November 2020 Newsletter
Winter descends, and transitions abound. As we sink into this season of rest and reflection, we're very much looking forward to the possibilities ahead. As the country--and the world--continue to live through the challenges of a global pandemic, economic struggles, political polarization, and the many injustices that persist in the systems that govern us, we send you our love, our strength, and our many hopes for the future.

Our last newsletter featured our spring semester course on the Colorado Plateau. Next up: our first summer course of the 2021 season, our one and only bike touring course, Cycle the Rockies. Centered around a 4-week-long bike tour of Montana from mid-June to mid-July, this course offers students an opportunity to earn 6 semester credits in Natural Resource Science & Management and Environmental Studies.

From the rolling plains of Central Montana to the peaks of the Continental Divide, Cycle the Rockies allows an in-depth, human-powered exploration of Montana's rich and diverse geography. While biking across stunning landscapes and visiting rural Montanan communities, students on this course explore the ecological, social, and economic issues associated with energy production and climate change in the state of Montana.

Cycle the Rockies does not require any previous bike touring experience! This course is a great opportunity for students to learn the skills necessary for them to thrive on an extended bike tour, and to replicate the experience on their own after the course is completed. WRFI is also proud to have a fleet of outfitted Trek touring bikes for students to rent, as well as the Beth Morris Scholarship, which is available to students who enroll in Cycle the Rockies and provides up to $1,500 in funding.

UPCOMING INFO SESSIONS: Join from anywhere!

We still have three virtual information sessions ahead of us this year. Join us if you're interested in learning more about WRFI and the different courses we offer. Staff and alumni will be available for any questions you might have. We'd love to meet you!

Please note that the times listed below are in Mountain Time.

Wednesday, November 25: 11:00-12:00 (MST)

Thursday, December 3: 2:00-3:00 (MST)

Wednesday, December 16: 11:00-12:00 (MST)

A new holiday season commences, and what a strange one it will be. We realize it's been a long year, and that we've all grown weary of physical distancing and social isolation. We're wishing everyone the strength to hold out just a little longer, to avoid large gatherings and unnecessary travel--as incredibly difficult as that may be--so that we can have our best shot at coming out stronger and starting off the new year in a better place.

It's been tough for all of us to continue making sacrifices for the collective good. We hope that you're able to stay safe and healthy, and that you find ways to draw strength from place and community in other ways. This December 1 is Giving Tuesday, a day of collective giving for the causes and organizations that you believe strengthen your community. WRFI will welcome donations on this day, and we are incredibly grateful to all of our donors for helping us make it through this challenging year. Whether it's WRFI or any number of the other amazing organizations doing good work in the world, we thank you for supporting the people and places you value in your community.

Tribal colleges have faced myriad challenges as they continue to navigate a global pandemic and an economic recession. These institutions tend to be underresourced compared to other colleges and universities, and this year has seen rapid changes in learning needs that have been difficult to keep up with. From access to technology and adequate internet resources to commuting costs for students, tribal colleges are having to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing educational landscape. We encourage everyone to consider supporting tribal colleges in/near their home communities. Following is a list of tribal colleges in communities that WRFI has visited and supported over the years:


Anyone who has taken or taught a WRFI course at some point in the last seven years knows that Katie Nelson is the quiet, steady river that has kept our courses afloat. From logistics and gear coordination to instructor training and curriculum design, Katie has been an integral part of WRFI's success during her time serving as the organization's Field Education Coordinator. Katie recently made the decision to step away from her administrative role with WRFI in order to focus on other life projects, and we are simultaneously wistful at her departure and thrilled to see where she goes next. Most of all, we are endlessly grateful for her years of dedication to place-based learning with WRFI, and we are delighted that she will continue to teach in the field with WRFI during our upcoming field season.

It's difficult to articulate just how much we appreciate Katie as an educator, a colleague, and a friend. Her thoughtfulness and fierce love of place has inspired many generations of WRFI students, but those who know Katie best are those who have had the pleasure of working alongside her as co-instructors in the field:

"I saw just how much of a lasting impression [Katie] made on the students by how much they talked about [her]. 'Remember when Katie showed us...' or 'Will we see Katie at the end of the course?'"

"The Nelson Era of WRFI has been fantastic!"

"A HUGE thank-you to Katie for her leadership, energy, organization, and know-how. I could not have gotten started as an instructor without her encouragement and enthusiasm!"

"[Katie's] passion for the work is apparent, and a ton of the systems and organization [she] implemented will continue to benefit all of us, even as [she] steps away from the office position."

"Katie, you are a shining star and the organization will miss you dearly." 

Farewell for now, Katie! We're all looking forward to heading back into the field with you next year.

Meet Claire Stowe
When Claire first heard about WRFI as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she had just started getting into cycling. As an Environmental Studies student, WRFI's Cycle the Rockies course seemed like the perfect way to complement her studies in the classroom with some hands-on experience studying natural resources and climate change in Montana.

After applying and being accepted to WRFI's 2018 Cycle the Rockies course, Claire was excited, but also nervous. She had a bit of cycling experience, but she had never carried bags weighted down with gear on her bike, nor had she ever been on a trip lasting more than a week or two. However, within the first two days of her course, Claire's anxieties were put to rest. Most of her other classmates arrived with little to no prior cycling experience, and the course started off slowly to allow students to build up skills and strength. Claire also immediately made some amazing friends, which helped her feel right at home during her four weeks in the field.

Claire appreciated her time on Cycle the Rockies not only for the unique experience of seeing Montana by pedaling from east to west, but also for the diverse perspectives she encountered along the way. She was grateful for the opportunity to hear insights from local people about how climate change was impacting their everyday lives, and how certain communities depended so deeply on an industry like coal mining, often demonized in environmental studies circles.

Claire's WRFI course inspired her to become more involved with sustainability issues on her home campus, and she became an intern for the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, where she worked on implementing sustainable practices in different offices across campus. Now a recent graduate and WRFI Ambassador, she is pursuing work in environmental and social justice, and is hoping to find her way back west, towards the mountains. We hope to see you back in the Rockies soon, Claire!

Check out our WRFI goods

The shop is open! We've got some new apparel and Klean Kanteen tumblers in stock. Check out our WRFI gear collection in our online store, and stay tuned for an incoming supply of our first-ever WRFI calendar, coming soon!
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.