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Environment / Sustainability

Conservation leadership focus of new grad program

June 26, 2009

Colorado State University's Warner College of Natural Resources is preparing students for the global green workforce with the launch of the graduate degree program, Conservation Leadership Through Learning.

Spring 2010 applications being accepted

The program is linked with the important environmental sustainability issues being addressed by the university's School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Applications are being accepted now for spring 2010 classes.

Conservation Leadership Through Learning is motivated by the need to train a new generation of leaders capable of responding to linked conservation and development challenges across the globe.

Field is primary classroom

"This program is more than classroom learning augmented with field experiences, the field is the primary classroom," said Joe O'Leary, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources. "Field-based experiences lead to a richer understanding of complex ecological and social issues related to conservation. Conservation leaders must understand the larger social and environmental contexts in which they work, as well as how to weave together partnerships across the public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors."

The 18-month graduate degree program employs integrated coursework that draws from three core areas:

  • natural and physical sciences
  • social sciences
  • management and leadership

Students participate in coursework and field work in Colorado and Mexico where they will be trained through a combination of learning formats with a curriculum that adapts to site-specific problems that students face. U.S. and Mexican partners from government, civil society, academic institutions and local communities will be contributors and partners with this master's degree program.

Complexity of today's environmental problems

"This program was designed to recognize the complexity of today's environmental problems. Issues of global warming, biodiversity loss and tropical deforestation are linked to problems of poverty, disease and the economy. We cannot achieve solutions by dealing with just one of these without considering the other," said Diana Wall, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

With Conservation Leadership Through Learning, CSU is pioneering a new model for graduate education that will prepare students to make a difference in the world by providing them with a strong foundation in science, leadership and management. This program merges interdisciplinary university education with real-world action to create on-the-ground benefits for conservation and communities.

Big picture thinkers with passion

"Graduates of this program will be the equivalent of the orchestra conductors for conservation, directing groups of specialists to produce collectively what no single expert can produce alone," said Mike Manfredo, head of the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. "They will be big picture thinkers with the passion to achieve measurable results and inspire others to make a contribution."

"We hope to attract students who want to be the future leaders of environmental conservation. We hope they will be the people who go on and make a difference in business, law, management and policy," said O'Leary.

Faculty expertise from across disciplines

The program is offered by a team of CSU professors representing a breadth of disciplinary perspectives. Faculty expertise ranges from forestry to sociology, agriculture to communication and water resources to ecological economics.

"CSU is preparing the next generation of leaders through training that facilitates a holistic understanding of conservation and society. Conservation Leadership Through Learning will equip our students to address conservation issues around the world from start to finish," said Wall.

Highly integrated learning experience

Colorado State University's Warner College of Natural Resources and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability are joining with Mexico's El Colegio de la Frontera Sur and government agencies and conservation NGOs in the United States and Mexico to provide this highly integrated learning experience.

For more information about CSU's Conservation Leadership Through Learning initiative, contact Peter Newman or Ryan Finchum at (970) 491-7776 or

Contact: Kimberly Sorensen
Phone: (970) 491-0757