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.

These approaches grew out of Merry Lea’s foundational residential programs. Merry Lea has provided faculty to teach on Goshen College’s campus since 1999 with field-based laboratory experiences at Merry Lea. This expanded to hosting onsite programs including:

ASI program – Began in 2006

MAEE program – Began in 2008

SLS program – Began in 2012

These programs and Goshen College’s ongoing leadership in sustainability led to the formation of SEED in 2012 with added undergraduate majors in 2017.

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!