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Study abroad in Africa

Bhutan: Himalayan Studies (SFS)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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The School for Field Studies (SFS) program curriculum and research agenda address issues related to modernization in Bhutan: the support of rural livelihoods and the conservation of biodiversity in the face of a changing society and landscape. By getting to know the local and national institutions that contribute to the management and governance of environmental resources, students gain an appreciation of the complexity of identifying and addressing conservation issues in a developing region. SFS staff and students, in collaboration with the program partner, the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), focus on enhancing the condition of forest, river and mountain ecosystems while balancing modernization and cultural preservation. SFS students contribute to the advancement of SFS and UWICE's shared research agenda in several priority areas including sustainable forestry, conservation biology, water resources, socioeconomics, well-being and policy. Underlying themes of the joint research students and faculty undertake include biodiversity conservation, natural resource and water management, rural-urban migration, climate change impacts and adaptations, and sustainable livelihoods.

The semester curriculum comprises three thematic components, all centered on the environment:

  • People's relationship with nature: students explore the human-nature interface through the lenses of religion, society, and culture, striving to uncover the knowledge, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about nature from an array of stakeholders. Students evaluate human dependence on and vulnerabilities to the processes, resources and events in nature.
  • Democratization, governance and rural development: students learn about the policies and institutions in Bhutan that provide conditions necessary for livelihood security, good governance and equitable socioeconomic development.
  • Ecology, conservation, and resource management: students study key species and their habitats, as well as Bhutan's conservation and natural resource management strategies - main pillars supporting human welfare and economic development in Bhutan.

The three-month program operates primarily in the forests, fields and villages of the central district of Bumthang. Trekking across valleys and ridges  and through villages, students learn about culture, Buddhist philosophy, and environmental  issues, and gain an intimate knowledge of the local ecosystems and rural livelihoods. Students develop skills in assessing environmental problems, defining research questions, conducting field research and communicating results.

Learn more about the SFS Bhutan: Himalayan Studies program.

Credits:  4.5 Knox credits for successful completion of the fall or spring semester.

Advisor: Professor Katherine Adelsburger

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, May 23, 2022