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The Morven Summer Institute

Students at Morven


The Morven Summer Institute is an innovative summer program hosted on UVa's 3,000-acre Morven Farm, an emerging landscape for interdisciplinary learning at the University, located 20 minutes from UVA Grounds. At the Morven Summer Institute, undergraduate and graduate students with interests in sustainability, design, food systems, and ecology will have the opportunity to escape traditional confines of the classroom while working on projects with real-world applications.

Students participating in the 2015 Summer Institute select one 3-credit course from either (or both) of the 10-day summer blocks (Block A: May 18-May 30 and Block B: June 1-June 13). In conjunction with time spent in the classroom at Morven, this interdisciplinary program features guest speakers, field trips, active group discussions, and hands-on projects to ignite creative collaboration among students and faculty.

The Morven Summer Institute is a collaborative effort involving faculty from the School of Architecture and the College of Arts and Sciences; the Office of the Vice President for Research; and the Office of Summer and Special Academic Programs.

Students from all years, departments, and outside Universities are welcome to join the Morven community for this unique program.

2015 Course Dates:

Morven Institute Block A: May 18 - May 30
Morven Institute Block B: June 1 - June 13

BLOCK A: May 19 - May 30

Core class times: 10am - 3:30pm

EVSC 4559/GSGS 4559(1): Agro-EcoLOGY

- 3 credits
Manuel Lerdau, Departments of Environmental Science and Biology

This class will cover the fundamental principles of agro-ecology, the science of using ecological theory to improve agricultural practice.  We will begin with the basics of plant-crop science and integrate the fundamental biology of crops into an ecological view of growth and production.  Specific topics we will cover include, but are not limited to, mono- vs. poly-culture approaches, drought stress, and disease ecology.  The class will look in some detail at the ecological consequences of traditional and modern breeding approaches.  We will also examine the roles of economic and sociocultural factors in designing ecologically aware agricultural systems.  Students should, but are not required to, have Introductory Biology and Introductory Chemistry.  The course will be international in scope but will focus on Central Virginia for field projects.

GSGS 3559/STS 3500(2)/SYS 4502/: sustainability and human needs

- 3 credits
Garrick Louis, Departments of Systems and Information Engineerng

What is a sustainable quality of life or standard of living? Is it at the current level of consumption in industrialized countries like the US, in emerging economies like China, or in lower-income countries like Kenya? How should governments balance the need to create national income and provide for the human needs of their citizens against the desire to conserve natural resources and the environment for future generations? This course will analyze sustainability in the context of human needs and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The course will examine the methods and costs of satisfying these needs, including the externalities they incur and the tradeoffs involved between social benefit and environmental impact. Coverage of the Millennium Development Goals will emphasize the special needs of Sub-Saharan Africa.

BLOCK B: june 2 - june 13

Core class times: 10am – 3:30pm

GSGS 4559(2)/PLAP 4500: farmers markets, food politics and research methods

- 3 credits
Paul Freedman, Department of Politics

This course explores the politics of food and food systems, with a focus on farmers markets. What role do farmers markets play in America’s food system? What legislation and regulation at the federal and state levels affects how farmers markets carry out these roles? Students will gain practical experience in applied data gathering and analysis, building a set of skills that can be applied in studying farmers markets.  A roster of guest lecturers, developed in collaboration with the national Farmers Market Coalition, will include researchers, policy makers, farmers market managers, and farmers. Students who take this course will be eligible for a research internship in a Virginia farmers market.


GSGS 2559/RELG 2210: religion, ethics, and global environment

- 3 credits
Willis Jenkins, Department of Religious Studies

Where do ideas of nature come from, and what cultural and political consequences do they carry? In an era of rapid human expansion and uncertain ecological change, cultures everywhere are reexamining their basic orientations to their environments. What stories and values shape the patterns of everyday ecological life? Are they still good ones, or must agents develop new moral resources to meet new moral problems? This course interprets humanity’s changing ecological relationships through religious and philosophical traditions. It takes up ethical questions presented by environmental problems, introduces frameworks for making sense of them, and examines the symbols and narratives that shape imaginations of nature. In lecture and in online discussion sections, we take up relations of belief and behavior in practical problems like climate change and food choices, and we consider their implications for personal commitments and public goals.

Costs per Course


Undergraduate Virginia Resident

Tuition (3 credits @ $349/credit): $1,047
Comprehensive Fee: $366
Morven Institute Fee: $450
Total: $1,863

Graduate Virginia Resident

Tuition (3 credits @ $392/credit): $1,176
Comprehensive Fee: $366
Morven Institute Fee: $450
Total: $1,992

Undergraduate Out-of-State

Tution (3 credits @ $1,247/credit): $3,741
Comprehensive Fee: $425
Morven Institute Fee: $450
Total: $4,616

Graduate Out-of-State

Tuition (3 credits @ $794 credit): $2,382
Comprehensive Fee: $425
Morven Institute Fee: $450
Total: $3,257

Morven Summer Institute Scholarship

Information about Morven Summer Institute scholarships will be available later in the spring..

More Information

For questions concerning the Morven Summer Institute, please email the Morven Summer Institute Coordinator, Cassidy Pillow, at speak with a member of the Morven Programs staff, contact Whitney Farmer: or call 434-924-3540.

Morven Farm is conveniently located 20 minutes from UVA Grounds, just down the road from Monticello. For a detailed map and directions, see here.


  • Paul Freedman, Associate Professor, Department of Politics
  • Willis Jenkins, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies
  • Manuel Lerdau, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences
  • Garrick Louis, Associate Professor, Department of Systems and Information Engineering