A Letter from the Director
Greetings from the shores of Lake Tahoe! It is my privilege to welcome you to this very special and iconic place in the American West and in God’s created order.
Over the course of 13 weeks, we will explore the question, "What is Nature?" with our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. Inherent in this question are other questions related to our relationship with the environment and our responsibility for preserving it. The lake, forests, and mountains surrounding us offer an ideal setting in which to take up our task.
Contemporary philosophers and scientists of note agree that the dominant feature of postmodern life is fragmentation. Sadly, this fragmentation impacts even the college experience where one’s spiritual, academic, and social lives can exist in almost entirely separate spheres of experience. The goal the Tahoe Semester is to decrease our fragmentation by seeing how different academic disciplines and different people interrelate, and how each of us can bring the body, mind and spirit into a greater unity through a deeper understanding of our world and where we fit in.
As a professor of philosophy and director of the Lake Tahoe Semester, I have been helping students integrate the exploration of wilderness and academic pursuits for more than 20 years. I started in much the same way that you are starting right now, by participating in an undergraduate program that combined academic inquiry with wilderness exploration in a small, tightly-knit community. The experience of connecting wilderness with classroom learning in a close community left an indelible mark on me and I arranged for my graduate work to be done in a place where I could ski, climb, and mountain bike. I ended up writing my dissertation on Aristotle, as he was someone who knew a great deal about the integration of the natural world and the mind.
I have seen, first-hand, how a community of learners can be transformed, individually and as a group, through a program like the Tahoe Semester . Your experiences during our time together in this beautiful setting will produce a more intrepid mind (and heart) in while greatly increasing the likelihood that you make new life-long friends--not just with fellow students and faculty, but with the indigenous people from this area you will encounter along the way.
My hope for you this semester is that you will become more socially and environmentally aware and more whole--that you will walk away from this experience not only with a better understanding of the environment, but with a greater appreciation of our natural world and how we can preserve it for future generations.
David Williams, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy