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Photo by Maddie Melton, Rio Grande Semester, Fall 2020

Itinerary Overview for the Semester


As you read this, I hope you are each feeling excited about the journey we will undertake together for over 90 days this Fall.

Our time together will hold both perspectives that come from travel as well as an ability to connect to place that comes from being concentrated in specific locations for longer periods.   We will be able to develop a new understanding of the awe-inspiring land in this region, and the many facets that make it so significant. We will also have the chance to engage with narratives and issues that are deeply a part of the lives of people here, and which impact local communities.  Throughout, there will be room to investigate these narratives, particularly as they relate to the environment, the movement of people, and what it means to participate in community. The itinerary below will give some sense of where we will be and what we will be doing throughout the program.

September 6th through October 11th –  After arriving in Santa Fe, we will travel for a little under an hour northeast up the Rio Grande Valley and into higher elevation as we approach the edge of the Sangre de Christo Mountains and the small town of Truchas. This will be where we stay for the next five weeks in comfortable accommodation at around 8,000 ft above sea level.  After a week of forming a closed pod group and beginning to develop a sense of the surrounding nature and culture, we will branch out in our learning and connecting with the area.

While here, you will start the next round of  your Tufts courses, find ways to connect with the land as you respectfully spend time on it, and venture into the surrounding communities in order to learn about the work being done supporting social and environmental justice.  Where it is safe to do so, this will include time interacting with and understanding the perspectives of various artists, farmers, lawyers, non-profits, conservationists, immigrants, and indigenous peoples. You will be involved not only through the crucial acts of listening and reflecting, but also through many hands-on moments that allow you to learn through activity, done not with a “volunteer” mindset, but in hopes of honoring what is shared with us and moving towards mutual and interconnected enrichment.

October 12th through October 23rd – From this point we will head south, continuing along the ancient path of the water towards places thought of as “borderlands,” some distance outside of the city that is now referred to as El Paso.  Staying at ranch-like accommodation, we will encounter the stories of those who stay and those who move through this region, including visits to an organization dedicated to social justice around immigration, and one focused on giving back to the land.  In addition to this, on October 21st through 23rd, around the midpoint of the program, we will move into Big Bend Ranch State Park, camping on the land in order to reflect and to focus on the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion and all that it holds.

October 24th through November 28th – Our next steps in the journey together will take us to a precious and unique region at the confluence of multiple deserts, “sky islands” mountain ranges, and watersheds: one of the most biodiverse areas on the continent.  Moreover, it is also a deeply significant place for the interaction of human populations across human boundaries. Staying in unique and welcoming accommodation near the town of Rodeo, we will venture out to spend time taking in very different sights along the border, and begin to interact with and understand a range of organizations and initiatives that exist in support various aspects of this important environment (including supporting local plant and animal life, protecting human life, and aiding in the restoration of the life-giving, complex systems of landscapes deeply impacted by human activity).  We will also have the chance to experience first-hand how traditional ecological knowledge and understanding flows into modern approaches to functional and artistic building.

November 29th through December 5th – In the last days of our time together, we will continue to move through Arizona, experiencing a range of locations relevant to this vibrant landscape and the history of the social issues that have permeated it.  We will consider where we have been and what we have seen, recall all we have learned, treasure the connections we have made, and look towards how we will move into the future, honoring it all.

The scope of our time together is a lot to take in, and it is challenging to hold all the details.  We invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself feel the joy of the unknown — to not come expecting or looking for certain things, but rather being open to all that you find.  Without a doubt, each of you will contribute much to shaping the upcoming three months. Your instructors are thrilled about our group coming together to learn and experience community as we encounter this special land, rich with opportunities.