Author: Steve Mintz

Geographer Kat Hannum Latest Dean’s Teaching Showcase Selection

College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) Dean Ravindra Pandey selected Kathryn (Kat) Hannum as the featured instructor this week for the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Nominated by Department of Social Sciences Chair Don Lafreniere, Hannum will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Kathryn Hannum
Kathryn (Kat) Hannum Dean’s Teaching Showcase Selection

An assistant teaching professor of geography, Hannum’s expertise is in migration and nationalism. She recently published a book titled “Nationalism” (Routledge 2023) outlining how this global ideology is one of the dominant political forces in the modern world. Nationalism shapes geographical concepts such as territory, homelands, boundaries, and frontiers.

The World is the Classroom for Dean’s Teaching Showcase Winner

An exceptional scholar in the classroom, Hannum’s conception of “classroom” is very different from most instructors at Michigan Tech. As a geographer, she uses the world as her classroom. Hannum leads numerous study-abroad programs in Mexico and Costa Rica. She supports other programs in Wales and a domestic program where students travel across the United States on Amtrak.

In each of these programs, Hannum engages students to think critically about culture and their roles as global citizens in an increasingly interconnected world. She teaches about the impacts of tourism development and tourism-driven migration on regions, as well as how to promote sustainable tourism while understanding the role such development has on national, regional and Indigenous identities. In the rainforests of Costa Rica and the small Mayan villages of Mexico, she introduces students firsthand to the ways human actions impact the human and natural worlds, highlighting the interconnectivity and complexity of our globalized world.

Hannum believes strongly that when students travel, they can engage with the impact that humans have on the world in a deeply personal way. She employs journaling during her study away programs. Students write daily reflections on the lessons learned. They reflect on how their decisions impact the people and environments experienced on the trip.

She also uses social labs, in which students in the class give back to the communities they are visiting. In Mexico, these labs have included projects that support increasing beachfront access for locals in areas of increased exclusion due to tourism developments. Students examine ways to protect village life and culture, too.

Hannum’s Community and Global Focus Praised

Lafreniere praised the impact of Hannum’s teaching and scholarship. “Dr. Hannum’s focus is on supporting communities,” he said. “As a scholar-teacher, she challenges students not to just be consumers of knowledge, but to take their unique skills and passions to make the communities they visit more sustainable, vibrant places.”

Maria Bergstrom, associate dean for undergraduate education in the CSA, noted the importance of Hannum’s curricular innovations. “Michigan Tech students of all majors have benefited from participating in Dr. Hannum’s global classrooms — gaining a broader perspective and a better understanding of how communities are impacted as new practices and technologies are introduced,” she said. “The study abroad and study away programs developed by Dr. Hannum and others at Michigan Tech have also served as an inspiration for aspects of the new Essential Education program, particularly the Essential Education Experience, which seeks to provide similar community engagement opportunities for all undergraduates. We are grateful for her leadership in developing this type of experiential education at Michigan Tech.”

About the Social Sciences Department at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in AnthropologyPolicy and Community DevelopmentSustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a master’s in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

In-Print: Langston Quoted On Michigan Climate Change Impacts

Nancy Langston
Nancy Langston

Bridge Michigan quoted Nancy Langston in a story about the impacts of climate change on Michigan winters. The article highlights the residents whose identities and livelihoods are tied to the winter season. The Michigan climate change impacts story also ran in Bridge Detroit.

Image by Nancy Langston's quote on Bridge Michigan and Detroit about Climate Change Impacts
There’s much less snowmobiling in the UP this winter

“We’re northern people, who have chosen to live in a cold, remote place at the edge of the universe. And people who live here are really proud of that. Who we are is shaped by our relationships not just with other humans, but our relationships with the trees around us, the snow, the caribou, the fish, sturgeon … these relationships are pulling apart.”

Nancy Langston, Bridge Michigan

About the Social Sciences Department at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in AnthropologyPolicy and Community DevelopmentSustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a master’s in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

Meyer Fun Facts Podcast Features Steven Walton

Steven Walton was a guest on a Meyer Fun Facts podcast released on February 7. He appeared in the episode entitled “Project ELF.” The podcast centers on the Cold War-era use of extremely low-frequency (ELF) lines in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin to facilitate top-secret military communications. Walton discusses the science and technology behind the communication system intended to keep in contact with American submarines around the world.

Walton touched on a variety of topics. For instance, environmentalists expressed concern about project impacts on the Northwoods. Walton visited Michigan Tech’s role in later iterations of the project planned for the Upper Peninsula, too. In addition, Walton reviewed the political controversy and protests surrounding the ELF projects. Finally, Walton reviews the project timeline from the 1950’s through 2004.

About the Meyer Fun Facts Podcast

Started by Steve Meyer, the Meyer Fun Facts podcast became a way for Meyer to fill his time during retirement. His podcast visits different people, places, and moments of interest throughout history. The podcast can be found on iTunes, Spotify, and most other podcast platforms.

About the Social Sciences Department at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in AnthropologyPolicy and Community DevelopmentSustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a master’s in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

In Media: Mark Rhodes on the Role of Coal in Industrial Heritage and National Identity in Wales

Mark Rhodes
Mark Rhodes

Mark Rhodes, assistant professor of geography was a guest on the Tourism Geographies Podcast last Friday (Nov. 24). The episode centered on a recently published paper co-authored by Rhodes which traces the role of coal in industrial heritage and national identity in Wales over the past 60 years. Discussion topics included the value of historical and contemporary research at heritage sites; how such work can reveal the complexity of identity; and how nations, memories, and our collective heritage change with time, political shifts, and cultural expression.

About the Social Sciences Department at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in AnthropologyPolicy and Community DevelopmentSustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a master’s in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

Keweenaw Time Traveler Wins Historical Society of Michigan Best Website Award

The Keweenaw Time Traveler won the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) 2023 State History Award in the category of Websites. This prestigious award recognizes the hard work of the team led by Don LaFreniere, Sarah Scarlett, and John Arnold. The internet has transformed the world of historical research. The Keweenaw Time Traveler uses spatial data infrastructure to create a website that allows researchers to access detailed information through a “deep map” with layers of historical data and maps. It is also interactive, allowing professionals and amateurs alike to contribute data to the site. The digital archive covers Michigan’s “Copper Country” from 1880 to 1970 and will continue to grow in the future.

Don Lafreniere
Don Lafreniere

“There is so much that goes into a project of this scale and the fact we have been recognized by the Historical Society of Michigan is a testment to every contributor,” said Don Lafreniere, Social Sciences Department chair, professor of geography and GIS, and director of the Geospatial Research Facility. “Our current project team members and our time traveler alumni have contributed thousands of hours in the collection, digitizing and linking historical records that make up our massive database as well as the digitization and referencing of the hundreds of historic maps present on the Keweenaw Time Traveler.”

Sarah Scarlett
Photo: Keweenaw Time Traveler

Lafreniere is thankful for the generous support of project funders including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council of Library and Information Resources, as well as support from the Geospatial Research Facility and the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University. “Of course, none of this would be possible without our heritage partners and the thousands of individuals who use the Keweenaw Time Traveler to explore and share memories of our Copper Country past. I thank them so much for their support!”

The Keweenaw Time Traveler team will be recognized during the 149th Annual Meeting and Michigan History Conference on September 22-24, 2023. The Society presents the State History Awards every year to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation, collection, preservation, and/or promotion of state and local history. The awards are the highest recognition presented by HSM, the state’s official historical society and oldest cultural organization. 

The Historical Society of Michigan is the state’s oldest cultural organization, founded in 1828. A nongovernmental nonprofit, the Society focuses on publications, conferences, education, awards and recognition programming, and support for local history organizations to preserve and promote Michigan’s rich history.

Kendra Lachik Reflects on COP27 Experience

Keweenaw Now recently published a blog post written by Kendra Lachik ‘23 (environmental engineering) about presentations given by Michigan Tech’s delegation to the COP27 climate conference, held in November of 2023 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. MTU students Anna Kavanaugh (environmental engineering, sustainability science and society), Rose Daily (environmental engineering) and Alexis Pascaris (environmental and energy policy) were quoted in the article about their experiences at the conferences.

You can read Kendra’s article on Keweenaw Now.

Completing the Industrial Heritage Narrative Puzzle

Larissa Juip
Larissa Juip, industrial narrative researcher and Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellow. Courtesy of Amethyst Imagery (Hancock, MI)

Can you complete a jigsaw puzzle without using all the pieces? Similarly, you cannot accurately complete the industrial heritage narrative of a place without incorporating the knowledge and voice of all actors. Each voice represents diverse perspectives, experiences, and contributions across a wide range of those who lived it. Each voice is a single piece in the jigsaw puzzle of that narrative. But the narrative is often recorded and written by those in positions of power and privilege. This leaves out the voices of underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous people, and others who have faced discrimination and marginalization.

Often the challenge is how do you acquire narratives from underrepresented groups? Simply asking may not work. Individuals may have other priorities. They might be distrustful of historians like those who have misrepresented them in the past. They may be unresponsive to a stranger who has yet to build trust with them or their community.

Adding Indigenous and Descendant Voices to Industrial Heritage Narratives

Larissa Juip, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology PhD candidate is looking to change that. She is one of 45 2023 Mellon/The American Council of Learned Societies (Mellon/ACLS) Dissertation Innovation Fellowship recipients. Each fellow receives a $50,000 award, consisting of a $40,000 stipend for the fellowship year; $8,000 for project-related research, training, professional development, and travel expenses; and a $2,000 stipend to support external mentorship and advising that offers critical perspectives and expertise on the fellow’s project.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship awardees embark on innovative dissertation research projects. Larissa’s “Re-Storying an Industrial Landscape: Moving Beyond Traditional Approaches to Heritage Interpretation” project seeks to show Indigenous methodologies of storywork and photovoice can be used for traditional knowledge sharing to advance inclusive, equitable heritage interpretation practices with Indigenous and Descendant communities to produce an integrated model and framework for industrial heritage sites to co-create heritage interpretation. Larissa’s research will be guided by the Two Row Wampum Belt. It is a symbol of peace, equity, and respect that affirms the spirit and intent of a relationship. 

This is among the highest honors a graduate student can receive.

Don Lafreniere, Social Sciences department chair, Michigan Tech

“The American Council of Learned Societies is the preeminent organization that promotes American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences,” said Don Lafreniere, chair of Michigan Technological University’s Social Sciences department. “Larissa is a rising leader in the field and this honor highlights the importance of her work and the quality of scholarship produced by students in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology.”

Larissa observed how industrial heritage sites in Minnesota’s ‘Iron Range’ often excluded Indigenous and Descendant community narratives detailing their relationships with iron mining. She will explore the following: What relationships do Indigenous and Descendant community members have with historic and contemporary iron mining in Minnesota’s ‘Iron Range,’ and how can industrial heritage sites co-create interpretation through inclusive, equitable engagement practices to tell these stories?

Making Industrial Heritage Narratives More Inclusive

The exclusion of narratives in heritage interpretation is neither a new problem nor rare.

Larissa Juip

“This research investigates the specific case of mining heritage in the Vermilion and Mesabi [Minneota mining region] and asks how heritage sites in these landscapes can be more inclusive of the multitude of existing narratives,” Larissa explains. “First, these narratives must be revealed: what relationships do Indigenous and Descendant community members have with iron mining (historic and contemporary) in Minnesota’s ‘Iron Range’? Second, relationships between heritage sites and communities must be formed: how can industrial heritage sites in Minnesota’s ‘Iron Range’ co-create heritage interpretation that tells these stories? Finally, an example of best practices must be developed to promote this co-creation: what does an integrated model and framework for inclusive, equitable engagement practices look like? By answering these three questions, this research works to understand how heritage sites can move beyond traditional approaches to heritage interpretation to present more inclusive and equitable site narratives.”

Larissa Juip looking at quarry ruins on a hillside
Overlooking the Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis, Wales, UK on a research trip in August 2022

Larissa’s work is notable on many levels. “It is particularly impactful for a student at Michigan Tech to be recognized for their efforts by the American Council of Learned Societies,” said Will Cantrell, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan Tech. “This award, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, is designed to foster scholars who can build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable academy, and I am particularly pleased that Larissa has been recognized for this. It is a testament to her, to the guidance from her advisor, Dr. Baird, and to the support from her department, Social Sciences.”

Larissa’s project will go a long way to help others create more inclusive industrial heritage narratives. “Larissa is part of the new wave of engaged scholars in the academy that are creating new methodologies that create equitable and inclusive places,” said Melissa F. Baird, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Michigan Tech. “Her project centers on equitable histories – that is, restorying the industrial landscape histories of a historical mining region in Minnesota. Until now, most of these stories have focused on stories of men and might, histories of technological innovations, and the story of industry over the environment. Her work broadens these interpretations, recenters community experiences, and assesses how communities living and working in these regions understand and navigate these histories. She is truly extraordinary, and I feel honored to work with and learn from her.”

Q&A with Larissa Juip

We had a chance to sit down with Larissa, and delve deeper into the fellowship, her research, her plans for the future, and how she will help to complete the industrial heritage narrative puzzle.

Q: What does this fellowship mean to you? What will it help you to achieve?

Larissa: Receiving this fellowship means several things to me. As an Indigenous scholar, my approach to research often falls outside of the ‘norm’ for academia, so having my work recognized by Mellon/ACLS is huge in terms of validating my non-traditional approach to research. The fellowship also shows how timely and valuable my research is. Having this fellowship provides me with the opportunity to practice the kind of meaningful relationship-building that I had hoped to do by helping to extend my research timeline so that the communities I am engaged with do not feel rushed in the relationship and research process.

I feel very lucky to have received this fellowship. I also want to acknowledge the help and support from Drs. Melissa Baird, Angie Carter, and Valoree Gagnon for helping me write the proposal for this award, and my committee as a whole for helping me to frame my research and develop my unique approach over the last few years.

Larissa Juip

Q: Please tell me about your research? What is it about? What are you hoping to learn? How will society benefit?

Larissa talking to two indigenous students in the forest
Working as a Minnesota DNR State Park Naturalist at Lake Bemidji State Park in 2018 with a group of Indigenous students from Leech Lake Tribal College.

Larissa: My research is about uncovering hidden narratives from Indigenous and Descendant communities of Minnesota’s ‘Iron Range’ about iron mining (past, present, and future). Ultimately, I hope to collaboratively produce an example of best practices for engaging with these communities for improving the industrial heritage interpretation that is currently in existence, as well as future interpretive ventures. I believe this research is beneficial for several reasons. First and foremost, it works to uncover hidden narratives that have been excluded from heritage interpretation; this exclusion further dispossesses Indigenous and Descendant communities. Second, it promotes more holistic heritage interpretation that promotes diversity and truth-telling at heritage sites. Finally, the example of best practices has the potential to be used by other systematically marginalized communities with relationships to industry to share their own narratives at industrial heritage sites.

Q: The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship program is designed to support emerging scholars as they pursue bold and innovative research in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. What is bold about your research?

Larissa: I believe that the ‘bold’ part of my research is threefold. First, my research is built on the framework of the Two Row Wampum Paradigm, a research framework and methodology that centers relationships, promotes intergenerational learning and sharing, flattens power dynamics between researchers and community members by elevating community members to co-researcher, and recognizes that researchers and communities can engage in research together with different goals and not be in conflict.

Second, the combined methods of Indigenous storywork and photovoice bridge traditional methods of knowledge sharing through storytelling with the physical remains of industry on the landscape, creating space for stories that coexist alongside ruins in a way that is currently not present in industrial heritage sites in my research area. Finally, I am promoting a culturally competent informed consent process by using tobacco as a traditional method of asking co-researchers to share their knowledge and the creation of a wampum belt as a method of obtaining and recording informed consent, as well as a traditional method of recording my research.

Q: The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship program funds “research projects cultivating greater openness to new sources of knowledge, innovation in scholarly communication, and, above all, responsiveness to the interests and histories of people of color and other historically marginalized communities, including (but not limited to) Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous communities from around the world; people with disabilities; queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people; and people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.” How does your research fit into that narrative?

Larissa: My research not only centers Indigenous research paradigms and methods, but it also centers the voices of Indigenous and Descendant communities in industrial heritage landscapes where they are frequently excluded. Typically, the narrative about industry and Indigenous Peoples presents these communities as ‘victims’ of industry, removed from their homelands or worse. The reality is that in many cases, Indigenous Peoples not only continued to live in areas where industrial activity was happening, but they often were participants in that activity in various ways; this narrative is in direct conflict with the idea that all Indigenous Peoples are environmentalists who are opposed to all forms of industry, a narrative that dispossesses both historic and contemporary populations that have a more complex relationship with industrial activities like mining.

Q: What do you hope to do once you receive your PhD?

Larissa: I am very passionate about being an educator. I have served in a variety of formal and informal education roles previously, from licensed teacher to naturalist to heritage interpreter to environmental education lesson writer. I think there are a lot of things I can do with a PhD, but my goal is ultimately to be able to continue to serve the communities that I work with through my capacity as an educator, especially in higher education. I think that serving as an educator in this capacity provides me with the opportunity to help inform the next generation of researchers, heritage practitioners, and community leaders to address some of the gaps in our current approaches to heritage interpretation.

Q: Why did you choose to study here at Michigan Tech?

Larissa: Michigan Tech was actually on my radar when I pursued my master’s degree, and I may have chosen it if I had a connection at that point in my life to industrial heritage, but that was several years down the road. I chose Michigan Tech because I worked as an interpretive mine guide at the Soudan Underground Mine in northeastern Minnesota for several years. In this position, I built relationships with community members on the Iron Range and developed a passion for industrial heritage, but I also saw gaps in the site’s heritage interpretation that many of my non-Indigenous colleagues did not. Michigan Tech’s program was a good fit for me to propose a research project that could work towards addressing those gaps by working with faculty with a variety of research and work experiences, including work with Indigenous communities.

Larissa and James Juip with their daughter
The Juip family at Calumet Lake

Q: What do you like the most about Michigan Tech?

Larissa: Am I allowed to say that my favorite thing about Michigan Tech is the location? When I lived in Soudan previously, the community feel was something that I appreciated so much, and we’ve (my family and I) been able to experience that living in Calumet. It’s not something you can easily find in a major city. The presence of the industrial heritage on the landscape is also something I really appreciate because students in our department are able to engage with industrial heritage literally in their backyards, it’s not something abstract or far away.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a fellow graduate student looking to acquire a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship?

Larissa: I see a lot of graduate students kind of get ‘talked out’ of doing their research in novel ways because the faculty they work with are unfamiliar with it. Most of my committee was unfamiliar with my approach, too. So I guess my advice to other graduate students who would consider applying for this fellowship is to stand strong in the approach you want to take, which often means exerting extra effort to explain it to those around you so they have the opportunity to understand it for themselves and see the value in what you are doing. Don’t be afraid to include yourself in your research!

Q: What would you say to students interested in studying industrial heritage?

Larissa: I would tell students that are interested in studying industrial heritage to spend some time as a heritage interpreter! Especially if they live in the area, there are so many opportunities to have summer employment at an industrial heritage site, and you’ll learn a lot about industrial heritage that you can’t really learn in the classroom.

Q: What is your dream job?

Larissa pointing out features to tourists underground in the mine
Larissa worked as an interpretive mine guide at the Soudan Underground Mine

Larissa: I have several dream jobs actually, and they’re pretty tied for which I would prefer. I would love to be able to travel to different communities, all over, and help them have their stories included in industrial heritage interpretation. I would also really love to establish a Great Lakes industrial heritage consortium for industrial heritage practitioners, professionals, and students to be able to share resources and gain access to heritage interpretation training, as a space for these groups to collaborate with each other, and as an organization that could offer consulting services to help industrial heritage sites in the region meet their site-specific needs and goals for interpretation.

And I would love to find a faculty position at a university, ideally somewhere around Lake Superior. Faculty at Tech would probably be my top choice, simply because of the relationships we’ve formed and the community we’ve built. I think there’s a lot of potential here for building out an Indigenous Studies program on campus that not only offers courses, but also engages with the wider community about Indigenous topics, supports current and incoming Indigenous students by creating a community for them, and forming stronger relationships with Keweenaw Bay and Lac Vieux Desert to encourage more students from those communities to choose Tech for their education needs so they can stay closer to home.

In Print: Kari Henquinet in International Educator Magazine

Kari Henquinet
Kari Henquinet

Kari Henquinet is quoted multiple times by International Educator Magazine in the story “Leading from the Middle” in its January 2023 issue. Henquinet shares her experiences leading and advocating for international education programs in higher education in the story, which discussed effective strategies for mid-level leaders in higher ed. Mid-level staff can be effective leaders—even when they lack official authority or decision-making power.

Among her quotes:

January 2023 cover of International Educator Magazine
Kari Henquinet is quoted in the January 2023
issue of International Educator Magazine

Kari recommends that middle managers “try to cultivate relationships with influential people in your institution—people who have the ear of the upper administration or get to sit at the table for decisions that are made,” she says. “Pay attention to new initiatives, strategic plans, trends in higher education, so that you can get involved and support these on your campus in a way that positively impacts international education.”

When asked about mid-level managers, Kari says, ““These are people who have a measure of humility and listen for new perspectives and information. They will step up to do the hard work of researching and proposing ideas that are based on sound policies, facilitate complex conversations, and get buy-in or constructive criticism through each step of the process.”

They “communicate their work and results clearly and widely to draw attention to their contributions,” Henquinet said. “There is often a lot of good work that goes unnoticed in international education. The more a leader can make this work a point of pride and prestige for their institution, the better the chances are for more support and recognition.”

On what motivates her to be a leader: “It is usually the students who ultimately give me that motivation to be a leader,” says Henquinet. “I want them to have the opportunities to develop diverse relationships, find support networks while in a new place, build confidence speaking a second or third language, and know the power of experiential learning through study abroad, research and professional experiences.”

Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in Anthropology, Policy and Community Development, Sustainability Science and Society, and Social Science, along with a bachelor of arts degree in History. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental and Energy Policy and Industrial Heritage and Architecture (the only one of its kind in the world), and a masters in Sustainable Communities. Plus, you can get a graduate certificate in Public Policy in by taking three courses in just one term.

Questions? Contact us at And follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest happenings.

Amtrak Study Away is on Track for 2023

Amtrak passenger train in the mountains
Amtrak’s California Zephyr winds its way through the Colorado Rockies

Last summer, 18 Michigan Tech students boarded a train. They spent 18 days traversing the US practicing and learning about sustainable tourism. Amtrak Study Away directors Mark Rhodes, assistant professor of geography and heritage, and Kathryn Hannum, teaching assistant professor and Policy and Community Development advisor for the Department of Social Sciences, helped the students navigate the US passenger rail service off and on across 6 different cities.

For 20 days, students solely utilized public transit to explore the concepts of sustainable tourism and planning, landscape analysis, and urban deindustrialization. They spent two nights in independently-run hotels across each of the 6 stops and cities along the Empire Builder and California Zephyr Amtrak routes. Students saw firsthand how tourism has been incorporated and resisted from national parks to major metros, to deindustrialized small towns. Students frequently met with city planners, government officials, urban and sustainability studies scholars, and stakeholders in the heritage and hospitality industries.

“Amtrak is a great means for students to learn that not all places see tourism as a net gain. Some places, especially our national parks like Glacier are beginning to combat overtourism. Our students get to speak to local stakeholders to understand many different perspectives on tourism and sustainability,” Rhodes said.

The Community/Real World is the Classroom

Amtrak Study Away directors Dr. Mark Rhodes and Dr. Kathryn Hannum
Faculty directors, Dr. Mark Rhodes and Dr. Kathryn Hannum

In creating the Amtrak program, Rhodes drew inspiration from other geographers who suggest we need more community-based learning field experiences. Much of Rhodes’s thinking comes from Houston and Lange who aim to destabilize the idea of the “real world/campus and field/classroom” in favor of a more co-constructive and integrated learning experience. Rhodes was able to bring the program to fruition through funding from Michigan Tech’s Next-Gen Gen-Ed, the Institute for Sustainabilty and Resilience, and the Department of Social Sciences.
“It is exciting to give our students a truly immersive and hands-on experience. On the Amtrak program, classes were held on the train, in hotel lobbies, in restaurants, and in actual classrooms. Simultaneously, those spaces functioned as a living laboratory for engaging fieldwork. And the train serves as a mobile dormitory, with dining, recreational, and sleeping areas,” Rhodes said. “Interactions with communities were in dialogue, not scientific observation or one-way explanations. Students brought those experiences, observations, and perspectives back to campus and the Keweenaw via a public event. Students presented key findings, engaged in Q&A, and discussed ideas for how the UP can benefit from tourism, if done sustainably.”
“Being able to compare many different cities, places, and environments in such a short period of time was eye-opening,” said Nick Hatley, an Amtrak Study Away participant and mechanical engineering major. “It was also my first time on a train. It was a unique travel experience.”

Sustainability Science in Society

The Amtrak Study Away program offered other unique opportunities for students. Of the 18 students, three students presented on the possibilities of study away and Amtrak within the realm of sustainability and equity at the Global and Community Engagement conference. Four students will travel to the Annual Meeting of American Association of Geographers in Denver, Colorado to sit on a domestic study away experience panel while also presenting their original research.
The Amtrak Study Away program changed perceptions too. Following the program, 87% of the students stated their perception of public transit changed positively. Post-trip, students responded with a 4.6/5 that they were “extremely likely” to “seek out public transit in the future” and that they were also “extremely likely” (4.7/5) to ride Amtrak again.

All-Aboard for Amtrak Study Away 2023

Applications are now open for Amtrak Tourism 2023 (application and deposit deadline is January 13, 2023), where students can pay just $1000, plus tuition, and experience 6 unique landscapes and many tourism, sustainable planning, and governmental organizations. Program fees include all lodging, transportation, activities (such as a Portland Thorns soccer game, a Local Roots food tour, and the Glenwood Springs hot spring). Students will hike Glacier National Park, help keep Portland Weird, and receive a tour of Knox Farm’s sustainable urban agriculture. Follow all the Amtrak Study Away program exploits from 2022 on Instagram. Reach out to Mark Rhodes with questions.

About the Social Sciences Department

Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University helps students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. We use tools from anthropology, geography, history, political science, and sociology to help find sustainable solutions to complex problems. The department offers five undergraduate degrees, five graduate degrees, and one graduate certificate program in public policy. Regardless of the path you choose, our faculty will help you lay the foundation for a meaningful career.

Robert Hazen, Michigan Tech Social Sciences Major, Shares His Experiences in the Documentation of Historic Structures Course

Hello! My name is Robert Hazen, and I am a Social Sciences major here at Michigan Technological University. This summer I took the four-week course, Documentation of Historic Structures, led by Dr. Sarah Fayen Scarlett (Michigan Technological University), Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen (Finlandia University),
and Dr. John Arnold (Keweenaw National Historic Park) where our class was immersed in the history and documentation of the Kemppa Farm in Misery Bay.

Image of Robert Hazen presenting to the audience of Misery Bay community members.
Robert Hazen shares stories and findings with Misery Bay community members

While many of us have not done documentation work before, we all brought different skill sets to the table and were able to add new skills to our toolbox. All of us came from different backgrounds, have different experiences, and even have different perspectives—all of which are useful in an immersive class like this, especially when hashing out the historic details concerning genealogy, timelines, and land and building use. Over the course of these past four weeks, I feel like we have all grown together, and we have all worked together quite well.

While it feels like you have just met these students, time moves quickly, and we are at the end of the course. We all forged new friendships and part of me is sad that it is over. I am sad that we all did not have more time together, but I am also sad that we left some questions unanswered. When you give a presentation to a community about their community, you are coming to them with the knowledge that they may or may not know, but there are also questions that will go unanswered. I think the one thing about this work is that I am only 95% satisfied with the finished product and 5% disappointed that I can never answer every question.

For this project, I researched and put together slides for the deep-time overview of the Keweenaw Peninsula with a specific focus on Misery Bay. I used my skills as a researcher to find digitized census records, plat maps, historical aerial images, homestead deeds, genealogical records, and other historical documents. This helped guide us in developing a timeline for the Kemppa Farm but given our time restraints and research limitations—the lack of digitized records or records hidden behind a paywall—we never were able to piece together some pieces of the puzzle.

Regardless of our limitations, our class exceeded everyone’s expectations, including our own. While we can all come away with a list of different skill sets, we all should come away with viewing people, buildings, and landscapes through a different lens than those around us—appreciating the time and efforts of past people in shaping the landscape to create a life of their own.

Finally, as an Indigenous scholar, one of my goals is to highlight the importance of Indigenous land use in the Upper Peninsula, acknowledging that we are on the ceded territories of Ojibwe homelands. It is important to acknowledge and understand the importance of land for Ojibwe Peoples, especially the land around Misery Bay. While we do not know the extent of Ojibwe settlements in Misery Bay, historic maps and newfound evidence provides us with more pieces to the puzzle.

While I come away from this course with a renewed sense of appreciation of the past, it is always important to look to the future and think about historic preservation efforts for sites like the Kemppa Farm. I want to thank Dr. Sarah Fayen Scarlett, Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen, and Dr. John Arnold for sharing with us all their knowledge and providing us with new tools to navigate the world around us. This was an unforgettable experience, and I know that this group of students is destined to do great things with their futures. I could not be prouder of the work we all put in. Thank you!

Robert Hazen is a Social Sciences major at Michigan Technological University. He is the 2022 winner of Michigan Tech’s Outstanding Future Alumni Award given to recognize the contribution of a student volunteer who supports the Alumni Engagement mission of “Celebrating Traditions. Creating Connections.” Consideration is given to students who are making a difference, and demonstrate a commitment to the success of an existing Michigan Tech tradition, or create a new one!

Read about the field school experience Robert enjoyed.