Emory & Henry Only College to Offer Academic Credit for Hiking the Appalachian Trail in the U.S.

by Haley Arni

From along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), 25 Emory & Henry students earned college credit while studying in the great outdoors. They participated in the Semester-A-Trail Program – the only program in the United States that offers college credit for hiking a section of the A.T. with an academic component and training. The Center for Outdoor Studies at Emory & Henry is now taking applications for the spring 2024 cohort of explorers.

“This is the definition of exceptional hands-on learning in a gorgeous outdoor lab,” said Director the Center for Outdoor Studies Jim Harrison, who thru-hiked the A.T. with his wife in the 1990s.

Throughout the summer, Emory & Henry’s Outdoor Programming Specialist Lauren Smith participated in a section hike of the A.T. Smith instructs students in preparing to undertake a section hike of their own in the Semester-A-Trail program.

“My hike on the A.T. prepared me to help students succeed on the trail,” said Smith. “I’m also so thankful to experience Southern Appalachia in such an intimate way. The peacefulness and beauty is astounding.”

“Our students train and learn how to hike the trail to be prepared. Prior to the trip, they learn wilderness first aid techniques and receive instruction on packing, nutrition, safety and mental wellness. Being on the trail for long periods of time can be physically and mentally challenging, yet so rewarding and breathtaking,” said Harrison.

The program is open to college students around the globe in addition to Emory & Henry students. Students from other institutions are welcome to transfer to Emory & Henry for the Semester-A-Trail to engage in a once-in-a-lifetime experience while earning college credits. Our team of outdoor professionals provide students with the necessary equipment to make the trip successful, educational and enjoyable.

“I grew up hiking the A.T. and always had a dream of thru-hiking the trail,” said E&H senior James Tucker Grimshaw, an environmental studies major. “I’m most excited to meet new people that have adventure goals that are similar to mine,” he said before embarking on the Semester-A-Trail Program.

“I’ve always loved nature, as well as hiking and camping, so when this opportunity came along, I couldn’t help myself,” said University of Maryland transfer Matanya Loewenthal, ’21, when asked why he chose to participate in the program. “I first saw this program in a video someone sent me, and I signed up on the website within the hour. I’m glad I did!” Loewenthal said.

The Appalachian Trail, Grayson Highlands State Park, the South Fork of the Holston River and Hidden Valley Climbing Area are minutes from campus. Students who engage with the Center for Outdoor Studies hike, paddle and climb amidst the natural beauty of Southwest Virginia. Emory & Henry is located in thousands of pristine acres of mountains and forest to create a wonderful classroom environment for creating learning opportunities and experiences to last a lifetime.

The Center for Outdoor Studies is eager to interview future students for the Semester-A-Trail Program for the spring 2024 cohort. The program encourages students to apply for a semester transfer from their home institutions. Transfers have attended from Temple University, University of Maryland, Capital University, Olin College of Engineering, Bates College and more. To learn more about the program and interest form, go to www.ehc.edu/outdoor-program/semester-atrail/.

The Semester-A-Trail is the definition of exceptional hands-on learning in a gorgeous outdoor lab.
Director the Center for Outdoor Studies Jim Harrison

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