We are running the Outer Coast Year in person in Sitka during the 2020-21 academic year. To ensure the safety of students, staffulty, and the community of Sitka, we have implemented comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the fall, which you can find here.

Outer Coast Year 2020–21

The Outer Coast Year offers a diverse cohort of up to 20 Alaskan, Lower 48, and international high school graduates a transformative educational experience in Sitka, Alaska founded on the belief that students should have agency and ownership of every aspect of their academic and personal lives and the responsibility to positively affect the communities to which they belong.

Over the course of two 4-month semesters, students immerse themselves in fast-paced, intellectually rigorous academic coursework; engage in work-based service and meaningful labor in Sitka; and practice self-governance of key aspects of the Outer Coast experience. Through small seminars, close-knit residential living, and involvement in the wider Sitka community, Outer Coast Year students will learn how to identify, analyze, and address the challenges — both big and small — that face the world today.

Students in Sitka National Historical Park

Students gather for a convocation ceremony at Sitka National Historical Park and learn from Louise Brady about Lingít Aaní

Program Dates:

Fall Semester: Thursday, August 27th – Saturday, December 19th, 2020

Spring Semester: Thursday, January 14th – Saturday, May 8th, 2021


High school graduates or GED holders are eligible to apply for the Spring Semester until October 4, 2020. The application for the Fall Semester has closed.

Program Overview:

The Outer Coast Year rests on the three pillars of Academics, Service & Labor, and Self-governance. For more details on the Outer Coast Year, please see the Program Overview.

Students in Sitka

Imaan (Fishers, Indiana) and Tatum (Anchorage, AK) explore Sitka on their first day at the Outer Coast Year


During each semester, students will participate in two consecutive, seven-week, intellectually rigorous courses that introduce students to engaging, discussion-based learning. In small seminars, students must engage fully with the material, the faculty, and their peers. Students may have the option to receive grades and academic credit for their coursework.

Term 1 — Writing and Place: What is Home?

Sanjena Sathian

Sanjena Sathian, Novelist, MFA, Iowa Writers Workshop

Read the Writing and Place: What is Home? Course Spotlight

What does it mean to belong to a place? Can writing about a place make it home? Can reading about a place transport you there? In considering these questions, we’ll read Alaskan authors to develop a relationship to the world around OCC, as well as non-Alaskans. By the end of the course, we will have new writing but also, hopefully, a richer relationship to the geographies we call home.

Term 2 — Humans and Other Animals

David Egan

David Egan, DPhil, University of Oxford

What does it mean to be human? Attempts to answer this question often draw comparisons with animals: we’re animals too, but animals of a very special kind. The aim of this course is to think about what we are as human beings by considering the way we think about our relation to other animals. Questions we’ll ask include: What relevant differences (if any) might distinguish us from other animals? How do categories like natural/unnatural or wild/domesticated shape our understanding of other animals, and how do they shape our understanding of ourselves? In what ways and to what extent can the sorts of relationships that exist between humans (e.g. friendship, political community, sexual love) exist between a human being and an animal of another species? And with these questions in mind, we’ll consider some of the uses to which animals are put—as food, as subjects of scientific experiments, as pets, etc.—and ask what sorts of limits we ought to draw to their use in these contexts. The readings for the course are intended as a springboard for investigations that will range beyond the texts and take good advantage of the Sitka community as well as our own diverse experiences with animals.

Term 3 — Liberalism and the Legacy of Colonialism

Nicholas Gooding

Nicholas Gooding, PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Central to political liberalism is the idea that legitimate political institutions must respect the basic rights and liberties of the individual. It sounds like a fundamentally emancipatory idea, and yet its history has been intertwined with that of European colonialism. In this course, we will explore the relationship between liberalism as a political philosophy and colonialism (and its legacy) as a historical reality, focusing in particular on the colonization of North America and the experience of the people native to the continent. We will read works of political philosophy (from Hobbes and Locke to the present), as well as historical accounts both of the process of colonization and its ongoing impact.

Term 4 — Bodies and Boundaries

Katherine Ding

Katherine Ding, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Bodies are defined by their boundaries. We maintain our sense of integrity–as individuals and as a body politic–by continuously enforcing these boundaries and by imagining ourselves to be separate from the bodies existing beyond the lines we draw. But in an age of ecological disaster and mass global displacements, these assumptions are no longer tenable. Our course offers a bold thought experiment that we will collectively examine and revise: what happens if we stop enforcing these boundaries and instead embrace the body as a shifting material being in constant exchange with its environment, and thus whose boundaries are always porous and in flux?


Fall Semester (2020)

Date Event
August 27 Arrival
September 1 – 4 Orientation
September 7 – October 22 Term 1 — Writing and Place: What is Home?
October 23 – November 1 Fall Break
November 2 Mid-semester Reflection
November 3 – December 18 Term 2 — Humans and Other Animals
    November 26 – 27 No class
December 19 Departure

Spring Semester (2021)

Date Event
January 14 Arrival
January 19 – 22 Orientation
January 25 – March 11           Term 3 — Liberalism and the Legacy of Colonialism
March 12 – 21 Spring Break
March 22 Mid-semester Reflection
March 23 – May 7 Term 4 — Bodies and Boundaries
May 8 Departure