Exploring Rural Issues


We connect college and university students with the people, places, stories, and community-based processes that have generated actions to improve the quality of life in Wallowa County. Despite economic hardships from a declining forest industry, the people of Wallowa County have joined together to find ways to adapt and thrive. Students engage directly with local residents, learning first-hand about rural values, issues, and problem solving. We believe these personal interactions between rural people and college students provide mutual benefits. We have partnered with Oregon State University, Whitman College, and Portland State University to offer dynamic undergraduate and graduate courses.

Current University Courses

  • Whitman in the Wallowas, a month-long 4-credit interdisciplinary course. Whitman in the Wallowas is an intensive summer program to explore the natural and human communities of Wallowa County. Students engage in fieldwork integrating science, humanities, and the social sciences. The course was developed by Wallowa Resources and Whitman College faculty for Whitman College students. The 2011 course was called A Wallowa County Almanac in reference to Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. Students began with the study of natural history followed by an intensive course on community-based conservation. Students camped on private lands and learned directly from the people of Wallowa County. The final segment of the course was a writing workshop based on field journals.

  • Semester in the West. Whitman students spend a semester traveling and studying public land conservation in the American West. The field program offers a full semester's worth of coursework in environmental studies, including courses in ecology, writing, politics, and integrative projects. Wallowa Resources coordinates 7 days of the program in Wallowa County. Students meet with ranchers, land managers, county government officials, and entrepreneurs to learn about rural issues and solutions in Wallowa County. Offered only to Whitman students, every other year. The wolf issue in Wallowa County is a favorite for student final video and writing productions.

    Listen to student podcasts, watch presentations of their "Epiphanies", and learn more about Semester in the West here.

    Read Allison Bolgiano's blog, a Semester in the West student and past Wallowa Resources' intern, and her reflections about our work here.

  • Communities and Natural Resources. Oregon State University offers this graduate level field seminar for students in Forest Ecosystems and Society and Human Development and Family Science programs. Wallowa Resources coordinates and leads the program in Wallowa County. The Communities and Natural Resources seminar provides students interdisciplinary, experiential learning about contemporary community and natural resource issues in rural Oregon. Students learn firsthand from community leaders about current conditions and future prospects for Oregon's rural, natural resource dependent communities. Students synthesize what they learn on-site about poverty, natural resource dependency, community well-being, adaptive capacity, resilience; social, human, economic and natural capital; and land tenure.
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