About the Adirondack Semester

The Adirondack Semester is a 15-credit, off-campus domestic study program for undergraduates pursuing an experience that is enriching both academically and culturally. Students from any major who are committed to learn about environmental science, policy, economics and the human history and contemporary issues of the Adirondack region are encouraged to apply.

The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous states and is referred to as a great experiment in conservation and regulated economic development. Our mission is to deliver a blend of traditional and experiential education developed from the struggle in the park to find balance and sustainability. Students residing at Paul Smith's College, near Saranac Lake, NY, participate in an interdisciplinary curriculum geared toward cultivating practical skills for the professional world. Our curriculum employs components of experiential education, undergraduate research, collaborative assignments and projects, writing-intensive courses, learning communities, common intellectual experiences and community-based learning. Students acquire content knowledge to analyze complex problems related to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Students collecting samples in Cascade Lake

Students accepted in this program will learn from Clarkson faculty, all of whom are distinguished scholars who have worked in the Adirondacks. Students will be in session with Adirondack Park leaders, policy makers, residents and business owners and learn from peers in mentored team projects. Focus is on the Adirondack Park’s social and natural sciences: its expansive wilderness, residents, governing agencies, economics, organizations and businesses that shape policies and commerce.

Our Adirondack Center for Education and Sustainability, opening in fall 2017, will be housed at Paul Smith's College, near Saranac Lake. A resident advisor/student that oversees housing and supports faculty will be on site. Students can attend a fall or spring semester that begins with a three-week "Sense of Place" course, followed by two six-week blocks that run two courses concurrently. The final week of the semester, students present their integrated research projects back on Clarkson’s campus.  

Student Life

Students Whitewater rafting

Students reside and attend Clarkson ADK Semester classes at Paul Smith's College, near Saranac Lake, NY. The campus housing is suite-style living and provides students with laundry facilities, Wi-Fi access and an inviting communal space with a small kitchen. Just a fifteen minute drive from Paul Smith's, the Saranac Lake business district hosts a vibrant arts culture, bustling storefronts, cozy pubs, restaurants and music venues. Many agencies and organizations within Saranac Lake that govern and advocate for issues in the Adirondacks are comprised of passionate and colorful people who live, work and love life in the Adirondack Park. 

Saranac Lake, NY: "The Adirondacks' Coolest Place"

  • Named the best small town in New York State
  • Ranked 11th in the United States in The 100 Best Small Towns in America
  • Recognized by the National Civic League in 2006 as an All-America City
  • Named one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Our students are encouraged to work hard to keep pace with the curriculum, but flexibility and breaks in the schedule allow for time to pursue personal interests as well. Outdoor and cultural activities abound. Choose your own adventure! Opportunities include paddling on St. Regis Lake, mountain bike riding on the various trails throughout campus and hiking up St. Regis Mountain to breathtaking views of the High Peaks. 

Other nearby outdoor activities include camping, rock and ice climbing, skating, downhill skiing, XC skiing, backcountry skiing, mountaineering and fly fishing. The Olympic Village of Lake Placid is a 35-minute drive away and provides a variety of venues for winter activities, such as world-class skiing at Whiteface mountain, Nordic skiing, bobsledding, luge, bi-athalon at Mt. Van Hoevenberg and visiting the home rink of "The Miracle on Ice" at the Olympic Center and Museum.  


Adirondack Regional Economic Development taught me how to approach economic development with a sense of environmental protection and sustainability

Tiyi Brewster, Clarkson ‘13

Offered in both spring and fall semesters: A small group of up to 12 students will be in session with a diverse group of Clarkson faculty with specific interests, experience and scholarly work directly related to the Adirondack Park. Our mission is to deliver a dynamic blend of traditional and experiential education in an intimate and community-based learning environment. Students strive to answer broad questions concerning the relationship of social, economic and environmental impacts on the Adirondack Park. They are absorbed in interdisciplinary courses in the natural and social sciences and emerge with critical thinking and collaborative skills that prepare them to analyze complex problems and provide solutions related to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Faculty involved in chemistry, biology, environmental science, political science, philosophy, literature, economics and entrepreneurship use our Adirondack base and professional network to provide students with a direct experience with the people and agencies that shape policy, conduct business and lobby at local and state levels. Students are engaged through conversations in the classroom with their peers, professors and guest lecturers and in the community with local citizens, all while conducting scientific research in the field.

Our Adirondack Center for Sustainability and Education in Saranac Lake is comprised of two boarding houses with a live-in residential advisor to support professors and students. The separate classrooms offers access to computers, a projector and screen, printers and a lecture space for up to 25 people.

The curriculum consists of five 3-credit courses providing students with 15 transferable 300-level credits. Each semester offers two University courses, four to five varied Knowledge Area courses, four to five Communication Points, one to two Design Credits for Environmental Engineering students and a Science TECH Credit.


Students collecting samples in the Adirondacks

The Adirondack Semester is offered in both fall or spring semesters and students from all colleges and universities are invited to apply. 

Students majoring in the sciences, business/entrepreneurship, engineering and liberal arts and humanities are encouraged to apply. Students must be in good academic standing with their home department and have preferably completed at least one course in biology and/or chemistry.

Fall 2017 applications dates: 

Application dates

  • Fall Applications due: First Friday in March
  • Notification date: Third Friday in March
  • Spring Applications due: Second Friday in October
  • Notification date: Fourth Friday in October

How to apply

Fill out the online application before the deadline. The application is brief, but applicants should pay special attention to the essay. 

We accept applications on a rolling admission basis. Openings for future semesters beyond are being accepted now. Please submit your application even though the semester you plan on attending may be several semesters in the future. The information will help us design the academic programming according to majors and interests. 


Applicants from Clarkson:

  • Schedule an academic advising appointment to confirm that credits earned will support your academic goals.
  • Schedule a meeting with the Adirondack Semester’s Advisor, Dr. Alan Rossner.
  • Complete the online application.


If I had known that Clarkson University had the Adirondack Semester, it would have made choosing to come here a no-brainer

Brittany Rodriguez, Clarkson ‘13

Applicants from other institutions:

  • Discuss your plans to attend with your academic advisor and your study abroad or off-campus studies office.
  • Schedule a phone interview with the Adirondack Semester’s Advisor, Dr. Alan Rossner.
  • Complete the online application.
  • If your college is an affiliated institute you will receive credit directly through that institution.
  • If your college is not yet affiliated with Clarkson’s Adirondack Semester, our office will work with your institute to ensure that you will receive full credit.
  • Students accepted from affiliated and non-affiliated institutions will pay Clarkson’s tuition rates and housing fees based on single occupancy.
  • If you receive financial aid or scholarship funds, we will work with your institution’s financial aid office to ascertain the transferability of your aid. Clarkson University may offer financial assistance through scholarships depending on need. 

Please contact the ISE Office at (315) 268-3856 for more information.


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