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School of Environment and sustainability

Clark Family School of Environment and Sustainability


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Dear Partner,

How can a small liberal arts university in the heart of the Rockies transform our relationship with the environments we call home? How can generations of students dedicate their talent, vision and energy to building socially and ecologically resilient communities across the globe? How can we empower students to lead sustainability organizations without leaving those same students with excess debt? These are the questions that moved us to launch Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability (ENVS). We invite you to strengthen our extensive web of community resilience projects by helping students cultivate livelihoods based on their values.

  • OUR MISSION: We empower students to foster community transitions to ecologically resilient, economically sustainable, and socially just energy, food, water and land-use systems.
  • OUR VISION: We enact new ways to thrive in the American West, in worldwide mountain communities, and as global citizens through academic programs, public events, faculty research and student projects.
  • OUR VALUES: We deliver experiential and student-centered education, scientifically-informed decision-making, interdisciplinary learning, global networks of place-based change, cultural inclusivity and social justice and cross-boundary (public/private, urban/rural, local/global) environmental stewardship.

Our Colorado home serves as both our regional classroom and as our global springboard. Beginning over two decades ago with the ENVS undergraduate program, our students have monitored forests on snowshoes, managed a campus organic farm as a local business, addressed climate change on Colorado’s Western Slope, and partnered with diverse global communities. In 2014, we added a Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program. Each MEM student completes a 600-hour project for an organization anywhere in the world. Over 80,000 hours of MEM projects have served community organizations across Colorado, the American West, and as far as Kenya, the Himalayas and Costa Rica.

In addition to solution-focused academic programs, the Clark School includes major conferences and public initiatives under two centers: the Center for Mountain Transitions and the Center for Public Lands. In 2018, the High Country News editorial staff joined us, connecting environmental education with place-based communication. This is our emerging future: imagine faculty researchers, student project leaders, experiential learners, community conference directors and leading writers coming together to wrestle over the future of the West and the world—here at the headwaters of the West. We hope you can join us!

From the Headwaters,






John Hausdoerffer, Ph.D

Dean, Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability
(970) 943-3450


Initiatives & Scholarships

Our capital campaign is focused on named endowments providing scholarships for Master in Environmental Management students. Some of the endowment possibilities are:



Local through global partners of the Center for Mountain Transitions and the MEM Mountain Resilience Corps Project: Coldharbour Institute, Western Alliance for Restoration Management, AmeriCorps Vista Stewards, Mountain Resilience Coalition, Mountain-base

Local through global partners of the Center for Mountain Transitions and the MEM Mountain Resilience Corps Project: Coldharbour Institute, Western Alliance for Restoration Management, AmeriCorps Vista Stewards, Mountain Resilience Coalition, Mountain-based Sister Cities Network, The Mountain Institute.

Cultures around the globe have long looked to the mountains for inspiration. Mountain regions provide the basis for human livelihood and ecosystem services, making up twenty percent of the earth, thirteen percent of human communities, up to eighty percent of water consumed by humans, and twenty-five percent of biodiversity. Yet these pinnacles of vision and sources of life are in danger, with glaciers melting and over thirty percent of mountain people suffering from food
insecurity. In this era of climate disruption, it is time to look again to the world’s mountain communities as beacons of a more resilient story, stretching from the planet’s headwaters to all communities downstream.


The Center for Mountain Transitions (CMT) partners with local, regional, national, and global communities to build resilience for mountain peoples and ecosystems and to transition to sustainable solutions in the face of climate change. Located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Western Colorado University’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability offers the ideal home base as a hub for training and connecting mountain-focused agents of change around the world. The Clark School’s Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program requires each student to complete a 600-hour on-the-ground Masters Project for a community organization anywhere globally, resulting in 25,000 hours of annual student work throughout Gunnison and as far as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Alaska, Mexico, Kenya, India, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Students who focus on mountain-based projects make up our “Mountain Resilience Corps.” The Mountain Resilience Corps co-produces place-based mountain resilience with communities on all scales:

  • Local: The CMT houses the Coldharbour Institute, a nonprofit on 350 acres, modelling mountain-based sustainable living from sustainable food to renewable energy to green design to land, water, and wildlife management to regenerative grazing.
  • Regional: The CMT co-founded the Western Alliance for Restoration Management to reclaim polluting mines in the mountains of Colorado.
  • National: The CMT has a unique partnership with AmeriCorps Vista Stewards. Over ten MEM projects have transformed a Vista assignment serving a mountain community into a Masters Project.
  • Global: The CMT co-founded the Mountain Resilience Coalition with Telluride Institute and Aspen International Mountain Foundation, voted by the United Nations Mountain Partnership to chair the North America, Central America, and Caribbean region. A team of Mountain Resilience Corps MEM students are currently building this network as their Masters Project.
  • Global: CMT Mountain Resilience Corps students worked with the City of Gunnison and the leaders of the Himalayan community of Majkhali, India to form a Sister Cities International partnership, focusing on shared solutions as global “headwaters communities.”
  • Global: The CMT is in conversation with The Mountain Institute to send Mountain Resilience Corps students to Nepal and Peru for MEM projects.

Our expert faculty from thirteen different environmental disciplines are dedicated to mentoring Mountain Resilience Corps students over decades, leading to hundreds of projects, deep and lasting mountain-to-mountain partnerships, and many student livelihoods based on the values of mountain resilience. Faculty research and teaching efforts have provided mountain-based climate adaptation planning in Mongolia, climate action planning in Mexico, and sustainability curriculum in the Himalayas of India.

The Mountain Resilience Coalition (MRC) is a triad formed by the Aspen International Mountain Foundation, the Telluride Institute, and Western Colorado University’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability during the December 2018 United Nations Mountain Partnership meeting in Rome, Italy. Together, rooted in the UN Mountain Partnership’s focus on meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will build action-research networks with the mountain communities of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean region that we are charged with overseeing. In its first year, the MRC has built a team of faculty and masters students to begin collaborative projects in Panama, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colorado ski communities, and Costa Rica.

The funds would empower a rapidly expanding network of Western Master in Environmental Management “Mountain Resilience Corps” projects, led by Mountain Resilience Coalition co-founders from Telluride and Aspen. For half a decade, Western’s Master in Environmental Management students have completed mountain-based projects from Colorado to Alberta to Yosemite to Puerto Rico to India. Collectively, these mountain-based projects form Western’s and MRC’s “Mountain Resilience Corps.” Each student provides 600 hours each year under the guidance of an expert Western faculty member, and the program has completed 75,000 hours of projects for national and global communities. The potential for mountain community projects out of this university-based engine of change is limitless.

The Mountain Resilience Coalition merges three Colorado-based organizations with global vision:

  • ASPEN INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN FOUNDATION is on the Steering Committee of the UN Mountain Partnership, representing the North and Central American and Caribbean region. They work to determine which research and project endeavors will advance the goals of the region and, in turn, show progress to the UN Mountain Partnership.
  • TELLURIDE INSTITUTE’S expert educators work with scientists, artists, agriculturalists, and community and business leaders to create watershed specific curricula. Building on 20 years of local and regional success, they are now working to foster local innovations for resilient livelihoods in mountain regions worldwide, and to identify, develop, and scale up mountain-based solutions to global problems.
  • WESTERN COLORADO UNIVERSITY’S CLARK FAMILY SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENT & SUSTAINABILITY provides expert partners, from thirteen environmental disciplines, to cultivate a network of place-based sustainability transitions for worldwide communities. With Mountain Resilience Coalition’s help, Western’s faculty will oversee hundreds of Master’s Projects fulfilling the goals of community organizations by 2035.

The Mountain Resilience Coalition has Western faculty joining staff from both Aspen and Telluride to oversee up to ten Mountain Resilience Corps Masters students working in tandem toward the following four phases:

  • PHASE ONE 2018-2019: First, we are mapping the mountain community network within the North American, Central America, and Caribbean region. This map and framework is  being  developed  in partnership  with  key  players  from  mountain  communities,  thus sparking long-term sharing of expertise, energy, and experience and cultivating a spirit of mountain solidarity across the UN region.
  • PHASE  TWO  2019-2020:  Secondly,  we  must  establish  a  framework  for  measuring mountain resilience connected with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Phase Two collaborates with place-based players from mountain-communities to develop cross- cutting indicators across SDGs.
  • PHASE THREE “30 BY 30.” Thirdly, we must infuse communities with action-oriented Masters students partnering with a network of local players to build climate-resilient mountain communities. Using the maps, frameworks, indicators, and relationships generated in the first two phases, Masters students will provide 30 climate mitigation and adaptation plans by 2030.
  • PHASE FOUR 2025-2050: Mountain Resilience Coalition will help catalyze a “net carbon neutral” pan-mountain region by 2050 for North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Developed nations would become net renewable energy producers (producing renewable energy beyond “carbon neutral”), helping to offset and fund climate projects in the parts of the developing world unjustly shouldering the brunt of mountain-based climate consequences.


Seeking Support For:

A Five Million Dollar Startup Campaign For Mountains

  • Named Endowment for student fellowships
    • $2 million for $100,000 per year, in perpetuity
    • Fund four Mountain Resilience Corps full rides for MEM students
  • Named Endowment for MRC staff
    • $2 million for $100,000 per year, in perpetuity
    • Fund staff at WCU, TI, and AIMF to teach Mountain Resilience, oversee mountain-based masters projects, and direct the MRC
  • Named Community Resilience Fund
    • $1 million for $50,000 per year, in perpetuity
    • Fund developing communities to reach MRC goals

From its home in the Colorado Rockies, Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability (ENVS) seeks to build more resilient mountain communities around the world. To this end, Western hopes to fund a perpetual infusion of graduate student expertise and energy into the mountain-based Sister City partnership between Gunnison, Colorado and the Himalayan community of Majkhali, India.

Cultures around the globe have long looked to the mountains for inspiration. Mountain regions sustain vital ecosystem services, providing up to eighty percent of water consumed by humans and twenty-five percent of biodiversity. Yet these pinnacles of vision and sources of life are in danger, with glaciers melting, over thirty percent of mountain people suffering from food insecurity, and clean water at risk. In this era of climate disruption, it is time to look again to the world’s mountain communities as beacons of a more resilient story.

The story:
Western’s Clark School Master’s students complete required 600-hour, second-year projects in mountain communities world-wide. Together, these students form the “Mountain Resilience Corps.” Two years ago, MEM student Brandon McNamara traveled to Majkhali, India to develop an environmental curriculum for international students. Soon thereafter, fifteen faculty, MEM students, and undergraduates visited Majkhali as representatives of the Gunnison City Council to form a Sister City partnership. The partnership will foster culturally-diverse collaboration focused on building sustainable mountain communities surrounding Gunnison and Majkhali, as examples of mountain resilience globally.

This Sister City partnership will thrive only to the extent that students like Brandon continue to live in and partner with Majkhali, completing projects and providing a living link between communities. This endowment will fund a “full ride” for one first and one second year MEM student fellowship to ensure there is always a graduate student representative from Gunnison completing projects with the people of Majkhali. The first year of their two-year program will be spent in Gunnison, taking core courses and preparing for the second year spent in Majkhali on continuing and emerging projects. Current project needs determined by Majkhali environmental leaders are waste management systems, a trail map system documenting Majkhali’s 1000 year-old trail system, and continuing the development of an environmental education curriculum for international students.

Seeking Support For:

  • Named Student Sister City Fellowships
    • $1 million for two MEM student full rides per year in perpetuity
    • Specifically for students doing their MEM projects in Majkhali, India, providing a Gunnison presence in Majkhali each year

The Western Alliance for Restoration Management (WARM) is a non-profit corporation housed in Western’s Clark School. WARM is a collaborative organization open to faculty and students from all Colorado institutions of higher education to provide both research opportunities and hands-on experience in the remediation of abandoned historic mine sites in Colorado.

There are over 23,000 abandoned mines in the state of Colorado that adversely impact soil and water quality through heavy metal loading and acid mine drainage. It will take generations of work and statewide collaboration to help Colorado’s environment recover from its historic mining legacy. Reclamation skills are therefore critical to restore our environment and ensure Colorado’s sustainable future as a headwaters state for the Southwestern US.

Pilot Project: The Ben Butler Mine
WARM’s initial project is a study of one limited portion of the Bonita Peak Superfund site: the Ben Butler Mine. It is anticipated this process will continue for a considerable number of years, providing many students in different fields with the opportunity to learn. The project will also pave the way for WARM’s activities beyond the Ben Butler Mine. The project deliverables include an analysis plan, a quality assurance project plan, and a full geochemical report, prepared in collaboration with geochemist Scott Effner. The deliverables may help guide remediation at the Ben Butler Mine and serve as models for WARM’s initial site assessments at future study locations.  WARM is working with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety and the Bureau of Land Management to identify other suitable sites throughout Colorado, and continues to pursue partnerships with other agencies and private mine owners.

WARM is pursuing funding to launch a fellowship that will attract talented and passionate land managers to continue reclamation activities both at the Ben Butler and beyond. In other words, WARM’s work at the Ben Butler this year is only the beginning. Your funding of this fellowship will support the beginning of an exciting new chapter of Western Master’s projects through WARM.

Seeking Support For:

  • Named MEM Student WARM Fellowship
    • $1 million for two MEM student full rides per year in perpetuity
    • Open the door for passionate MEM students to apply and expand their expertise with WARM

The Clark School seeks funding for the Center for Cold-Climate Food Security to amplify experiential educational opportunities around high-alpine and cold-climate food production, while addressing hunger in the Gunnison Valley.  The Center would include a Food Systems Minor and a complex of substantial new infrastructure, including passive-solar greenhouses and a commercial kitchen. The Center’s living laboratory would build on the Clark School’s considerable momentum around student-driven efforts to investigate and experiment with sustainable food solutions. Partnering with food producers and providers throughout the region, Western students would be empowered to help end hunger and food waste in Gunnison and beyond.

The Center for Cold-Climate Food Security’s Living Laboratory includes:

  • Twin Greenhouses: Two large, passive and active-solar powered greenhouses will permit growing, experimentation, and demonstration through the academic year.
  • Expanded Outdoor Growing Space: Sodexo-compliant growing space, to ease pressure on Chipeta Hall and expand campus consumption of campus-grown food.
  • Outdoor Classroom: Accessible and technology-ready learning spaces to encourage broad use of these extended classrooms.
  • Indoor Kitchen: Ready for nutrition, cooking, processing, or other culinary applications, this space could also serve local food producers in need of commercial kitchen space.

The Food Systems Minor would act on Western’s commitment to practical liberal arts training.  First, it would use food-based content as a platform to develop critical and creative citizens, able to navigate, challenge, and improve their own social and political worlds. Second, with opportunities to participate in various forms of food production, students would gain tangible, practical skills, advancing both their applied literacy and their confidence to acquire yet more skills.

The Center for Cold-Climate Food Security would tap into a strong history of student-driven, food-centered work at Western. Western students led the charge to establish the first campus gardens in 2005. Later, student leaders in the Organics Guild worked to expand on-campus production space and there are now four separate productive growing spaces: the Chipeta Garden, the Pinnacles Forest Garden, the Pinnacles Greenhouse, and the Kelley Craft Hops Installation.  Finally, the new center would leverage partnerships with Gunnison Food Pantry, Mountain Roots, Western’s IceLab, Coldharbour Institute, the Savory Hub, and Colorado State University.



  • Named Center
    • $3 million for the Center’s cold-climate living laboratory
    • To construct the Center’s complex of cutting-edge facilities, as well as their material and personnel needs in perpetuity
  • Named endowed Fellow
    • $2 million for four full rides to under-represented undergraduates
    • To build a team of Food Fellows to nurture the internal & external connections developed by the Center
  • Funding Food Minor & Flexibility
    • $2 million for faculty support
    • To deliver the Food Systems Minor and facilitate flexible and innovative pedagogy

The Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability, since our beginnings as an undergraduate minor twenty-five years ago, has been founded in the richness of our surrounding public lands, partnerships with natural resource agencies, and a mission to build resilient, cross-boundary land-use practices. Public lands hold a unique position in the American and global cultural identity, and Western’s Center for Public Lands empowers innovative and groundbreaking leaders who will be on the front lines managing them. Universities are vital to enacting new ways for public lands to thrive. We help agencies and organizations meet goals to increase workforce diversity, prepare veterans for environmental management careers, leverage experiential and student-centered learning to meet organizational goals, and train a workforce capable of navigating current land management challenges.

How it works:
Through the Center for Public Lands (CPL), Western is a hub for cross-boundary land management work and study. We serve communities and agencies through culturally-informed action and preparation of diverse employees. Connecting communities and universities to land management agencies is a key strategy to infuse them with talent, vision, and energy, while also creating opportunities for education and professional training. Our approach takes seriously what it will take to create a diverse workforce.

The CPL joins the Center for Sustainability Transitions (CST) in housing the public initiatives of the Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability . The CPL advances land management practice through endowed fellowships, formal partnerships, and project-based learning. Here, enterprises like the Wildness and Diversity Corps integrate with a Public Lands Field School, annual Public Lands Forum, and a range of community and agency partnerships, to produce knowledge and outcomes that benefit land managers and stakeholders.

Western’s Center for Public Lands offers unique resources:

  • Public lands destination: Gunnison County is 82% local, state and federal lands.
  • Responsive and current curriculum: Our courses feature problem-based learning with agency partners. Students learn from experts currently working on public lands issues and collaborate on projects with agencies.
  • Faculty research: Faculty research specialties include agency planning for climate change, public lands policy, wilderness philosophy, water policy, law, environmental education, and leadership.
  • Student work: Our graduates have experienced a 95% public lands job placement rate. Agency employees can also advance their careers by earning a master’s degree from their current job, through our distance program.



A $5.5 Million Named Endowment:

Student Support

$2 million = $100,000 per year for four scholarships in perpetuity

  • Named Diversity Scholarship
    • Provided to a student pursuing a career in public lands management from an underserved community.
  • Named Veteran’s Scholarship
    • Provided to a veteran of the armed forces to complete an MEM degree.
  • Named Mid-Career Professional Scholarship
    • Provided to a student who has worked at least 3 years in a public lands agency career.
  • Global Public Lands Scholarship
    • Provided to an international student to study public lands at Western, or to a public lands employee to complete a project overseas.
  • Named Diversity Undergraduate Scholarship
    • Provided to a student from an underserved community with public lands interests enrolling in the MEM 3+2 program.

Center for Public Lands: Curriculum and Support

$2 million = $30,000 per year for visiting practitioner, $10,000 per year for field school, $60,000 per year for coordinator in perpetuity

  • Public Lands Field School
    • A successful public lands management program will be grounded in place-based, experiential learning. The field school makes this possible by funding the travel associated with place-based curriculum.
  • Named Public Lands Visiting Practitioner
    • Provided to a practitioner with public lands expertise to visit Western, teach a special topics course, lead workshops, and mentor students.
  • Public Lands Coordinator Position
    • To cultivate deep partnerships, the public lands program should be led by someone with a primary focus on partnerships, recruiting, and project development. A coordinator would oversee the development of these partnerships, coordinate the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU), lead special events, and coordinate internship opportunities.

Public Lands Partnership Work

$1.5 million = $30,000 per year for matching funds, $20,000 per year for internships, $25,000 per year for training in perpetuity

  • Matching Funds for Agency Partnerships
    • Endowment to provide an enduring source of matching funds for projects put forward by  agencies.
  • High School / Undergraduate Paid Internships
    • Wages to high school and undergraduate students to work on MEM public lands projects as summer work.
  • Public Lands Trainings
    • Experiment with land management actions, research management practice, and cultivate the new ways of thinking that will carry our public lands into the next century. Host an annual special-topics event at Western, such as a conference or training, to incubate these ideas and spread best practices throughout local, state, and federal agencies.





Twenty-first century environmental management depends on a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of practice, optimizing everyone’s creativity and cultural understanding when implementing sustainability solutions. The MEM program seeks to educate diverse leaders trained and practiced in the skill of equity and inclusivity. In doing so, we believe that solution-based MEM projects will have greater relevance and applicability to the crucial challenges faced by us all. We propose to become the national leaders in incorporating social justice into environmental and sustainability education.

How it works:
The School for ENVS recognizes the critical need for environmental practitioners to address racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of systemic oppression, and acknowledges the long history of environmental and conservation-oriented work that has failed to change these systems of power. First, the School will increase its representation of underrepresented populations in positions of leadership, staff, faculty, and in the student body. Second, we will further embed diversity into our admissions and hiring practices and policies. Third, faculty will address inequality, marginalization and oppression in class content, while developing the skill of inclusivity across the curriculum. The School will prioritize undergraduate and graduate projects that serve marginalized communities.

Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability offers four kinds of resources:

  • Community: Western holds diversity as a core value through policy and practice. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Internationalization are core to Western’s strategic plan.
  • Student projects: Each Master’s student completes a 600-hour, on-the-ground project. Our students and faculty are engaged in projects that promote underrepresented voices in the United States, Kenya, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and India.
  • The Resilience Studies Consortium: Our nationwide consortium seeks to advance placed-based educational opportunities and includes potential partnerships with Native American, Historic Black, and Hispanic Serving Institutions—from rural, wilderness, and urban regions across the US.
  • Social Justice, Advocacy, and Engagement: This program gives opportunities that introduce historically absent voices in the environmental movement to become community change agents, while implementing solutions in partnership with marginalized communities.



  • Named Endowed Chair in Environmental Justice
    • $2 million for $100,000 per year for a faculty position in perpetuity
    • Coordinate and teach curriculum across graduate and undergraduate classes; establish social justice partnerships beyond campus through MEM projects
  • Named Student Environmental Justice Fellows
    • $1 million for $50,000 per year for four fellowships per year in perpetuity
  • Needs-based fellowships for underrepresented graduate and undergraduate students committed to Environmental Justice
    • Project Funding $500,000 for $25,000 per year in project funds in perpetuity
    • Stipends for student projects committed to Environmental Justice.
  • External Speaker Series
    • $100,000 for $5,000 per year for an environmental justice annual speaker in perpetuity
    • Speaker focusing on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality from a sustainability lens

Cross-boundary environmental stewardship for culturally diverse communities is a central value of the Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability at Western Colorado University. Using the eight designated wilderness areas of the Gunnison Country as our home base, the Wildness & Diversity Corps (WDC) empowers Master in Environmental Management (MEM) students to a) complete nation-wide wilderness-based work for public land agencies and b) engage culturally diverse populations with the value of “wildness” found from designated wilderness areas, across all landscapes, and into the built environments in which we live, work, and play—cultivating stewardship across all landscape boundaries. Thus, the WDC fosters student and faculty wilderness action, helps agencies meet their “20-20 Vision” of community outreach with diverse populations, and researches how cultural inclusivity shapes how we manage and think about the “wildness” of all places.

How it works:
WDC would fund four required, 600-hour MEM projects focused on wilderness management and wildness diversity. Wildness Stewards complete our program from their job (anywhere worldwide) and use their job as the basis of the Masters Project. Thus, Western MEM projects would add depth to Gunnison wilderness monitoring and diversity efforts, while extending to the national and global wildness locations of our students. Across decades, an expansive network would form—connecting students, alumni working in wilderness, wilderness stakeholders, partners enhancing wildness in built environments outside of designated wilderness, and the many regions of MEM Projects.

Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability offers four kinds of resources:

  • Our partners: Existing partnerships connect Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest (GMUG) wilderness managers, Society for Wilderness Stewardship, the Center for Humans and Nature, and the NPS Wilderness Directorate. Western will host the 2018 National Wilderness Workshop (focusing on diversity).
  • Our students: MEM students have completed wilderness character monitoring and solitude studies for the USFS and a community diversity project for Black Canyon National Park, and have gone onto careers for Latino Outdoors, public lands agencies, SWS, and Defenders of Wildlife.
  • Faculty research: Our faculty includes forest, wildlife, and soil ecologists; a 15-year National Parks employee; a 23-year BLM recreation manager; a psychologist focusing on wilderness impacts on cognitive health; two environmental educators; and a wilderness philosopher serving on the Society for Wilderness Stewardship board.
  • Geographic location: The wilderness areas of the GMUG, local national parks, and the Gunnison BLM Field Office. The global locations of MEM students connecting their passion for wilderness with the health of all places.




Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability (ENVS) builds more resilient communities around the world through requiring over 25,000 hours of Master in Environmental Management (MEM) projects for communities every year. With our Green Ring Resilience Corps, we seek funding partners to transform elite athletes from the “Olympic green ring” of Pacific Oceania into community leaders developing more sustainable options for the countries they represented as athletes.

Imagine an international athlete returning from the Goodwill, Commonwealth, or Olympic games to their home country in Pacific Oceania, enriching national pride with the gifts of both athletic achievement and the skills of social change. Picture someone trained both in their sport and in creating socially responsible, environmentally resilient, and economically sustainable communities, organizations, and industries. Envision someone surrounded, throughout this training, by a global network of classmates, professors, practitioners, and allies in the field of environmental management.  After completing four years of undergraduate or one year of graduate work while training in the high altitude facilities at Western, they would return home to implement Masters projects on the ground. They would collaborate with existing efforts and local, national and international organizations. In doing so, they work with and inspire youth in their communities and countries to merge athletic leadership with socially and environmentally responsible community leadership.

How it works:
We propose the creation of the Green Ring Resilience Corps, a program built on the best international practices for sustainable development and for aiding the re-entry of athletes into their communities of origin to create a livelihood based on their values.

Athletes would be granted priority admission to Western Colorado University and supported by international athletic organizations to gain the necessary visas and capital to study abroad.  They would have access to Western’s world-class training facilities and the incredible outdoor recreational surroundings of the Colorado Rockies. Both at Western and in their home country, they would partner with Master in Environmental Management students, faculty, and alumni and green ring regional Peace Corps current or past volunteers.  They would become connected to existing organizations and projects designed to increase youth development, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable businesses in ecotourism and other sectors while gaining the leadership skills and environmental education that helps them partner with those projects and organizations as well as create innovative and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Western has the traditions, supportive mentors, and century-old infrastructure to make all of this happen. Our only barrier is helping athletes find the resources to give them the “full rides” required in order to receive a U.S. visa. Western is eager to work with partners who share this vision to fund a perpetual infusion of graduate student-athlete expertise and energy into these communities the athletes worked so hard to represent with pride in their sports. Please join us in “greening” the green ring.

The Resilience Studies Consortium (RSC) optimizes a nation-wide network of liberal arts universities in order to advance “place-based”, social and ecological educational opportunities for undergraduate students from a  diversity of backgrounds and passions. By sharing experiential learning resources from the nationally unique “learning laboratory” of each campus’ region, the RSC seeks to engage and empower students with a better understanding of community resilience in the coming era. The RSC is comprised of the following institutions of higher learning:

  • Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD. Indigenous communities and the intersection of land and culture.
  • Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, KS. Resilient food systems and prairie restoration.
  • Northern New Mexico College in Española, NM. Traditional and modern-day agriculture and natural resources monitoring practices.
  • Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smith’s, NY. Rural resilience, natural resource management, ecological restoration, and sustainable forestry.
  • Principia College in Elsah, IL. Sustainable forest, global conservation, and faith-based environmental ethics.=
  • Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA. Coastal Studies, Hispanic Serving Institution.
  • Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. Urban sustainability and environmental justice issues.
  • The Evergreen State College in Tacoma, WA. Urban sustainability and environmental justice, a political economy perspective.
  • Western Colorado University in Gunnison, CO. Public lands and mountain resilience.​



The Earth system is nearing a critical threshold, impelling humanity to rapidly address two unprecedented challenges. The first is to keep global temperatures from surpassing a 1.5 C increase relative to pre-industrial temperatures, in order to prevent extreme ecological and social disruption. The second is to adapt social-ecological systems to certain impacts imparted by 1.5 C warming. Our small interdisciplinary school brings together a combination of experts in adaptation, mitigation and climate research who are dedicated to meeting this challenge through place-based and applied climate research, education and action. We seek to expand our work by increasing undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research capacity via applied community and agency-scale adaptation and mitigation projects and an innovative MS in Climate Action.

How it works: 

  • Research. Currently, our faculty are engaged in studies investigating the response of arctic systems to a changing climate, exploring the role of agriculture and ranching practices in carbon sequestration, assessing climate change implications for forest dynamics, designing adaptation strategies for the National Park Service, and creating global protocols for greenhouse gas accounting. We hope to dramatically scale up these efforts to increase opportunities for undergraduates and graduates to gain hands-on experience by working as collaborators on these projects to further both scientific and educational goals and provide critical information for resource managers, decision-makers, corporate and NGO leaders, and the public.
  • Applied Projects. Our faculty have worked alongside communities and agencies to meet their climate action goals, ranging from creation of baseline community greenhouse gas assessments to the development of adaptation strategies for the Bureau of Land Management. We envision expanding these efforts to become an engine for climate change action in the rural Western US as our students and faculty offer their services to assist communities and agencies with their climate needs.
  • Proposed Climate Action MS. Scientifically-informed decision making and global networks of place-based change stand as core values of Western’s Clark School. As a global challenge that manifests in unique manners in local contexts, it is critical that we link students, researchers, and practitioners working in communities around the world to learn about climate action best practices. Globally, there are remarkably few graduate programs focused on climate action (mitigation & adaptation) and only one in the United States. This program would be a hybrid master’s program for climate change professionals, providing meaningful public outreach, training students, bringing together leaders, and creating a network of place-based climate change action.

Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability offers four kinds of resources:

  • Innovative institutional home: This program would build on success with hybrid learning, extend our intensive model internationally, and provide an innovative model for place-based, globally connected learning.
  • Faculty research & practice: We have created adaptation plans and strategies for various federal agencies, co-authored global protocols for community-scale greenhouse gas emissions accounting, and partnered with rural communities in Colorado’s Western Slope to Mega Cities in Asia to develop climate action plans.
  • Global connections: We have a full-time faculty member committed to building a global network for our program. With many years of networking with global partners, our program has built a foundation of partners for global projects, recruitment, and resources.
  • Legacy of place-based projects: Our campus has a long, successful history with a diverse suite of place-based sustainability projects, including instigating public transportation between Gunnison to Crested Butte, scaling up a stove efficiency project in Kenya, and building solar capacity near the tar sands of Alberta.

How can we best produce graduates who are part of the transformative landscape? Part of the answer lies in engaging the community— be it our next-door neighbors or similar communities around the world—in conversations and projects that bring about real change, cemented in experience and mentorship.

Coldharbour Institute (CI) is a unique nonprofit closely tied to Western’s Master in Environmental Management program. CI’s mission is to facilitate others’ “doing” for the education, incubation, and demonstration of regenerative living practices. The areas of concentration include agriculture, building, energy production, and wildland management. Those whose “doings” are facilitated include students, community members, businesses, educational institutions, and other nonprofits—all designed to spread the teaching and learning as far as possible to generate the most impact.

CI owns a 350 acre ranch in the beautiful Gunnison Valley—at the confluence of the Tomichi and Cochetopa creeks. Through its partnerships with MEM students, Western faculty, community members, and local and global businesses, CI stewards wetlands, holistic ranching, community farming, green building, alternative energy,  and, most importantly, youth development in the world of regenerative practice.

Endowed Chair Position
We are excited to permanently endow a proven faculty position focusing on community development and engagement based in the “place” of Coldharbour Ranch, and grounded in real world projects that benefit the student, the ranch, and future MEM students. This chair will bring a strong concentration on collaborative project development and management in a way that is sustained over time. The chair will teach one “Strategic Alliances” graduate course per year, mentor 2-3 Masters Projects for community organizations per year, and closely sponsor and mentor at least eight MEM students per year at Coldharbour Institute in the areas of regenerative agriculture, green building, energy efficiency, alternative energy, wildland management, and educational development.

Renovation of Coldharbour Innovation Center 
As the central “place” for the Coldharbour vision to be accomplished, much work is needed to renovate an historic community center in the Gunnison Basin. The ranch is home to an impressive house and barn from the turn of the 20th century, both hand-constructed from local stone. Additionally, a community-driven design process has produced a site plan featuring demonstration structures built with cutting edge and traditional “green” techniques to house students and visitors, build gathering sites, and provide earned income potential. These beautiful structures will make up the heart of the Coldharbour education center, providing a place for teaching, doing, learning, and connecting.

The Clark School is deeply committed to internationalizing our student body, globalizing our network of place-based projects, and preparing students to thrive as citizens of the world. It has never been more vital to scale up global cooperation to generate resilient human and natural communities and address the global scale of climate disruption and social injustice. In a time in which the U.S. has stepped back from international collaboration, the Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability is doubling down on international cooperation, building a global network of place-based sustainable solutions. Please join us in expanding our existing hub for global collaboration, drawing upon the wisdom and successes of worldwide local knowledge for ecologically, economically, and socially equitable sustainable solutions.

How it works:
We partner with global entities such as Peace Corps, Eco2librium (Kenya), Earthship Academy (Costa Rica), Sustainable Development Strategies Group, Foundation for Contemplation of Nature (India), ICIMOD, ICLEI, and academic partners (e.g. Joint European Master in Environmental Studies, Monteverde Institute, Earth University). We serve communities through faculty expertise and an extensive network of 600+ hour projects required of our Master’s students. Projects include natural resource conflict resolution management, sustainable community development, climate action planning and adaptation strategies, and development of policies and practices for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Western’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability offers four kinds of resources:

  • Distance Learning Resources: Our Master in Environmental Management programs offer distance options and curriculum for students doing sustainability work worldwide.
  • Student Projects: Our graduate students complete 600+ hour second year projects as well as class projects for a global community. Projects are place-based yet globally scalable and created in collaboration with cultural perspectives.
  • Partnerships: We partner with organizations such as Peace Corps to both place students in international communities and to create opportunities for international student leaders and returned Peace Corps volunteers to bring their global experience to our region and academic community.
  • Research: Our faculty are globally recognized scholars in their respective disciplines, publishing in high-impact journals and books, leading global assessments, and translating this global expertise to marginalized communities, while also extending such opportunities to graduate students.

Western Colorado University’s Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability (ENVS) seeks to model a new renewable energy economy for Colorado’s Western Slope. To this end, Western hopes to fund a perpetual infusion of graduate student renewable energy expertise and vigor into Western Slope communities to transform Colorado’s renewable energy infrastructure.

How it works:
Western’s Clark School Master’s students complete required 600-hour, second-year projects in mountain communities world-wide. Undergraduate ENVS students have the chance to work hand-in-hand with these advanced students. Together, the students focus their projects on energy transitions forming the “Renewable Energy Corps.” Renewable Energy Corps projects work on multiple scales:

  • Local: Western and local nonprofit Coldharbour Institute are each installing 500 kw systems as a result of Renewable Energy Corps projects, advancing Western’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. Other renewable energy students are coordinating Solarize Gunnison County. This program will increase the use of solar energy while emphasizing energy efficiency, low income access to solar, and local energy policy.​
  • Western Slope: Dr. Abel Chávez’s MEM lab completes climate action plans for western rural Colorado, including life cycle analyses of supply chains and data driven renewable energy recommendations.
  • Regional: Western MEM student Keriann Conroy is currently collaborating with High Country News staff as she  researches movements challenging utilities that cap renewable energy.
  • Local-Regional: Undergraduate and graduate student leaders with Dr. Kate Clark and Dr. Luke Danielson learn the ropes of electricity decision-making through applied investigations of utility structures, opportunities, and constraints.  In the process of engaging utilities, advocates, and the public, they become key decision-makers themselves.
  • National and multi-national: Western’s MEM program co-founded the Mountain Resilience Coalition with Aspen International Mountain Foundation and Telluride Institute to oversee the United Nations Mountain Partnership for North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Six faculty members and up to ten MEM student projects currently contribute to reaching these goals, including the extensive implementation of renewable energy systems.
  • Global: Western’s MEM has a special partnership with Solar Energy International, in which students can implement SEI projects into their degree and MEM project.

This Renewable Energy Corps will thrive only to the extent that students serve these communities without going into excess student debt. This endowment will fund a “full ride” for one first and one second year MEM student to ensure there is always a graduate student representative from Gunnison completing renewable energy projects from Western. The first year of their two-year program will be spent in Gunnison, taking core courses and preparing for the second year spent implementing renewable energy projects across Colorado.

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