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November 17, 2010
Students in CSU's Conservation Leadership Through Learning program know they are not receiving a traditional education. The new and innovative graduate study program in the Warner College of Natural Resources combines classroom learning with hands-on experience in the field and interaction with leaders in conservation.
Recently, the students had the opportunity to learn from a leader in conservation in Colorado. In October, Conservation Leadership Through Learning students traveled to Denver for a presentation by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who discussed conservation efforts by Colorado’s government.
“CSU's Conservation Leadership specialization is working with conservation leaders from multiple countries to empower them with the tools they will need to orchestrate positive change upon graduation,” said Ryan Finchum, field director for the CLTL program.
“One of the ways we are building their toolkit is by giving them face time with leaders from all walks of life - in this case, meeting with the governor of Colorado to learn about how conservation fits into state government.”
Through the governor’s presentation, students gained a greater understanding of the ways in which Colorado is a national leader in conservation and environmental efforts.
Gov. Ritter praised the program as another example of CSU’s cutting-edge focus on research and workforce training in energy, the environment and natural resources.
“This program will help us prepare the next generation of Colorado’s workforce to better manage and protect our environment and natural resources,” said Gov. Ritter, whose oldest son, August, is taking part in the program. “This is a rapidly changing field that requires a highly skilled and extremely well-educated workforce. I’m pleased and excited that CSU is helping to meet that demand.”
During the past few years, Gov. Ritter has developed many initiatives to keep Colorado as a leader in environmental programs. Many of these projects have centered on development of renewable energy, including wind power and geothermal energy.
“I was extremely impressed with the work the governor has done and his vision for the state,” said CLTL student Britt Basel. “He demonstrated a very judicious approach to policy, showing a solid appreciation for meeting Colorado’s varying needs on social, environmental and economic levels.”
Gov. Ritter has also worked to ensure that Colorado’s wilderness areas remain protected. In August, he announced an initiative to partner with nine of the state’s largest energy companies to conserve 335,000 acres of wildlife habitat on Colorado’s Western Slope while continuing to develop the state’s energy resources responsibly.
“I gained an amazing insight from a great leader into how real transformative politics can happen,” said Adrian Benedetti, a graduate student in the CLTL program who attended the presentation. “It takes focus, determination, being pragmatic and understanding where you are and where you can be without relinquishing your ultimate goal.”
The Conservation Leadership Through Learning program blends disciplines to give students the resources they need to face ever-changing conservation issues around the country and the world. The program draws from the natural and physical sciences, social sciences, and management and leadership to create a learning experience unlike any other.
“Conservation is not about making people worry about the extinction of a species; it is not about our bad habits,” said Diana Morales-Betancourt, a CLTL student who is originally from Colombia. “Conservation is about finding ways to live our lives better, not just for us but for all living things, now and in the future.”
Students gain an understanding of the way conservation issues are converging and how they can help develop solutions to those issues upon graduation. They come from all walks of life, and the program has a significant number of international students as well as students who already have international conservation experience.
“While working in Panama, I realized that conservation challenges facing us today are all intertwined, and I was struggling to understand how,” Benedetti said. “I wanted to learn and be a part of a program audacious enough to try to explain it to me.”
The 17-month, full-time program begins on the CSU campus. Students spend seven months of their time in the program living and working in Mexico learning about conservation issues from an international perspective. CSU and the Warner College of Natural Resources have partnered with Mexico’s El Colegio de la Frontera Sur University to develop this unique, integrated program.
“In our day-to-day lives, we are comfortable and often too busy to step back and see the larger picture of resource over-exploitation, negative impacts of globalization, and climate change that must be addressed,” Basel said. “We tend to get overwhelmed thinking about these issues, so we don't. The thing is, as part of a global community, we have total power to change these problems and it really won't take that much. CLTL is giving me a solid foundation to help me be part of this solution.”
The first group of CLTL students will graduate in Spring 2012. Applications for the next program will be accepted starting August 2011.
For more information, visit Conservation Leadership Through Learning, e-mail, or call (970) 491-7776.
Written by Kelly Geary, senior Journalism and Technical Communications major at CSU and intern in CSU’s Department of Public Relations.
Contact: Kimberly Sorensen
Phone: (970) 491-0757