Beacon Institute program for undergrads runs June 10-28

The historic Hudson River is a living classroom for a venture called “River University,” an interdisciplinary program in ecology, engineering and policy offered by Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a subsidiary of Clarkson University. Sailing onboard the sloop Clearwater, made famous by folksinger Pete Seeger, is a unique aspect of the program for a select group of undergraduate River University students this summer.

A 2012 River University class on the sloop Clearwater. Photo courtesy of Beacon Institute
A 2012 River University class on the sloop Clearwater. Photo courtesy of Beacon Institute

River University, called “life-changing” by graduates of the inaugural program, is for any undergraduate with an interest in the environment. Undergraduates from Bard, Bryn Mawr and Oberlin colleges, RPI and Stony Brook universities, among others, participated in the program in 2012. “If all people in future generations were given the same knowledge that we have been given, I think that could have a serious impact on improving water quality,” said Kyla, a 2012 River University attendee. Kyla’s fellow classmate Paul added, “My world’s changed, absolutely.”

River University 2013 runs June 10 through June 28. Enrollment begins Dec. 17 for a class of only 20 students.

Classes will be held at Beacon Institute’s facilities on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon and taught by Clarkson faculty. A three-day sail aboard the sloop Clearwater will allow students to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. Those who complete the River University program will earn six credits, an excellent option to lighten course load during the academic year, or avoid a fifth undergraduate year.

River University will examine environmental issues and explore possible solutions, with both a theoretical and real-world view by offering two interdisciplinary courses, each worth three credits transcripted by Clarkson University:

Life of an American River: Ecology, Policy and Place

Through ecology and policy, students will learn how rivers function; become familiar with organisms and natural communities of the Hudson River watershed; and understand how humans impact rivers, and how those impacts can be managed to minimize the negative consequences for the environment. Tom Langen, Ph.D., and John Cronin will teach the course. Langen is an associate professor of biology and psychology at Clarkson University, teaches courses on tropical ecology and conservation in Costa Rica, and is a co-director of a National Science Foundation-funded undergraduate bio-math program. Cronin is the first Beacon Institute Fellow at Clarkson University whose work as Hudson Riverkeeper earned him Time magazine’s title of “Hero for the Planet.”

Our Water Future: Sustainable Water Resource Management

Through experiential learning and a hands-on approach, students will focus on engineering and policy to explore the relationship between land and water uses and sustainability of water resources; assess/critique water management, planning, and policy on a local (watershed) scale; and provide recommendations to improve water sustainability. Shane Rogers, Ph.D. and John Cronin will teach the course. Shane Rogers, Ph.D., is assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson University who also serves as a special research environmental engineer at the National Risk Management Laboratory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The Hudson River cannot be rivaled as a living laboratory for ecological discovery and a multidisciplinary classroom for experiential learning,” said John Cronin. “Our summer students in River University are leaders-in-training. Through our hands-on courses they learn the innovations in law and policy, science and technology, even culture and art, that make the Hudson, and all rivers, the greatest inspiration for and testimony to modern American environmentalism.”

“Students today have a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the environment,” said Timothy F. Sugrue, Ph.D., Beacon Institute’s president and chief executive officer. “Giving them the tools of ecology, engineering and policy to build an understanding of how humans interact with a living system like the Hudson River, we accelerate the process with experiential learning. That direct connection ignited a fire for students this summer. In 2013, we will build on that success.”

“Clearwater is delighted to once again join with Beacon Institute and Clarkson University for River University,” said Jeff Rumpf, Clearwater’s executive director. “University students will gain direct contact with the Hudson River, its life forms, and witness the ecosystem first hand —an experience that cannot be replicated in the classroom.  Experiencing Hudson River life onboard Clearwateralso allows students to appreciate the cause-and-effect relationship between human activities and how they impact our environment — essential for students to truly appreciate the estuary, and prerequisite to building necessary skills they will need as our next generation of environmental leaders.”

Visit for more information about the curriculum and faculty, tuition costs, housing and commuter options, frequently asked questions, the application form and important deadlines.

Enrollment in this one-of-a-kind program begins Dec. 17 and is limited to 20 participants, so early application is encouraged. The rolling admissions process will occur through the application deadline of March 15, 2013.

About Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries

Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a subsidiary of Clarkson University headquartered in Beacon, is a not-for-profit environmental research organization engaging scientists, engineers, educators and policy experts in collaborative work focusing on real-time monitoring of river ecosystems. It aims to make the Hudson Valley a global center for scientific and technological innovation that advances research, education and public policy regarding rivers and estuaries.

About Clarkson University

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

About Clearwater

Inspiring, educating  and activating millions of people for over 45 years, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has been at the forefront of the environmental movement as champion of the Hudson River, working to pass landmark legislation like the Clean Water Act, providing innovative educational programs, environmental advocacy, and musical celebrations, including the renowned annual Clearwater Festival.

The organization was founded by music legend and environmental activist Pete Seeger in 1966. The iconic sloop Clearwaterwas launched in 1969 and is a majestic replica of the sloops that sailed the Hudson in the 18th and 19th centuries. To date, more than half a million people have experienced their first real look at an estuary’s ecosystem aboard the vessel. The organization’s strong connection to youth, environmental education, and its agenda to create the next generation of environmental leaders are all part of building and strengthening a Green Cities Initiative for a green economy and a more inclusive and diverse environmental movement. Utilizing the greatest natural resource in the region, the Hudson River, Clearwater has become the grassroots model for producing positive changes to protect our planet. For more information, visit

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit, member-supported corporation whose mission is to preserve and protect the Hudson River, its tributaries and related bodies of water.

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