• Classroom by a river

Whatever your interest, you can deepen and expand your education by studying off campus. This includes intensive, in-depth courses during May term, a semester at an EcoLeague school, or special courses at a partner organization. There is something right for you.

Academic Coursework Options

This is a sampling of courses Northland offers. Subjects and availability vary.

Geology of the Lake Superior Region
In this field course, students examine the rocks of the Lake Superior region to decipher the long, complex history of the area. The course includes travel to spectacular geologic and scenic areas for first-hand experience with the geology of the region.

Pens & Paddles in the North Woods
This wilderness-based literature and writing course includes reading and writing about the north woods, a visit to Sigurd Olson’s Listening Point, backcountry service work, and fifteen days of paddling in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.

Geology & Landscapes of the American Southwest
A field-intensive course focusing on the unique geology, geologic history, and landscapes of selected national parks of the southwestern United States. Travel destinations include Great Basin, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, and Canyonlands National Parks.

Lake Superior Circumnavigation
In this May-term travel course, students explore the Lake Superior watershed as they circumnavigate the Lake by voyageur canoe, hiking trail, and road.

Mesoscale Meteorology
By applying atmospheric dynamics and physical analysis techniques, students develop a physical understanding of and an ability to forecast certain mesoscale phenomena. The final week of the course includes a storm chasing trip to Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Outdoor Education Practicum
Students lead environmental education lessons at the Audubon Center of the North Woods and for Minnesota charter schools. Lessons are developed on the basis of field investigations and environmental education techniques and strategies.

Wilderness Instructor Training
Students plan and participate in a three-week-long wilderness expedition. While traveling by land or water, students study and practice navigation, cooking, campcraft, technical skills, risk management, group process, leadership, and teaching techniques.

Teaching in Environmental Education
Students investigate the field of environmental education through teaching classes to K-12 students while staying at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota. Students analyze curricular resources and develop outdoor teaching techniques through peer teaching opportunities with Wolf Ridge ELC instructors. Students learn how to use the outdoors to provide K-12 students with opportunities to connect their learning to the natural world


The EcoLeague is a consortium of six colleges and universities that share missions based on environmental responsibility and social change. All of them have strong environmental studies, environmental science, and outdoor education programs. Small classes with personal attention are emphasized along with experiential education that provides real world experience.

The EcoLeague gives you the opportunity to spend a semester at a different school to experience a different part of the country, different faculty, and different ways of thinking. Learn more.

Participating Schools:

  • Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage, AK)
  • College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME)
  • Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
  • Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
  • Northland College (Ashland, WI)
  • Prescott College (Prescott, AZ)

Outward Bound

Northland College has paired up with Outward Bound, the premier provider of experience-based outdoor leadership programs. Outward Bound courses change lives and give you the tools to see further, climb higher and know your way.

Seek challenge and embark on a backpacking trip, mountaineering class, kayaking adventure, sailing trip or an urban expedition in your community and take home real leadership skills and the courage to follow your own path. Courses are not guided trips. They are real expeditions that cross rugged, beautiful terrain with challenges designed to reveal your strengths.

National Outdoor Leadership School

NOLS takes people of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions, teaching technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics in some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring classrooms. With courses ranging from ten days to a full academic year, NOLS attracts highly motivated students who want to learn how to lead. The hands on, learn-by-doing approach means that graduates get the skills they need to be competent, responsible wilderness travelers long after your course is over.

Wild Rockies Field Institute

WRFI is a unique organization whose courses explore the complex cultural, political and natural histories of some of the most interesting and beautiful landscapes in North America. A combination of rigorous academic inquiry, cultural immersion, and extended backcountry expeditions, the courses are designed to take students into the arenas where the subject matter they are studying—from ecology to contemporary resource management policy—unfolds before their eyes.

Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA)

HECUA has a forty-plus year history of leading students out of the classroom and into real relationships with people and organizations working for change. HECUA’s academically rigorous programs in Ecuador, Italy, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, and the United States focus on the need for equity, social change, and imaginative approaches to difficult problems. Each semester-long program aims to empower students and highlight their ability to advocate effectively for change in the world and at home.

In the United States, HECUA’s long standing relationships with community partners in St. Paul and Minneapolis allow for meaningful internships at a range of placement sites. Students benefit from the guidance and support of HECUA’s internships and community partnerships manager, who meets with participants multiple times throughout the semester. Program alumni report that HECUA programs facilitate access to advanced study, employment, and engagement in their communities and in the world.

Programs in the United States are divided into specific areas of interest, such as inequality in America, art for social change, environmental sustainability, media for change, agriculture and justice, and race in American. All programs are based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, unless otherwise indicated.