Semester in the Parks Begins its Second Year

Katelyn Connors

semester in the parks
Photo courtesy of Anne Smith, SUU Semester in the Parks Program Coordinator.

Who doesn’t want to skip school and spend the day outside instead? For the students involved in the SUU Semester in the Parks program they don’t have to make the choice.
In its second year, the Semester in the Parks program is enjoying last year’s success and continued interest from the students of SUU.

Semester in the Parks is “like study abroad but not having to go quite as far,” said Anne Smith, Semester in the Parks Program Coordinator and Instructor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism.

As a part of the program, students live at local Bryce Canyon National Park for most of a regular school semester. Students don’t spend the whole semester camping, instead they live at Ruby’s Inn, a resort at the edge of the park where they can eat, sleep and work.

With a decent sized fee of $1,500 attached to the semester, many students have been worried about the cost of the program. However, as a part of the semester each student is guaranteed a job at Ruby’s Inn. While the fee may seem large, according to Smith, students from last year actually found living at the park to be as cheap or cheaper than life on campus. They ended the semester with costs of tuition, housing and food covered by what they earned.

Semester in the Parks is not only outdoor fun. Most of their courses are general education courses and are determined by the faculty involved. The classes available all depend on the faculty willing to make the trip to Bryce Canyon.

Faculty there are not exclusively teaching for Semester in the Parks. They make the trip there to teach. Like the students in the program, professors must apply and also submit a proposal in order to be a part of the program.

This year’s faculty is: Dr. Bryan Burton, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice; Dr. Anne Diekema, Assistant Professor of Library Instruction/Outreach; Dr. Kelly Goonan, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism; Dr. Jacqualine Grant, Assistant Professor of Biology; Dr. Earl Mulderink, Professor of History; and Daniel Swanson, MA Lecturer of Criminal Justice.

Coordinators for this semester are: Dr. Johnny MacLean, Semester in the Parks Academic Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Geology, and Anne Smith, Semester in the Parks Program Coordinator and Instructor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism.
The faculty also integrates the courses. Teachers join forces and teach more as a team. This allows students to learn in an integrated manner and connects the things they learn. It’s one big class a day for the students.

Participating in the Semester in the Parks program gives students a full 18 credits as well as field experience and a chance to learn about different national parks.

Since their success last year, they have made no big changes in the program, “only a few tweaks here and there,” Smith said. The only changes in the program are the classes offered by the different faculty members. This year’s programs consist of Environmental Biology, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Geology of National Parks, American Civilization, Information Literacy, Americans in the Outdoors and Interdisciplinary Engagement.

Students in the SUU Semester in the Parks Program are given a chance to enjoy the great outdoors of the area, receive a quality hands-on education and make long term connections. Semester in the Parks currently only runs during fall semester but there are hopes to expand.

You can apply to spend a semester in the parks towards the end of this fall semester. Look for more information at