Prescott College Ph.D. Launches Sustainability Lab In Appalachia

March 09, 2018 - By Prescott College

Lindsey Rudibaugh co-founded program to help college students foster self-reliance

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Lindsey Rudibaugh, a 2015 graduate of Prescott College’s Ph.D. program, has launched, with her partner Travis Harding, a non-profit serving the Ohio Appalachian region, called Tenderfoot Fair Trade Learning Lab. “My purpose in pursuing the Ph.D. was to attain the knowledge, skills, and credentials to start a study-away program in Appalachia to help college students foster self-reliance and sustainable habits while alleviating the cost of higher education,” Lindsey said, “It grew out of my desire to do more than simply complain about the persistent issues we’ve faced while working with higher education.” Lindsey says among these issues are students being unprepared for living on their own (which they call “adulting”), curricula that give the illusion of separateness rather than revealing the endless cause-and-effect connections between disciplines, and the crippling price tag that comes with an education. “Tenderfoot seeks to prepare students for life beyond college, teaching them to be self-reliant critical thinkers who understand the ripple effects of their decisions in their local and global communities, and helping them lighten the burden of their student load debt.”

To help finance their endeavor, Lindsey and Travis are thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail this summer as a fundraiser, collecting pledges per mile. The proceeds will support two primary ventures: Scholarships for Appalachian students pursuing a 4-year college degree, and the initial land purchase or lease for eventual residential programs. “Currently, we're doing monthly cooking and hiking events to build participants' self-efficacy, and we're identifying the scholarship recipients for whom we'll hike. In the next 2 years, we hope to be welcoming college students from partnering institutions for an immersive semester-long experience in sustainable living.”

Semesters at Tenderfoot will follow the work college model, meaning students will work to grow our own food and produce our own energy in exchange for that semester's tuition. “This financial structure allows participants to reduce the overall price tag of their education,” said Lindsey, who credits Prescott College with “honing and clarifying her vision with the help of countless faculty, mentors, staff members, and fellow students from various degree programs.” You can  learn more about Tenderfoot Fair Trade Learning Lab, and make a pledge for the Appalachian Trail hike, at tenderfootlearninglab.org. They're also on Facebook and Instagram as @tenderfootlearninglab