New Zealand

Culture and the Environment: A Shared Future

Trace the traditions, innovations, and challenges behind the beautiful landscapes. Hear from those at the forefront of solutions to the environmental and cultural issues of today.

Accepting applications for 2022-2023 academic year.

Program Structure

The semester begins with four weeks of travel in the North Island, grounding students in the social, political, and environmental context of the course. The remainder of the term is based in Wellington, with two days of class and 20-25 hours per week at individual internship sites.

Topics & Themes

Environmental sustainability, conservation, Māori treaty rights, globalization and trade, history of colonization in New Zealand, green development, tourism and its impacts on local communities, co-governance/spiritual governance of rivers, rights of nature, reconciliation.


Wellington, New Zealand

Terms & Dates

Program suspended Spring 2022


16 credits

Program Overview

New Zealand has long been at the forefront of innovative social, cultural, and environmental practices. In this program, students get to know the people, places, and ideas that have driven environmental reforms as well as truth and reconciliation processes between the government and indigenous Māori peoples. Although challenges abound, students learn—across disciplines—about positive responses. Students spend their first month traveling by van to key biodiversity and cultural sites on New Zealand’s North Island, hearing from local leaders, observing, learning, and discussing as a group. The depth and relevance of the Māori worldview is a core focus. The following two months in Wellington are devoted to independent study, class meetings, coursework, and internships. Students live with homestay hosts, work on an independent study project, attend classes, and complete a significant internship. Internship placements in past years have ranged from the city council’s acclaimed ‘straw-free waterfront’ campaign to Zealandia Urban Ecosanctuary. Links between environment, culture, policy, and community are at the heart of all field study and internship opportunities.

Staff and Faculty

Charles Dawson

Program Co-Director Charles Dawson grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. He has a B.A. in History and English, and Honors and Master’s degrees in that subject. He also earned a doctorate with a focus on environmental and literary issues from the University of British Columbia in Canada. He has studied Māori language and is very much aware of the importance of experiential learning. Through his father Martin, Charles was exposed to crucial aspects of New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi-based reconciliation process. He went on to work in that area, most recently at the Waitangi Tribunal as facilitator for the inquiry into the major flora, fauna and Māori cultural and intellectual property claims. He is the co-founder and New Zealand representative for the Australasian literature, environment and culture network ASLEC-ANZ, and the co-founder of the environmental history journal Environment & Nature in New Zealand. Charles is delighted to be involved with teaching at HECUA, where his passions for teaching, learning, environmental and cultural issues find a natural home.

Peter Horsley

Program Co-Director Peter Horsley is both a lawyer and a specialist in environmental management. Since the 1980s, he has been affiliated with Massey University’s School of Resource and Environmental Planning as a lecturer and research fellow teaching environmental law, environmental planning, natural resource planning, and conservation policy and supervising numerous graduate students. He is also a professional teaching fellow in the University of Auckland’s Planning Department teaching undergraduate and graduate courses and is an associate at the University of Auckland’s New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law. His instructional concentrations include environmental policy and governance; culture, identity, and place; knowledge systems and ways of knowing; and comparative social movements. Horsley is an active advocate, researcher, and consultant on collaborative management strategies between Māori and the New Zealand government and has served as a consultant to Māori in the design and implementation of management plans for land and sites that are sacred or represent cultural heritage. In addition to teaching, consulting, and participating in New Zealand civic life, Horsley has extensive experience with U.S. undergraduates. He has taught in four different programs with the International Honors Program (IHP) study-abroad multi-site programs: Rethinking Globalization, Indigenous Perspectives, Cities in the 21st Century, and Nations and Identities.

Ngārangi Marsh

Community Faculty Ngārangi is a native speaker of Te Reo the first language of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and a practitioner of traditional Māori lore raised by his elders. He has been involved in Māori education, research, TV, film, theatre and music for over 20 years and has lectured in Māori philosophy, theology, history, language, curriculum development, environmental resource management, education and arts from Waikato, Canterbury, Otago and Auckland Universities. Ngārangi received additional credentials through various Māori Educational Institutes such as Te Whare Wananga o Raukawa (Otaki), Te Whare Wananga o Awanui-a-rangi (Whakatane), and Te Whare Wananga o Aotearoa (Te Awa Mutu); as well as a number of Polytechnics schools throughout Aotearoa. He is currently an independent researcher and educationist focusing on historical and contemporary Waitangi Tribunal Claims, traditional Māori environment indicators, bird relocation, environmental monitoring, Iwi monitoring, Iwi development strategies, Taonga relocation and education. Ngārangi’s interests include the retention and revitalisation of traditional lore, language, culture, storytelling, games, arts, and music.


Māori Perspectives, Pluralism, and National Identity (4 credits)

Students develop an understanding of New Zealand history, and contemporary and evolving attitudes towards that history. They learn ways to think critically about approaches to and movements for social change in New Zealand today. They become able to situate New Zealand history within a set of other colonialist histories, including that of the United States, and to situate Māori movements for social change within a set of other indigenous movements, including some in the United States. Key topics include: Māori perspectives on place, ritual, identity and history. The insights and evolution of mātauranga Māori (Māori wisdom, tradition and knowledge) and how these inform contemporary policy and society; the practices and protocols of the marae as a meeting and discussion space; the history of colonization in New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Tribunal truth and reconciliation process, and Māori protest and social movements; how contemporary New Zealand is moving from a European/Māori dichotomy (a bicultural lens) to a multicultural lens; how New Zealanders are debating the role of pluralism in New Zealand society and how these debates are shaping, or challenging, a cohesive national identity.

Sustainability, Ecology, and New Zealand Environmental Policy (4 credits)

Students analyze the interrelationships of social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental realms in New Zealand today. They learn about approaches to and movements for social change in New Zealand as they relate to sustainability and environmental policy concerns. Key themes include: perceptions of nature in New Zealand; key strategies used to address pressing environmental issues in New Zealand; Māori knowledge systems and how they have informed environmental-management and conservation law and practice; significant sustainability frameworks that New Zealand has developed, the effectiveness of certain frameworks, and the initiatives that are still required; how citizens are addressing environmental problems, and initiatives at the local level; contradictions and ways to resolve contradictions between New Zealand’s “clean and green” image and its dependence on trade and globalization, and on extractive and resource-intensive industries.

Internship, Field Work, and Integration seminar (4 credits)

This seminar connects theory and practice. This course includes three components: (1) the structured internship of 7-8 weeks, in Wellington beginning the week students arrive there, (2) field visits related to the program, and (3) class discussions that tie together practical insights from field work with theoretical analyses from readings. Sustained intention and attention to integrative learning weaves together these three activities into one course. The internship component aims to enable students to observe, and be directly involved in, processes of social change or environmental issues they have studied in classroom and other settings. Field work is designed to illustrate, amplify, or contest material explored in the classroom. Time spent intentionally on integration fosters students’ abilities to connect learning across the various courses and components of the program, helping tie together or put into new tension insights around New Zealand history, sustainability frameworks, Māori thought and practices, environmental management strategies, citizens’ and local initiatives, and observations from internship placements. The course helps students: develop and adapt to new working relationships, cultures and practices; formulate and articulate connections between classroom teaching and learning, and experience; and meaningfully synthesize connections among theories explored within the classroom and experiences outside the classroom.

Independent Study Project (4 credits)

The Independent Study Project Students explore a research topic tailored to their individual learning and career objectives. Students pursue a research question on a particular issue relevant to one or more of the major themes of the program, and by the end of the semester produce a 15-20-page paper. The topic must be approved by the Program Directors. The paper is completed in iterative stages over the course of the program, and needs steady attention in the Wellington phase. In this course, students develop skills in: identifying a creative, focused, and manageable topic that offers a potentially significant avenue for exploration; synthesizing appropriate amounts of information from relevant sources representing various points of view; designing an appropriate methodology or theoretical framework, ideally across disciplines; working alone and with peers to develop approaches and draft; coming to a conclusion that logically emerges from the findings; discussing relevant and supported implications and limitations; presenting findings and conclusions orally in a semi-formal setting.

Complete Syllabus


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

Wellington Greens

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is guided by four principles:   Ecological Wisdom, Social Responsibility, Appropriate Decision-making and Non-violence, together with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Green Party has its origins in the 1972 Values Party, the world’s first national Green Party, and currently has 14 MPs in Parliament who provide an effective voice in Parliament, both for people and for our beautiful planet. HECUA students in this placement work directly with the national campaign headquarters assisting in outreach and support for the Party.

NIWA - National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Sciences

NIWA is the NZ equivalent of the US NOOA. NIWA is noted for its interdisciplinary and team-based approach to research. Students may have the opportunity to work in the famous NIWA “wet lab,” home to one of the world’s finest marine invertebrate collections or assist with aspects of science communications.

Otari-Wilton's Bush

Otari-Wilton’s Bush Reserve is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants. Students who intern here will have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects relating to environmental education, conservation, and ecology.

Program Costs

Fee Breakdown: Cost includes group transportation to field sites, planned group excursions, lodging, meals, local transportation, medical insurance, and administrative costs. Students are placed in individual homestays and meals are provided by the host family. A note on costs: The program costs listed below are what HECUA charges for participation in its programs. The final amount that a student pays might be higher and can vary from college to college. Many colleges assess additional fees or charge their own tuition for off-campus programs. Some colleges also have specific financial aid rules for off-campus programs. Therefore, all students should check with the off-campus-study office and the financial aid office of their home institution to confirm their final cost for a HECUA program. A full and comprehensive fee breakdown can be found on the Program Costs page.

Member schools

Member schools are schools that are part of the HECUA consortium. For HECUA member school students, the cost of our program is $21,400.  Check your school’s status.

Non-Member Schools

Non-member schools are schools that are not part of the HECUA consortium. For non-member school students, the cost of this HECUA program is $22,200.  Check your school’s status.


HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Click here to view all scholarships.

Good to know

The program is offered in partnership with the EcoQuest Education Foundation/Te Rarangahau Taiao, which sponsors students’ New Zealand visa applications, hosts the program for a field experience, and provides evaluation and oversight. The program is based in Wellington, with field study in areas around the North Island, including the Waikato and the Taupo regions, a Māori community on the flanks of Mt Ruapehu, Wellington, and the greater Auckland area. In Wellington students intern for seven weeks in a local organization, becoming directly involved in efforts and debates around wildlife conservation, environmental advocacy, sustainability, transportation, water quality, youth development, cultural pluralism, and human rights. While in Wellington, students are lodged in homestays. Each student has his or her own room, and meals are provided. During field visits, students are housed in various types of community facilities and provided with group meals which students and staff prepare together. In some cases students shop and prepare meals together. Students in the program are required to obtain a student visa to participate in the program. HECUA helps guide students through the visa application process. For more information about the visa application process, contact HECUA student services.

*A note about the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) The NZQA assesses the standard of education for tertiary education organizations through a regular system of external evaluation and review (EER). Through periodic EER, tertiary education organizations are held accountable to their students, employers, funders, quality assurance bodies and other interested parties. HECUA has a partnership agreement with EcoQuest Education Foundation Te Rarangahau Taiao (EcoQuest), which is registered with NZQA as a Private Training Establishment under the provisions of the (NZ) Education Act 1989 and its subsequent amendments. The HECUA New Zealand program is reviewed as part of the NZQA EER of EcoQuest. The latest quality assurance results for EcoQuest can be viewed on the NZQA website. As further protection of your rights while studying in New Zealand, NZQA also provides a mechanism to manage student complaints about education providers.

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