About

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to your questions about Au Sable, the College Program, the Community School Program, and Conferences and Retreats.

General Information

What is Au Sable?

Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies is a Christian, educational institution that trains leaders to sustain God’s good Earth. The academic program serves colleges students with courses and research experiences in field ecology and environmental stewardship. The Environmental Education Internship Program provides hands-on environmental education to K-12  students at local schools. Au Sable’s facilities also support retreats and conferences.

How did Au Sable begin?

Au Sable began as a camp in 1958 for Christian boys to provide an opportunity for learning and appreciating the natural world as God’s handiwork. After one of Au Sable’s founders, Dr. Harold Snyder, became a professor at Taylor University (Upland, IN), he began utilizing the site as a location for field studies and courses offered by the university. In 1979, Au Sable was formally established as an institute of environmental studies with an outreach to Christian colleges and universities across North America. Students from these schools, and other private and public, non-affiliated institutions, have studied a wide range of topics offered by Au Sable’s college program. Au Sable also offers an environmental education program, which was initiated in 1978 and provides internship opportunities to students who have taken courses at Au Sable.

Read the complete history of Au Sable.

Where are Au Sable's campuses located?

The Great Lakes Campus is located just outside of Mancelona, Michigan on Big Twin Lake in the north woods country of Northern Lower Michigan, about 80 miles southwest of the Straits of Mackinac and 40 miles east of Traverse City and Grand Traverse Bay.

View Au Sable Institute - Great Lakes Campus in a larger map

The Pacific Rim Campus is located on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, Washington. Whidbey Island is the mid-point connecting Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington.

View Pacific Rim Institute in a larger map
Our India Campus is located in South India at Bishop Heber College in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), Tamil Nadu, although much of the course is spent travelling throughout South India in Tamil Nadu and Kerala States.

View Bishop Heber College in a larger map
Our Costa Rica Campus is located in Vara Blanca, Costa Rica at the cloud rainforest campus of the Association for Development through Education.

View Association for Development through Education in a larger map

Does ASI have a newsletter? How can I subscribe?

Au Sable publishes an electronic newsletter that is delivered by email every other month, six times a year. You may sign up on our homepage or in the sidebar of this and other pages  by entering your e-mail address in the "Enewsletter Sign-up." The newsletter includes updates about Au Sable, stories about alumni, articles about Christian environmental stewardship in the news, and tips and do-it-yourself projects for sustainable living.

I’d like to make a gift to Au Sable. What kinds of donations does ASI accept?

As a non-profit, Au Sable relies heavily upon the donations and gifts of our friends and alumni. Every donation makes a difference.

Au Sable is able to accept gifts of all kinds: cash, stocks and bonds, personal items and property, and in-kind services. As a registered non-profit 501(c)3 organization, all donations and gifts are tax-deductable.  

Donations are accepted online
or by mail:

Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies
7526 Sunset Trail NE
Mancelona, MI 49659

Many employers have matching gift programs that contribute the same amount to an organization as its employees. If you are interested in learning more about this option, please contact your human resources director.

How can I volunteer with ASI?

The best way to assist Au Sable as a volunteer is by serving as an ambassador for Au Sable and spreading the word about your experience to prospective students, members of your church, friends and family and anyone who may want to know about our mission. Since we are a relatively small organization, and focused primarily on educational activities, our on-site volunteer opportunities are somewhat limited at this time; however, we are open to volunteers with specific skills or expertise (e.g. educational training, financial management, maintenance skills) to meet critical institutional needs. We will post these needs on our website as they become available.

How do I contact Au Sable Great Lakes Campus if I have questions?

If you have any questions about Au Sable programs or facilities, please contact Lynn Drew, administrative assistant in our Great Lakes office, at lynn@ausable.org or call (231) 587-8686 or (231) 587-5353. She will be happy to answer your questions or connect you with another staff member who can help you.

How do I contact the Pacific Rim campus?

If you have any questions regarding the Pacific Rim campus, please contact Holly Kress, Resource Development Officer, at holly@pacificriminstitute.org or call (360) 678-5586. She will be happy to answer your questions or connect you with another staff member who can help you.

Does Au Sable offer recreational opportunities for the public?

No, the Institute is primarily geared to field education for residential college students. Visitors are welcome to see our facilities, visit our library or find out about our educational programs. Retreat opportunities are available for the winter.

College Program

What kinds of courses does ASI offer?

Au Sable offers courses in environmental science (e.g., ecology, biology, and chemistry), sustainability, international development, health science, and scientific research. Our primary focus is field environmental science courses; however, we have a number of unique, interdisciplinary courses including Environmental Health, Global Development and Ecological Sustainability, Watershed Stewardship, Land Resources, Conservation Biology, Tropical Agriculture and Missions, and Ecology of the Indian Tropics. Our Research Methods courses are designed for students to learn about and gain skills in scientific research. To learn more about the courses we offer, please see our Course Information page.

What are courses at Au Sable like?

Almost all ASI courses are hands-on and field-based. Class size averages between 8-10 students with a maximum of 14 students. Faculty-student interaction is important at Au Sable. Faculty members often work with and assist students outside of class, collaborate with them in research, and join them for meals, recreation and worship services. Our faculty is comprised of college professors who are well-qualified in their area of expertise and share an enthusiasm for Christian environmental stewardship and Au Sable’s mission.

When can I sign up for ASI courses?

Course enrollment for the upcoming academic year is available after September 1. 

When are classes held?

Au Sable courses are offered four different times during the year: January Term, May Term, and two Summer Sessions.

Term Length of Term Number of courses
a student can take
Dates (2011)
January Term 3 weeks 1 Dec 27 - Jan 17
May Term 3 weeks 1 May 16 - Jun 3
Summer Session I 5 weeks 2 Jun 6 - Jul 8
Summer Session II 5 weeks 2 Jul 11 - Aug 12

To see a list of courses, visit our Course Information page.

How do I sign up to take a course at ASI?

Signing up for courses involves a few simple steps. First, you will need to pre-register online on our homepage (www.ausable.org), and submit basic information. After you have completed the pre-registration, we will contact you by e-mail about applying for financial aid and providing information about your home college through our online registration system, Populibot (please check your spam filter to make sure the e-mail does not end up there).

Next, once you’ve completed those two components and paid your $25 application fee, you will be able to log in to Populibot and enroll in the course(s) you would like to take, then print your course schedule and registrar notification document. You will need to bring your course schedule and registrar notification document to your college’s Au Sable faculty representative and school registrar for their signatures. At this time, you will also receive an invoice from Au Sable for your $250 tuition deposit per session enrolled. Mail your registrar notification document and $250 tuition deposit to Au Sable’s office to complete enrollment.

I didn’t receive a follow-up e-mail after completing pre-registration. What should I do?

Our e-mails from Populibot (our online registration system) sometimes get sent to college spam filters. Check your spam folder first to see if the e-mail was accidentally filtered there. If you still aren’t able to find it, please contact Lynn Drew (lynn@ausable.org; 231-587-8686) in our Great Lakes office.

Who should I talk to on my campus about ASI?

Au Sable has Faculty Representatives at each of our participating colleges. ASI Faculty Representatives serve as a resource on campus for information about Au Sable, answering student questions and helping students choose and register for courses. To view a list of our ASI Faculty Representatives, see our Participating Institutions page.

Does ASI offer any off-site programs or international study opportunities?

Au Sable offers two unique international courses that are unavailable elsewhere. Our ‘Ecology of the Indian Tropics’ course takes students to South India during January term where they will learn about the diverse ecosystems and cultures of South India. Students visit the Bay of Bengal, the Western Ghats Mountain Range, and numerous national parks along the way. This course has been offered in partnership with Bishop Heber College for the past 15 years and is team-taught with ASI professor Dr. Orin Gelderloos and a faculty member from Bishop Heber, Dr. A. Relton. Students from Bishop Heber also take the course, making it a unique, intercultural experience.

Au Sable also offers a ‘Tropical Agriculture and Missions’ course in rural Costa Rica at the cloud rainforest campus of the Association for Development through Education. This course teaches students the hands-on skills and techniques necessary for working with resource-poor farmers in tropical environments. Students learn from local farmers, development workers and missionaries about low-cost agricultural techniques and plant propagation and requirements to reduce poverty and improve the health of the world’s poor.

Please visit our Course Information for more information or contact our admissions office (admissions@ausable.org).

Where do I live when I’m taking classes?

Au Sable provides housing on or nearby campus.

  • Great Lakes Campus – Housing is available on campus in dorm-style accommodations.
  • Pacific Rim Campus – Housing is located approximately five miles from campus at Camp Casey (owned by Seattle Pacific University).
  • India Campus – Housing is available in the Bishop Heber College dorms and in hotels and hostels while traveling.
  • Costa Rica Campus – Housing is available on campus at the Association for Development through Education’s cloud rainforest campus.

What is the certificate program, and what certificates does ASI offer?

Our certificate programs acknowledge a student’s proficiency and expertise in specific areas related to a particular aspect of environmental science. Students may be certified as an environmental analyst, naturalist, water resources analyst, and land resources analyst. To receive a certificate, students need to meet certain course and experiential requirements. To read more about certificate benefits and requirements, visit our Certificate Programs page.

Who can attend ASI?

Au Sable offers upper-level, college courses to students interested in learning about and caring for God’s world, ranging from freshmen through seniors and beyond. Traditionally, students come to Au Sable from the Christian colleges and universities across North America (See Participating Institutions, which are part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU); however, we often have Christian students from public universities who also attend. If you have questions about participation, please contact our admissions office by e-mail (admissions@ausable.org) or phone (231-587-8686).

Can I get a scholarship to attend ASI?

Yes, Au Sable offers generous financial aid packages to help students meet the cost of tuition. Please visit our Scholarship page to learn more about our scholarships, fellowships and grants.

Am I eligible for a Sustaining Partner Grant or an Honors Scholarship?

Sustaining Partner Grants are available to all students who attend an Au Sable Sustaining Partner school. Grants are worth $300 per course towards tuition. Please see our list of Partner and Participating Colleges to see if your school is a Sustaining Partner.

Honors Scholarships are available to all returning Au Sable students who maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher in their Au Sable classes. Scholarships are $250 for January and May courses, and $400 for Summer Session courses.

Learn more about Au Sable Financial Aid.

Where do the Au Sable faculty members come from?

Au Sable faculty members come primarily from the Christian colleges and universities throughout North America, with a few faculty members who teach at public universities in the U.S. All faculty are committed Christians who love the opportunity to share their expertise and experience with students. Read more about our faculty and why they love teaching at Au Sable.

How does ASI work with my college to give me credits for the courses I take?

You can think of Au Sable courses as being the same as your home college’s courses. No credits need to transfer to your home college for you to receive credit. Au Sable simply sends a copy of your transcript to your home college registrar’s office once courses are completed. These credits and grades will be recorded in your home college transcript.

How many credits do I receive for ASI courses?

Au Sable designates its courses as 4 credit hours. It is important, however, to check with your Au Sable Faculty Representative to see how many credits you will receive from your home college. For example, Trinity Christian College gives 4 credits per course to students who take one ASI course but 6 credits for students who take 2 Summer Session courses.

What internship opportunities exist for ASI students?

Au Sable’s primary internship opportunity is through our Environmental Education Internship Program (EEIP). This program serves to train the next generation of environmental educators by utilizing recent college graduates as teaching interns. Our program coordinator, Paul Wiemerslage, teaches interns in the principles of environmental education and trains them to lead school groups on field trips to our Au Sable campus. The 4-7 week internships take place in the fall, winter, and spring. Au Sable provides housing on campus and a living stipend during the internship.

Learn more at our Community School Program, or contact Paul Wiemerslage by e-mail at paul.w@ausable.org or call (231) 587-8686.

Does ASI help graduates find jobs?

Yes, Au Sable alumni, staff, and faculty serve as a resource for former students searching for jobs.  Au Sable relies on its extensive alumni network to inform the Au Sable community of job opportunities.  We also distribute job information as we receive it from our environmental network.

What is the Summer Research Program?

The Summer Research Program takes place during Summer Session I and Summer Session II at the Great Lakes Campus. Students accepted into the summer research program take Research Methods I and II courses as well as an Au Sable course related to their research. Faculty from these three courses assists the students in research design and implementation. Research students receive a discount of half off tuition fees, room and board. In addition, they gain critical research skills, receive 6 credits toward their degree, and participate in a collaborative research community for 10 weeks.

How do I apply for summer research?

Students interested in participating in summer research at Au Sable should contact the Faculty Representative at their campus.

Community School Program & Environmental Education Internship Program

What is the Community School Program?

Au Sable Institute’s Community Schools Program is the premier organization in Northwest Lower Michigan offering a variety of day-long field trips for local schools and other groups. The program serves around 2,000 school age children each year, offering a variety of learning experiences to children spanning from kindergarten to 12th grade. Each environmental education unit is tailored to the specific grade level of the student and also addresses Michigan science objectives for that age-group. Children have the opportunity to experience nature from an environmental perspective, learn more about the world that surrounds them and even learn about the cultural history of the area.

What is the maximum number of participants that you can accomodate per day?

Our facilities accomodate groups of 70 people or less (including students, teachers, and chaperones).  Please contact us for approval if you anticipate more than 70 people attending.  Under most circumstances we are able to accomodate slightly higher numbers.

What is the minimum number of students you can take?

For the Michigan history program our minimum is 20 students.

For all other day programs, our minimum is 10 students.
 

Do we need chaperones?

Yes. We must have one adult with each student study group. Your trip confirmation that we send you will tell you how many groups there will be and how many chaperones you need.

Can chaperones bring their other children along as well?  

In order to provide the best possible learning experience for our students we ask that chaperones not bring their other children along on field trips.

Is there a charge for chaperones?

There is no charge for the required chaperones (one chaperone per group is required). However, all adults beyond the required number will be charged $4.00 each to cover the cost of insurance for each person on campus.

When should we pay for our trip?

A bill will be sent to you after your fieldtrip day. Please do not bring cash or a check on your fieldtrip day.

How long is a day fieldtrip?  

We would like to have four hours of instruction time plus thirty minutes for lunch. Usually classes arrive at 9:30 and leave at 2:00. However, we can change these times to meet your needs. We are flexible and can start and end to fit your bus schedule and school day.

What should the students bring?

Students should bring their own lunch and proper clothing for outdoor studies.

Because of the emphasis on field studies, students should come prepared to be outside. We will go out rain, snow, or shine.  We are blessed at Au Sable by not having poison ivy or many mosquitoes. However, for the few mosquitoes that do show up on warm spring days we recommend long pants and long sleeves. This is a much better protection against mosquitoes than insect repellent. Please contact our environmental education coordinator Paul Wiemerslage if you have questions about attire or what to bring (paul.w@ausable.org  or 231-587-8686).

How do I schedule a fieldtrip?

Please contact the environmental education coordinator, Paul Wiemerslage via e-mail at paul.w@ausable.org. You may also reach Paul at (231) 587-8686. Scheduling is for the current school year only.  

How long is the Environmental Education Internship Program and where do I stay?

The Environmental Education Internship Program runs for 4-7 weeks (depending on the session) in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Au Sable provides housing, interns stay in one of our on-site houses on campus. During the internship, we also provide interns with a living stipend ($200/week) to cover food and other expenses during your internship.

How do I sign up?

Please contact environmental education coordinator, Paul Wiemerslage via e-mail at paul.w@ausable.org or phone at 231-587-8686.

What is Environmental Education?

Environmental Education utilizes direct experiences in the outdoors to teach about scientific and environmental concepts.  Keystoning this approach is an emphasis on place-based learning which strives to introduce students and participants to broader scientific concepts through an exploration of relevant local environments.  Through this experiential approach, Environmental Education or "EE" seeks to connect people to the natural world in effect creating a more environmentally conscious group of citizens while also helping teachers and students meet state and national science benchmarks.

Since 1977 Au Sable's EE program has led over 120,000 northern Michigan students in field studies from our learning center near Mancelona, MI.  For a full range of program details and study topics visit our Environmental Education page by clicking here.

Conferences and Retreats

Does Au Sable have volunteer activities our group could engage in while we are there?

Yes, Au Sable welcomes volunteer participation on campus, which will depend upon the time of year your retreat is held and the type of group attending. Please contact Bob Barr bobausable@gmail.com or call (231) 587-8686 to determine how your group could volunteer at Au Sable.

Who is eligible to hold a conference or retreat at Au Sable?

Our facilities are available for churches, community groups, our participating colleges and environmental stewardship groups.

When can I schedule my retreat?

A retreat can be scheduled during the months of September, October, February and March for any day of the week. Typically, retreats begin Friday evening and end Sunday afternoon. We have bunk-style dorms for up to 40 people, and the cost for a two-night retreat is $80/person. A detailed description of our facilities and opportunities can be found on our Conferences and Retreats page.

Who do I contact about making a reservation?

Schedule a conference or retreat by contacting Bob Barr at bobausable@gmail.com or call (231) 587-8686.

Does Au Sable accommodate small group retreats?

Au Sable has a beautiful beach house on Big Twin Lake located a half mile from the main campus. It is a spacious 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, and 2 kitchen house that is available for small groups for $100/day.

What facilities does Au Sable offer?

Facilities on the Great Lakes Campus include:

  • Dining Hall and Kitchen
  • Lodge (including community room, worship space, and conference room),
  • Dormitories and bunk houses
  • Earth Hall -- Library, classrooms, laboratories, and offices
  • Recreation building – Basketball, broomball, and indoor soccer court; storage for cross-country skis and snowshoes
  • Boathouse – Beachfront storage for kayaks and canoes
  • The Pines -- Six beachfront cottages a half mile from campus

These facilities are available in addition to beachfront property, miles of skiing and hiking trails, and many natural areas to explore.

Who cooks my meals? Do I receive a reduced fee if I cook my own meals?

Au Sable staff prepares all meals for you. Groups are allowed to do their own cooking for a reduced price.

What sort of recreational activities are available?

Au Sable has an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. Recreational activities depend upon the season. Au Sable has miles of trails, a large, open ball field, and beachfront property on Big Twin Lake. Winter activities include cross-country skiing on six miles of groomed ski trails, broom ball, sledding, and ice fishing. Spring and fall activities include volleyball, canoeing and kayaking on Big Twin Lake, hiking, soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball, softball, running, biking, and tennis. Our Lodge has two fireplaces, a small kitchen, and tables for board games.

Are Au Sable staff members available to speak to my group?

Yes, you can request Au Sable staff members to speak to your group depending upon your group’s retreat theme. You can also request a staff member to assist with guided nature hikes.

What is a Stewardship theme? And who should I contact to help me work on this?

Stewardship, as we use the term, refers to our Biblical calling to be caretakers of the physical world God has made. Bob Barr is available as a resource for groups in planning their retreats around this theme.

What kinds of equipment are available for my group to use for worship and other activities?

Au Sable has LCD projectors, DVD/CD players, and a piano to help implement your group’s program and worship activities.