Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2020

The Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2020 brought together 23 incredible students from across Alaska and the Lower 48 virtually for a five-week exploration of Outer Coast’s three pillars of Academics, Service & Labor, and Self Governance.

Due to circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, and concerns for the health and safety of Outer Coast students, faculty and staff, and the community of Sitka, the 2020 Summer Seminar became a virtual program for students to participate in from home. Read what the student body wrote about the program here!

Summer Seminar 2020 Course List

Intro to Applied Economics – The Economics of Rural Alaskan Water Utilities

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson, Natural Resources and Sustainability Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Read the Economics of Rural Alaskan Water Utilities Course Spotlight

In this course, students will learn applied economics by exploring the economics of drinking water and wastewater treatment systems in Alaska. Alaska has the highest rate of households without in-home access to drinking water and sanitation services in the United States. Why? We will answer this question using economics, which is the study of how we, as individuals or as a society, decide to allocate resources. We will learn about economies of scale, incentives, prices, and the laws of demand and supply. We will touch on the cultural dimension of economics and the colonial roots of infrastructure development in rural Alaska. Students will also collaborate on a research project, which will be published. By the end of this course students will be thinking like economists.

Indigenizing Futures: Healing Within and Against the Anthropocene

Sol Neely

Sol Neely (for his second year at Outer Coast!), Associate Professor of English and Philosophy, University of Alaska Southeast

The term “Anthropocene,” which has gained a lot of traction both for climate scientists and activists, occasions an important critical framework for rendering legible the role of human development in visibly affecting the geological record. However, the term has also come under scrutiny by Indigenous scholars and activists who see it as both irreducibly Eurocentric and as obscuring long Indigenous traditions of climate justice and stewardship. In this seminar, we will take up these Indigenous critiques within and against appeal to the Anthropocene. We will begin by analyzing global climate change as an extension and intensification of colonialism, giving due critical attention to the economic, environmental, and cultural sorrows of late-stage capitalism. Then, we will draw from a broad array of interdisciplinary and Indigenous source materials — from origin stories to Indigenous futurisms — in order to imagine decolonial futures rooted in Indigenous land management, economic equity, and environmental justice.

Living a Democratic Life

Joel Schlosser

Joel Schlosser, Associate Professor of Political Science, Bryn Mawr College

Read the Living a Democratic Life Course Spotlight

What are we talking about when we talk about democracy? This course will examine the history, theory, and practice of democracy from its origins in ancient Athens to the present day. Is democracy a matter of political institutions or does it require a particular culture and set of beliefs? What obligations does a citizen of a democracy have? Do we even want to live in a democracy? Approaching these questions from a variety of angles, we will also seek to reflect on the powers and responsibilities of self-governance at Outer Coast. What does it mean to participate in a self-governing community? How can self-governance at Outer Coast inform governance in political life more broadly? Readings will include ancient Greek drama and philosophy, American history and literature, and contemporary film.

Tlingit Language and Indigenous Studies


X’unei Twitchell (for his third year at Outer Coast!), Associate Professor of Alaska Native Languages, University of Alaska Southeast

This course will be an intensive that teaches students the Tlingit language and also introduces a number of critical concepts in the field of Indigenous Studies. The daily activities of the class will be divided between language learning and use and the exploration of topics in Indigenous Studies in a place-based and safe learning environment.