A week in the life of a graduate student

Ross Lake on the MULE

When I went to graduate school, I spent a lot of time in stuffy rooms while professors spewed information at me. I frantically took notes in class, hoping that it would all make sense when I reviewed it later. North Cascades Institute’s Graduate Residency in Environmental Education is a very different experience.

NC Wild boysNC Wild kids pick invasive species off the shore of Cat Island

Last week, the ninth cohort of graduate students left their Bellingham homes to spend a week at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. They spent Monday exploring Ross Lake on the Ross Mule with Captain Gerry Cook and park archaeologist Bob Mierendorf. While on the Mule, they were able to visit two groups of teens participating in the North Cascades Wild program. One group was cooling off with buckets of water they pulled from the bridge at Devil’s Creek; the other was busy pulling invasive plant species on Cat Island. Kids in both groups appeared to be having the times of their lives.

Butterfly netsSaul Weisberg helps Justin McWethy identify a butterfly with professor John Miles

On Tuesday and Wednesday cohort eight graduate students led natural history workshops on topics such as weather, night adaptations, fire ecology, and bats. In addition, Executive Director Saul Weisberg taught a workshop about butterflies while his wife, Shelley, shared her expertise on wildflowers.

Big CanoeCohort nine takes the big canoe on Diablo Lake

Plans to visit the Methow Valley on Thursday were halted by a mudslide on Route 20, so the cohort took a spin in the Institute’s 14-passenger canoe on Diablo Lake instead. Later that evening, they had the opportunity to sit in on a program with writer Rick Bass. Meeting the revered writer was a highlight for some students.

View from Sauk MountainJustin McWethy checks out the view of Mt. Baker from Sauk Mountain

A hike to the summit of Sauk Mountain on Friday finished off an incredible week of exploration and learning. Did I miss the classrooms and lectures? Not for a single minute!


  1. Saul Weisberg

    Ahhhh, to be in graduate school again. Wait a minute, I WAS in graduate school again, with a great bunch of students, in one of my favorite parts of the planet. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s only going to get better!

  2. Kelsi

    Great job with this blog, Tanya! I had a blast last week learning from you all and can’t wait to fill my brain up to the brim with North Cascades knowledge! 🙂

  3. Debra Trujillo

    As the mom of a cohort 8, who has been blessed to share in her journey, I am so excited for all that lies ahead for cohort 9. You all will come to cherish your new knowledge, exciting adventures, the interesting dynamics of cohorts, and the beauty of an outdoor classroom! Best of luck to you all.

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