often conducted in the field with hands-on exploration of course concepts. These field exercises reinforce the academic material and help students practice field techniques, data analysis, and receive other training that prepares them for their Directed Research projects.
SFS research differs from research with other study abroad programs by virtue of our longevity and deep commitment to specific communities, locations, and environmental challenges. The academic team at each SFS Center designs and implements long-term strategic research plans in collaboration with their local stakeholders. These strategic research initiatives drive the research objectives of each student’s Directed Research (DR) project. Students put a face on environmental issues, discover their complexity, and learn about and identify sources of conflict and collaboration between local stakeholders and competing resource needs and uses. Students collect and analyze field data, write up results in a scientific paper, and present their findings to local community members and stakeholders. This enables students to contribute to a growing body of scientific research and helps the SFS Center and local community achieve their long-term research objectives.
The health, safety, and well-being of our students are of utmost importance to SFS. While safety can never be guaranteed, SFS takes a holistic approach to risk assessment, mitigation, and management to protect and enhance the student experience. This approach includes student preparation and orientation, staff training, global monitoring, detailed emergency action plans, and effective incident management. Students receive pre-departure materials and an in-country orientation to set clear expectations about environmental and cultural awareness, personal responsibility and conduct, and health and safety. Each SFS program is staffed with a full-time, residential Student Affairs Manager (SAM) who is a certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR), Sexual Assault First Responder, and the primary medical responder on campus. All eight field stations are dry campuses, and students are engaged in SFS programming at least six days a week.