Traverse City Field School: Explore Water and "Wicked Problems"

Inland Seas Schooner

Sailing on a Research Schooner

Brown Bridge

Brown Bridge Dam

Boardman Lake


Course: INT 322 Wicked Problems of Sustainability (3 credits)

Dates: May 8th-27th 

Course capacity: 15 

This course engages students with place-based learning opportunities, including field experiences on the water and interaction with local stakeholders who help to address “wicked” water issues.  Through participatory research, students will gain experience and a deeper understanding of the complexity of wicked problem-solving. Interdisciplinary aspects of the environment, health, economic and social issues related to water will be explored.

Led by Professor. Kate Fairmanthis 3 week intensive course is hybrid, both online and in person

  • Week 1 - online instruction and learning
  • Week 2 - immersive in person participation in Traverse City
  • Week 3 - final week of online learning and reflection

The course meets online asynchronously May 8-13th. The course meets in-person for a place-based component in Traverse City, MI May 15-19th at various times during the day throughout the week. Each day will include a field activity, whether kayaking, biking, hiking or sailing.  Students can expect to be out in the elements, rain or shine. Students will also meet in the classroom, conference room or in the field with community stakeholders. The course meets online asynchronously May 20-27th. Students are responsible for their transportation to Traverse City and for lodging. There is a course fee of $245 to support experiential learning associated with the in-person components of the course. Part of the Sustainability Issue. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

Traverse City Week Agenda

All in person meeting dates, May 15th-19th and day trips are mandatory in order to pass this course. 

May 15th  Orient to the week ahead, discuss projects, visit wetlands and consider groundwater and other water issues as they impact the environment and human health. 

May 16th  Kayak the Boardman River, visit dam site. Participate in water testing analysis. 

May 17th  Sail on Inland Sea's research schooner, visit rain gardens and engage in conversations related to issues of microplastics, PFAs.

May 18th  Explore urban issues, bike riding around Boardman Lake, Botanical Garden presentations.

May 19th  Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, depart in the afternoon.

Please review the Policies and Guidelines as related to this course, if you require Disability Support Services please contact the office at 616.331.3880 or email [email protected]


*Subject to change with weather conditions



Blue Communities

Photo of Grand Traverse Bay by Jerry Stutzman

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes


Contact: Prof. Kate Fairman
Email:  [email protected]
Office: 231.995.1785

Page last modified January 31, 2023