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Summer Intensive Orientation

We all need to find who we are and how we fit into the world.

―Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist

The journey begins in the pristine Centennial Valley, Montana, where scholars are immersed in an intensive 4-day orientation to the Humanities at the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center.

In this setting, scholars commence the year-long process of exploration and inquiry, beginning with self-reflection and broadening to their natural surroundings and beyond. Framed by a broad theme, Humanities Scholars invites scholars to delve into the personal, environmental and societal issues impacting our world today, identifying topics to be considered throughout their year together.

Taft-Nicholson Center
Pictures and student highlights from previous years


"I have the drive to become a better individual because of the lessons I have learned here at Taft-Nicholson. I am inspired to plant myself in the right places. I am inspired to educate myself on the obstacles that I may encounter along the way, and I hope that throughout my life I remember Taft-Nicholson as a place that taught me to coexist, not only with wildlife and plants, but with other members of the human race."

―Chasity M.


"Being able to experience the environment gave me the chance to connect with multiple ecosystems and reflect on my own ecosystems back home so that now I am more stimulated to put forth action into the world."

―Kenzie S.


"Lately, I’ve had a huge problem concerning lethargy and apathy, but now that I feel like I belong to something again, especially belonging to something I truly care about, I feel that the future holds amazing experiences and opportunities that I will fully take advantage of to keep the Salt Lake Valley, the Centennial Valley, and the Earth as a whole alive, thriving, and without these noxious weeds that will do all in their power to overcome. We’re here and we are ready, we are the humanities."

―Renie C.


"All together I am very happy with the trip and definitely feel that I grew from it. It got me so excited for what our humanities class would be like for the rest of the year and I know that it’s going to be so amazing. I was able to create bonds with my fellow scholars and it created a lot more comfort for me to enter into this new university."

―Jacqueline G.


"After visiting Centennial Valley, I decided that it is my responsibility to support nature and protect it. If we do not work to protect nature, we could end up losing it. I plan to learn more about what I can do to protect both animals and bees from losing their homes. I also plan to learn more about recycling, so that people will not cut down as many trees to make paper. I think it is important for people to learn about these things so they understand the beauty of nature and why people should protect it."

―Alexandra G.


Rays of light pierce the thick, dense air as the sun’s warmth seeps into the chilled almost frosted ground, a reminder of an ever-present reliance on its enveloping power. Pristine describes the landscape filled with life and stirring of its own; a stirring in myself. I connect with the beauty I see here, each of us do. We see it within ourselves. We all have an inherent, internal beauty where we base the simplest meanings of the word 'Me'. It’s the answer to the inquiry 'Who'. Without it, degradation of self-worth, a loss of that power that warms us with each of its passings, is a reality."

―Andrew P.

“It’s quiet here. The quiet makes you realize how caught up in outside distractions one can get. You realize the importance of connecting beyond a phone screen and seeing untouched nature. The environment here makes you want to be outside, being inside seems like a waste of time. The dorms feel like home even when it’s a new place. The dorm is an old fixed up building which is surprisingly nice for how desolate the area is.”

―Emma B.


“Returning to the dining hall was one of my favorite experiences. We seated ourselves and the conversations took off with little to no pause. We discussed religion, our dreams, ambitions, experiences and let ourselves move to the beat of vocalized vulnerability. To truly become connected to others we have to push our boundaries so that our “personal bubbles” become warm sweaters; inviting and comforting. We can only do that when we remember we all become bones that breathe in mother earth. The Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center is a sanctuary for all animals, including ourselves.”

―Ariana L.


“Everyone has a place, a vital role in our diverse urban ecosystem. The flora and fauna in the Centennial Valley are already in on the secret; diversity can unite to become one beautiful thing, bigger than all of us. The beauty of who we are adds to what is around us, be it other people or the environment. As a group of scholars, we are an intact ecosystem. Functioning together despite opposition to create something innovative and wonderful. Our differences in ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds facilitate learning and constructive conversation. Discovering more about myself and the place I'm dwelling in is a euphoric feeling.”

―Tegan M.


“As we drove down the endless twenty-six-mile dirt road from Monida’s “NO SERVICES” freeway exit and looked at the scenery, I was reminded of the Pakistan landscape and the drive through Pattan, the border with Azad Kashmir. No houses within miles except for some small shafts and only a car or two following behind us; at least we weren’t on the edge of a mountain, driving on a road with curves but no barriers. When we finally arrived at the Taft-Nicholson Center campus, it was no different than the bazaars – small villages with nothing but a few homes and a combined market-restaurant. Not knowing what to expect, we were greeted by log-cabins and dogs. Lots of dogs!”

-Junaid N.

“The untouched nature of this valley has given me the unique opportunity to experience nature in its truest form. The idea that I am witnessing an ecosystem that has remained unbothered is truly amazing. This intact ecosystem that is present in the valley is not only incredible, but also the perfect representation of beginnings. It is almost like traveling back in time and seeing the way things used to be. This is what makes this an excellent place for us humanities scholars to begin our journey. I know that in the future I will be able to look back fondly on this trip as a fantastic beginning to my college career.”

―Sam O.


“Coming up to this refuge, I was worried about my new beginning as a college student. I'm still worried. There’s fear in the unknown, but there's also many, many possibilities. And as I enter unknown paths and meet new faces and learn from the story of my past... I will not only strive to move mountains with my ambitions but take time for the mountains to move me with their silent majesty.”

―Audrey P.


“Over the four days that we were at the center I was truly able to make many new connections and to learn so many new things. It was fascinating from the very first day that we were able to bring together 12 new people from such different backgrounds and the union and connections that we were able to create in the first day. It was truly enlightening to see how the scope of scientific inquiry was able to blend so easily within the study of humanities. They truly opened my eyes to the role that I play in the different environments that I live in and the deep connections that run through our human nature.”

―Sam S.


"Before coming to the Taft-Nicholson Center my idea of the world was vague. I was nervous about what to expect from this trip. Would I actually connect with my fellow humanities scholars? What would I do on this trip? Why was it vital that I attend this trip? All of the questions I had about the valley were answered, and seemed irrelevant to be asked in the first place."

―Kela Bernesser, Humanities Scholar


"When one views the valley for the first time, they will scroll through their library of accumulated words, searching for the perfect description of the scene. But soon they will find there are no words."

― Seattle Shakur, Humanities Scholar


"Before I saw the sun spill across the horizon and onto Swan Lake, I thought all nature was the same. And to  my suprise, this was not the case. Centennial Valley allowed me to see who I was before I traveled there. I was blind to the little things, which there were many of, and these little things were very important."

―Jareth Archer, Humanities Scholar


"The Centennial Valley is almost far too quiet for its vastness, a feature that has the natural influence to entice curiousity. The unfamiliarity that accompanied my first impression of the Centennial Valley and the Taft-Nicholson Center only added to the eagerness of beginning a new experience, or as I prefer to call it, a new adventure."

―Nikolina Pajic, Humanities Scholar

Last Updated: 1/17/19