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Our Programs

Gull Island began in response to a problem: existing liberal arts institutions offer too little space to cultivate civic responsibilities appropriate to responding to humanity’s profound transformations of the earth’s life-sustaining systems. Doing this requires grappling with fundamental questions about what makes our world habitable, and how we can inhabit it well.


Gull Island centers these questions through a new kind of immersive education. Its three-pillared structure – adapted from the pedagogical model of Deep Springs College, founded in 1917 – presents an opportunity to put small groups from intellectually diverse viewpoints and backgrounds into direct conversation, collaborative work, and living. Given the program’s place-based orientation, Gull Island is particularly committed to recruiting promising leaders from the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribes and other Northeastern Indigenous backgrounds.

Think of Gull Island as the opposite of a college “study abroad” program. Rather than getting away, you come here, to live, work, and learn with fellow students and faculty committed to pursuing lives of service and asking fundamental questions about how we ought to live. During your program, expect to be challenged and grow as you become responsible for the well-being of a place and the communities it supports. These are skills and abilities that will serve you where ever you go.

Gull Island represents a vision for the future of higher education. Our long-term goal is to make place-based learning rooted in the three pillars available to students at a range of public, private, and community colleges. In addition to our Buzzards Bay programs, Gull Island seeks to partner with private and public institutions to develop and implement similar programs elsewhere, preparing diverse student cohorts to fashion a just future for the places that sustain us.

A Three-Pillared Approach


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The academic curriculum comprises courses developed and taught by faculty in the humanities, social sciences. All students take part in the Core Seminar - an investigation of the problems of place, scale, and human relations with the non-human world through classic texts of Western thought, Indigenous knowledge traditions. Shorter courses explore topics in micro-history and ecology, including the geomorphology and coastal life science of Buzzards Bay, Indigenous history of the region and settler colonization, Louis Agassiz's Penikese School of Natural History, and the Penikese Island Leper Hospital, among other topics.

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Citizenship is about more than our relationships to one another. It is also about how we relate to the land and non-human life. Labor at Gull Island incorporates this dimension through investing students with responsibility for the maintenance of region that supports them. Students engage in about 20 hours of labor a week. The nature of the work varies depending on the cohort and the season, and is divided into three groups: aquaculture, gardening/maintenance, and kitchen. Students rotate around the positions during their semester.


Students form their own political body that governs their affairs. Along with faculty, students also sit on a general body which organizes labor, determines how to spend the semester operations budget, and liaises with surrounding communities. Students are also elected to serve on hiring, curriculum, and applications committees and may sit on the Advisory Council once they have completed their program. Through the self-governance pillar, the abstract problems dealt with in seminar - how should we live? How to manage the claims of others and the environment? – become real.

Connecting Ideas to Practice....

Gull Island’s approach is focused on the world of texts and the text of the world. We believe that the conditions of a changing climate require new ways of connecting the intellect to practice. Our goal is to inspire students to pursue a life of service, grounded in the knowledge and needs of place. 

...and Inspiring Service.

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