Students who experience the place-based Hamilton Adirondack Program spend a semester engaged in rigorous academics in the classroom and in the field, in wilderness settings. They work with faculty and regional experts and organizations, focusing on local environmental issues that have global implications and applications. The goal of this interdisciplinary program is to extend these vital lessons into students’ future research, careers and life plans.
This program offers its participants the intimate opportunity to study how man and nature can co-exist in this unique six million acre park and how the challenges of the environment and the economy can be studied and met in the twenty-first century.

Charlie Svenson ’61 — Lifetime Trustee

Critical Questions

It is not surprising that the Adirondacks prove an indispensable model for a particular kind of “land wisdom,” or land ethic: the ability for humans to coexist with nature, to preserve wild(er)ness alongside the development of human culture and industry. Developed well before climate change or open space concerns became prominent issues in our global consciousness, the Forest Preserve portion of the Adirondacks was designated in 1892 after clear-cutting by loggers instilled the fear that no forested lands would remain after their insouciant activities. In other words, this protected area stands to promote a healthy biotic community and, as such, has become a global exemplar for effective stewardship and sustainability practices.

In an era in which the human impact on nature, through processes like climate change (and the debates thereof), has become pervasive, the management of the Adirondacks presents a challenge and an opportunity. Can we maintain the Adirondack landscape as “forever wild” in the face of the need to manage a changing, stressed environment?

The Adirondack Park offers inimitable lessons for managing the human impact on nature. Furthermore, the Adirondack region, with its human population, faces many of the same economic and social problems experienced by rural areas throughout the United States and abroad. Has the preservation of the Adirondacks exacerbated rural poverty, or does the Park offer novel solutions to it? How might we utilize the Park to study questions of immigration and identity, the prison industry, accessibility and disability concerns, and the concerns of both an aging Adirondack population and its newest generations? This immersive, interdisciplinary program in the Adirondacks allows students to address many and more of these multifaceted issues in depth; it also enables students to take full advantage of—and give back to—this distinctive backyard resource.


From The Mountain House, located in Keene, N.Y., it's a short walk to the popular trailheads for Big Crow, Little Crow, and Hurricane mountains. The residence is about 14 miles from Lake Placid and 20 miles from the Adirondack Park Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Headquarters. The Mountain House is also centrally located near many regional resources for student research, internships and community engagement. It also boasts quick access to a variety of outdoor leadership opportunities and recreational activities, such as hiking, ice and rock climbing, cross-country and downhill skiing, boating and paddling, fly fishing and much more.


We offer admission to 12 students per term. The program is open to Hamilton sophomores, juniors, and seniors in their fall semester. The program is also open to qualified sophomores, juniors, and seniors from other participating undergraduate institutions. Students from those institutions will receive an official Hamilton College transcript and must be enrolled in full-time study during the semester.

Academic Program

Courses are taught by Hamilton College faculty, augmented by guest speakers and more than 60 local partners throughout the Adirondack Park. Each student enrolls in four courses:

  • Intensive Seminar
  • Common Experience Seminar
  • Field Component/Internship
  • Independent Capstone Project

Students may earn up to two credits in their area of major or minor concentration, pending approval from their home department or program. Those students in environmental studies at Hamilton can automatically obtain credit toward their environmental studies major or minor for the Intensive Seminar and the Independent Capstone Project.

Additional experiential leadership opportunities are available, such as outdoor skills building and trip leading and community outreach and volunteering — all challenge-by-choice.

This program gave me the unique opportunity to conduct physics research with my advisor, and obtain career-related work experience at the same time. Not only that, but the access to local food and natural beauty allowed me to develop a deep appreciation for our Earth and what we ask of it for our own needs. The Adirondack Program is the best semester I have had at Hamilton.

Anna Mowat ’18

Contact Information

Janelle A. Schwartz, Ph.D.

General Director
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