Makin' It Real

Students apply their learning to realworld challenges with a hands-on approach.

The view from here is pretty inspiring.

From the Fort Lewis College campus, you can watch the sun rise from behind a pinion-and juniper-adorned ridgeline, and then see it set behind a sweeping range of mountain peaks, diamond white in winter and cool blue-green in the summer. Looking north you can see the broad, verdant, redrock-lined Animas River Valley, gouged from the forested foothills of the nearby San Juan Mountains. Southward lies the leading edge of the desert Southwest, a landscape marked by sandstone swells sliced with washes and canyons.

For those of us who live and learn in this amazing place, this scenic setting not only makes our view, it also shapes our viewpoint. That powerful landscape encircling us influences our perspective on the world, our place in it, and our sense of how to live on it. When people here look out over the mountains, they don't just think "pretty," they think, Go! The landscape here makes us prone to exploring and experiencing, to venturing and adventuring, to wanting to see and touch and do for ourselves.

And so wherever we go, whatever we do, we tend to take those senses of doing and going and insatiable curiosity with us. Into our daily lives. Into our jobs. Into our families and friendships. And here at FLC, we also take it into our classrooms and laboratories, onto our stages and into our studios. And we take our learning back out into those surrounding mountains and valleys and deserts and communities and businesses with us. Because we know from experience that when it comes to learning and growing and preparing for a career – any career -- nothing beats doing it for real.

That’s the view from here. And it’s pretty inspiring.


Archaeology near Durango

Students in this summer’s FLC Archaeological Field School didn’t travel far to unearth the Four Corners region’s rich cultural history. Twelve students spent six weeks excavating an Ancestral Puebloan site from the Pueblo II period (AD 900-1150) on privately held land west of Cortez, Colorado. They trained in archaeological survey and excavation methods, manual and digital mapping techniques, and artifact recovery and processing.

Health in Tanzania

The Ethnographic Field Program trains students in global health methods and assessment. Over the summer, 11 FLC students from a range of majors worked with students from the Tengeru Institute of Community Development, in Boma Ng’ombe, Tanzania, on food insecurity, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS issues.


What better way to study European art and culture than to immerse in it? In May, eight students did just that. After a week-long ART 390 course introduction on the FLC campus, the class traveled to Spain with their professor for two weeks. They visited architectural masterpieces and museums, took Spanish cooking lessons, and biked to scenic vistas in Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, and Barcelona.


“Through the experience at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, we were able to gain important and impactful insights into the lives of research biologists and form connections with influential scientists, as well as other students. This provided an incredible chance to network as well as learn even more about our field of study than we could have learned solely in the classroom.”

Bethany Maxwell, a senior Biology and Philosophy major, on attending a national four-day field camp funded by the Ecological Society of America

political science

Two Political Science students each year participate in the Legislative Internship at the State Capitol. They earn credit while living in Denver and working at the Capitol offices with Durango-area legislators. 


Economic study, Deb Walker

Professor of Economics Deb Walker’s students made an important contribution to the local business community with an economic impact analysis of the 2017 Dolores River Festival. Student researchers surveyed businesses and some of the 1,700 festivalgoers about their experiences and spending while attending the festival. The study estimated the event infused as much as $85,000 into the local economy.

Student group

The Village Aid Project is an all-volunteer travel program open to students in any major. Students, faculty, and professionals collaborate to improve infrastructure in impoverished communities in Latin America and Asia.

exercise science

Exercise Testing and Prescription course

Exercise Testing and Prescription students conduct exercise testing with campus volunteers in the areas of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, body composition, and flexibility. They use the results to develop exercise programs that considers the subjects’ own personal health goals.

engineering and physics

Even at landlocked FLC, student researchers do pioneering work with underwater robotics. “Water is important to everybody, and so we have a lot of reservoirs here. And it’s a precious resource that needs conservation, monitoring, and management,” says Associate Professor of Physics & Engineering Ryan Smith. One of his and his students’ local projects monitors water quality in Rogers Reservoir, the source of Durango’s drinking water, using robotic vehicles and buoys.

english and geology

English and Geology students are collaborating on a project with Rocky Mountain PBS to research and document historical uranium waste issues. Students used a 3-D printer to mount a Geiger counter to a drone in order to analyze local areas for uranium residue. They are also creating a documentary film about the history of uranium mining in Durango.

Teacher Education

Three Teacher Education students are completing their student teaching in Costa Rica while living with host families. “We can do remote observations of their teaching,” says School of Education dean Richard Fulton. “This new program rolls technology, international schools, and cultural and professional program preparation into one.”


“I think it’s exceptional that the Grand Canyon is so close. In six hours, we’re in the field doing research or taking classes. The Grand Canyon has a mystique because it’s this big national park that everybody knows about, and because it’s so stunningly spectacular. We've been really fortunate in the last couple years to have our students working in conjunction with the park on groundwater and stratigraphy, the study of the sedimentary layers.”

Chair & Professor of Geosciences Gary Gianniny

public health

Public Health students operated the Reveal Imager machine at the on-campus Fresh Check Day this fall. The device shows participants where their faces receive more sun exposure via deposits of melanin, helping spark conversations about decreasing risk for sun damage and skin cancer. This offering was part of the Sun Safety Awareness Project, conducted in collaboration with the CU School of Public Health and other Colorado schools.