Summer is a time of intense activity at Au Sable. The Environmental Education Program concludes its Spring Session (completed in early June). The Research Program is underway with field work by late May. And in early August the Institute’s Board of Trustees arrives for a summer meeting always held on the Great Lakes Campus. Before, after, and in the midst of these and other important events, Au Sable’s College Academic Program is in full swing.
College students have been taking courses at Au Sable since the 1960s, the first ones coming from Taylor University in Indiana as Counselors for junior high campers to what was then Au Sable Trails Science Camp. As Au Sable grew to become an environmental institute, it developed a comprehensive college-level curriculum of environmental science for college students from throughout North America. Presenting its first full-fledged array of college courses in 1981, students have been coming to Au Sable from across North America and (many years) the world, as well as traveling throughout the world to study environmental and conservation science in such places as India, Costa Rica, and Kenya. Similarly college professors, as well as independent research scientists, came to Au Sable from the United States, Canada, and other countries to enjoy teaching students in field-intensive, direct application courses on the care of creation.
In the summer of 2018, 102 students from 34 colleges in the US and Canada took a combined total of 202 courses (“course units”) at Au Sable’s four campuses in Michigan, Washington, Costa Rica and India. In the 38 year history of Au Sable’s College Program, only one year (2004) ever recorded higher enrollment (219 units). What produced this near record number in 2018? Au Sable’s Executive Director, Dr. Fred Van Dyke, offers some possible explanations.
“Enrollment in Au Sable’s College Program,” he notes, “may sometimes show variation from year to year. But, in this case, I think its primary cause is the increasing amount of support and involvement we are seeing from our Faculty Representatives at each Participating College, truly appreciating not only what courses we offer, but where and how we offer them, and expressing that appreciation more and more enthusiastically to their students. When we have this kind of Representative support, we increase the level of trust students have to come and study at a new and different place like Au Sable.”
Dr. Brian Keas, Au Sable’s Director of Educational Development, explained the high enrollment this way: “Our Faculty Representatives are all passionate about caring for God’s creation and fostering this in their students at their campuses, but see firsthand Au Sable’s added impact on professional and spiritual growth as their students return each fall semester. They understand the value of immersive coursework and of participating in a special community of Christian students and faculty that is very intentional at Au Sable. While word of mouth from returning students and Representatives often attracts new students, much of the enrollment growth at Au Sable may be attributed to Representatives seeing the value of connecting some or all of Au Sable’s College Program in a way that complements and expands the curriculum at their colleges.”
Enrollment is hard to predict from one year to the next, but the number of Faculty Representatives registered to attend the Academic Council is already as high as last year and growing (the meeting is still over a month away). As Au Sable’s courses continue to meet the needs of those dedicated to the care of God’s creation, we at the Institute look forward to those whom God will call to study with us in 2019.