Merry Lea Collegiate Programs

Merry Lea faculty teach and advise students within the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED), an academic department of Goshen College.

SEED works with other departments in providing collaborative learning experiences across the disciplines. Students in SEED take courses in biology, economics, entrepreneurship, sociology, environmental science, ethics, policy and more. This provides students a realistic and synergistic approach in working to solve complex challenges like climate change and environmental degradation. 

Students not only have the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences built around Goshen College’s interdisciplinary and intercultural frameworks, but have the opportunity to live and learn in the field at Merry Lea.

SEED Consists of Five Program Offerings

A Year-long Graduate Program at Merry Lea


Master of arts in environmental education (MAEE)

This 11-month graduate program immerses students in natural history, conducting ecological field research, investigating current issues in environmental education, developing leadership and extensive PreK-12 teaching opportunities. Live, study, explore and teach onsite in the outdoor classroom of Merry Lea, as well as during a one-month practicum in the Bahamas. Build pedagogical skills while also designing a year-long, multi-faceted research project; adapting to intercultural experiences; and networking with environmental professionals. And re-discover the power of rolling logs with a group of second graders on the trails.

Two Undergraduate Majors and Minors


Sustainability studies major and minor

The sustainability studies major takes a place-based approach to understanding sustainability in environmental, social, fiscal, political and whole community systems. Grapple with complex environmental and social problems in your interdisciplinary courses, explore the land and waterways around Goshen, and apply what you’re learning through creative problem-solving. Build collaborations between a variety of community partners, businesses and organizations through internships and field trips that will help you discover your place in the sustainability movement.

Sustainable food systems major and minor

The sustainable food systems major engages with the entire food system, soil to table. Understand the connections between justice and social issues throughout production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption systems. Experience firsthand how food shapes communities through differences in food access, food literacy, food cultures and human health. Network and build communication skills with professionals from diverse sectors of the food system, while also raising livestock and getting your hands dirty in the gardens at Merry Lea Sustainable Farm.

Two Residential Semester-long Programs at Merry Lea


Students live, work, eat and play together in an immersive residential learning community housed within Merry Lea’s LEED platinum certified cottages at Rieth Village.

Sustainability Leadership Semester (SLS)

This 13-week fall semester program explores how we can contribute to sustainable, resilient futures for our communities in the midst of our rapidly changing planet. Discover the sustainability of places through canoeing 70 miles from the top of the watershed at Merry Lea to Lake Michigan, hiking trails, and interacting with various community members and sustainability professionals.

Agroecology Summer Intensive (ASI)

This ten-week summer intensive on Merry Lea’s Sustainable Farm focuses on sustainable agriculture with emphases on interconnected systems and interdisciplinary, culturally-rich learning. ASI explores agroecology as an integral part in the growing global effort of making human activities more compatible with natural ecosystems.

Both programs are integral parts of their respective majors and minors at Goshen College, but are open to all majors and students from other colleges seeking to transfer credits or gain a certificate.

Undergraduates in SEED programs enjoy classes and fellowship with their peers both on campus and at Merry Lea, while masters students benefit from a strong community within the program at Merry Lea.

SEED’s Approach to Sustainability and Environmental Education

1. We believe in the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability and education. We guide students in exploring the ecological, social, political, economic and spiritual systems that shape our interconnected world. Sustainability allows us to engage these connections with hope for all to flourish into the future.

2. We believe students have the power to help build healthy and resilient societies. We empower emerging leaders in sustainability and environmental education through student-centered learning experiences.

3. We believe in the power of place. The landscapes at Merry Lea offer authentic opportunities for hands-on learning in the field. The land and its inhabitants help ground students in understanding concepts tangibly, fostering deep affection and stewardship for places.

4. We believe in the power of community. Students experience community together at several levels, from sharing meals to engaging in place-based and applied learning. Students work creatively across multiple disciplines and with various local leaders for real impact.


Live and Learn in the Field

Check out stories about community living, student projects and other student experiences in our various programs below.

Learn more about SEED program offerings, sustainability initiatives at Goshen College and how you can live and learn in the field by clicking the button!

Contact Us

Jonathon Schramm

Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)

Director of the Institute for Ecological Regeneration (IER)

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Jonathon is primarily a teacher and researcher at Merry Lea for Goshen College. At ML he teaches natural history for the Master's in Environmental Education program and also advises master's students as they pursue their research projects and develop curriculum. He is part of the teaching team for the Sustainability Leadership Semester and guest lectures in the Agroecology Summer Intensive. On campus he teaches courses in the interdisciplinary Sustainability Core, and also coordinates faculty in that effort. Jonathon's responsibilities also include ecological and educational research and direction for the Institute for Ecological Regeneration. He joined the Merry Lea faculty in 2012. Read more »

Jason Martin

Executive Director

Interim Director of the Graduate Program in Environmental Education

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Jason Martin joined the Merry Lea team as executive director in July 2020. He brings over 10 years of programmatic leadership across a range of environmental management and environmental education programs. This included efforts in wetland mitigation, green infrastructure construction, teaching science courses to audiences of all ages, and directing the NestWatch and NestCams citizen science programs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Jason currently lives in Warsaw, Ind. with his wife Suzanne Beyeler (a 1995 Goshen College graduate), their dog and several cats. During his free time, Jason enjoys hiking, camping, bird watching and attending baseball games. Read more »

John A. Mischler

Director of Agroecology and Assistant Professor in SEED

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

John is a biogeochemist with special interests in systems thinking and the relationship between agriculture and climate change. John oversees Goshen College's Food Systems major and Merry Lea's Agroecology Summer Intensive. He will work with undergraduate research and help Merry Lea build its research capabilities. John also teaches a course in Earth Science, Climate and Meteorology. John and his wife, Ruth, arrived at Merry Lea in January 2017. Read more »

Joel Pontius

Director of the Sustainability Leadership Semester

Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)

Office: Learning Center Building at Merry Lea

Joel directs Merry Lea’s Sustainability Leadership Semester. He also teaches courses in the graduate program about the history, issues and principles of environmental education. Additionally, he teaches the May term course, Field Experience in Environmental Education course for Goshen College education undergraduate majors. Before coming to Merry Lea, Joel served as a science coordinator in Wyoming’s public schools. He also worked as an interpretive naturalist and guide in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Joel finds deep joy and inspiration in the diversity of the natural world and the human experience. Read more »

Ruth Mischler

Assistant Professor in SEED

Office: Rieth Village at Merry Lea

Ruth's roles include teaching courses for the Agroecology Summer Intensive and further developing animal husbandry on the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm. Cover crop research is one of her areas of expertise. Ruth especially values apprentice-style learning--working beside her students and coaching them in the field. Ruth and her husband, John, arrived at Merry Lea in January 2017. Read more »