February 11, 2015


Wild Rockies Field Institute: What course did you take and when?

Ty Zwick: Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures 2013. That was my last semester. I did my capstone in the month and a half before I left on the trip, and then when I finished the trip I was done. We were in Happy Canyon or canoeing when everyone else was walking for graduation!

Degree at MSU?

Environmental Studies

What have you been up to since your time at MSU?

I graduated. I took a sabbatical this year, worked part time jobs, moved around. I’ve worked as a camp counselor, outdoor educator, intern for a teen leadership program, and traveled. Last summer I worked for Custer State Park as their water and wastewater systems technician.

Why did you chose WRFI?

Luck! I had gone to a couple presentations, but it never worked out monetarily. I wanted to do it but I was at a stage where I was apathetic. Then I realized I can pick stuff up more and when you set your mind to something it can be achievable. A friend of mine was going to go to an information session, she was a WRFI alum from the Environmental Ethics course. After the presentation I realized I really wanted to do this [WRFI]. I had quit my job so I could focus on school and I hadn’t had any student loans up to that point. I decided, Well, I think this will be worth it. In a lot of ways it was like my study abroad. Studying abroad didn’t necessarily make sense to an environmental studies degree because I think we need to have a better sense of place, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to travel all over the world when considering the environmental ethics of it. There’s so much to see just two hours from here, I wanted to see what was in our own backyard.

Favorite or most memorable section?

It was all excellent. A couple of highlights was getting snowed on during our rest day at French Spring before we hiked up and out to the Ranger Station. That afternoon, all the snow was gone, it was cool how the landscape reverted. We had some personality conflicts within our group but the fact of us all pulling together, my classmates supporting me and supporting each other and also supporting the conflict. We came together as a group and put everything we had into finishing the course together.

Academically what topic did you most connect with?

Indigenous knowledge of a place, and the study of how the indigenous people knew what type of weather led to what results, they knew how the seasonal and yearly rotations occurred. They had a finger on the pulse of everything. It’s tempting to say we are environmentally removed, but there’s still nature to be found in those areas.

Tell me about your WRFI instructors

All the instructors were great as far as striking the balance with being students, instructors and leaders and also being our peers. They made sure there was continuity between sections.

If you could return to one part of your course, what would it be?

I’d like to go redo the entire course!


It was gorgeous and we had plenty of time on course to do everything. I’d like to go back and do it at my own pace and wander more, maybe bring a rope and do some exploring that we weren’t allowed to do for very good reason on the course. I wish we could do a class reunion. It was a small group and it was really fun. It would be cool to go back and do a trip with all of them. You are living with those people for two months and you get to know them well, then you get scattered back to your corner of the world and it’s hard to stay in touch. Nothing can ever replace face to face time.

What is your dream job or career?

I would envision myself going back and getting a Masters and hopefully having my teaching credential. I’d like to work in experiential education. I’d like to bring ideas of the unschooling movement, homeschool and coalesce them into something tangible. I’d really try and bring that tangible learning ideally into mainstream public school. I think it is something that everyone needs. I’d like to bring the movement that came from organizations like WRFI and bring that into the normal classroom.

Was WRFI your first experience with experiential education?

I had worked as a counselor so I knew what I was doing was experiential education, but WRFI was the first time I did something that was branded that way.

What advice would you give to a student considering a WRFI course?

Stop thinking and just do it. You will always find reasons not to do something. If it’s something that remotely interests you, try it. That’s why I’ve had a diverse work resume, I’ve applied because it looks interesting and tried it out. Just try it! That’s the motto of experiential education – you’re not going to know until you try it and know for yourself.

Favorite part of being a MSU Bobcat?

The diversity of activities and people. Bozeman attracts all different people and has a diverse student population and many people bring different experiences to the school. They want something new. Some people are from very small towns, some from big cities. Everyone is discovering something new. Also, I’ve managed to do skiing, rock climbing and go mountain biking in a single day without feeling rushed!

Ty in Short

Favorite MT/UT plant: Mormon Tea.

Next adventure: This summer I’m doing a human powered trip to Granite Peak, inspired by a trip in the Bomb Snow magazine. It’ll be around 280 miles round trip biking just to get to the trailhead. It’s the tallest peak in Montana, out in the Beartooths.

Dream adventure: Mountain bike tour across the world. Just my mountain bike and bare essentials.

Favorite MSU professor: There have been so many great ones. But probably my advisor, Teresa Greenwood. She enabled me to take whatever class I wanted to and helped me apply it to my major which gave me a diverse education. She enabled me to knock out everything I needed so I could graduate right after WRFI. She was a champ!

Favorite outdoor sport: Mountain biking, by far.

Item you don’t go backpacking without: I have a little fuzz ball that I glued two googly eyes to. I started it when I first started going to summer camp because I missed my dog. My mom gave me a brown fuzz with google eyes and it’s remained in my pack ever since.

Celebrity/famous person to have lunch with: Edward Abbey

Most recent/current book you are reading: I’m re-reading The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve stepped foot in North Korea!

Thanks Ty, for catching up with the Wild Rockies Field Institute!