Pathfinder Fellows in Environmental Leadership

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Pathfinder Fellows in Environmental Leadership is a multi-year, interdisciplinary cohort-based undergraduate program providing the academic rigor and field experience needed to deeply understand, respect and respond to a place and its people in light of environmental challenges. Integrated around the themes of environmental science, policy, humanities and sustainability, the program welcomes students from all interests with a yearly cohort of 12-16 students.

The program provides students with expertise in sustainable and critical thinking at scales from individual sites to neighborhoods, landscapes, nations, and the globe. Program activities consist of shared coursework, field trips, community-engagement opportunities such as internships and research, and experiences in urban and rural environments. Taken together, these components provide interdisciplinary training for our students to emerge as leaders in their respective fields.

This Ampersand Program typically has travel components that could be affected by federal and local guidelines related to health, safety, and security considerations. This program's main academic component will not be affected. Program costs for the first year are covered, though for a sophomore-year trip to Madagascar students will be charged approximately $3,500 (need-based financial assistance is available).

How to Sign Up

The sign-up process with priority review for first-year programs and seminars begins on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). To participate in priority review, please submit your application in the first 24 hours after applications open or by Friday, May 17, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). The link to the application form will be available on the First-Year Programs homepage during that time. You will need your WUSTL Key to apply. For each of the Ampersand Programs you wish to rank in your top four choices, you will need to complete a separate statement of interest (no more than 500 words) answering a program specific question. For Pathfinder Fellows in Environmental Leadership the 2024 application question is: The Pathfinder program is an intensive multi-year cohort-based experience designed to enable students to understand, respect and respond to a place and its people in light of environmental challenges. In 250-500 words, please indicate what sparks your interest in this program and what you would bring to the cohort. Feel free to reference your experiences working with a team of peers, being in a wilderness setting, and/or tackling problems of environmental justice.

First-Year Program Homepage

People who have never canoed a wild river, or who have done so only with a guide in the stern, are apt to assume that novelty, plus a healthful exercise, account for the value of the trip. I thought so too, until I met the two college boys on the Flambeau…Spying us, they edged in to pass the time of day.

‘What time is it?’ was their first question. They explained that their watches had run down, and for the first time in their lives there was no clock, whistle, or radio to set watches by. For two days they had lived by ‘sun-time,’ and were getting a thrill out of it. No servant brought them meals: they got their meat out of the river, or went without. No traffic cop whistled them off the hidden rock in the next rapids. No friendly roof kept them dry when they mis-guessed whether or not to pitch the tent. No guide showed them which camping spots offered a nightlong breeze, and which a nightlong misery of mosquitoes; which firewood made clean coals, and which only smoke…The elemental simplicities of wilderness travel were thrills not only because of their novelty, but because they represented complete freedom to make mistakes. The wilderness gave them their first taste of those rewards and penalties for wise and foolish acts which every woodsman faces daily, but against which civilization has built a thousand buffers.

– Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac


Explore the Pathfinder Course Sequence

Pathfinder Fellows engage as a cohort in a rich variety of learning experiences – both in and out of the classroom, from local to global scales – over their four years in the program. 

Explore the Courses Here 


For more information, or to have any questions answered, please contact David Fike, Director of the Pathfinder Fellows program.

Contact the Program