MEM Program Welcomes First Class of Students

Western's first class of Master's in Environmental Management students gather with instructors and friends at Aspinall-Wilson Center for the launch of the new graduate program.
On Sunday, Aug. 3, Western State Colorado University’s Environment & Sustainability Center welcomed its first class of candidates for its new Master in Environmental Management program.

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The students’ first official event on campus was a reception in the Aspinall-Wilson Center Sunday evening, from 5 to 7, where they got to know each other and their instructors, and placed pins denoting where they come from on a large map. The 38 students in the first MEM class are an eclectic lot, hailing from 30 universities and representing 15 different major areas of study. Most will reside in Gunnison during their studies, becoming the first resident graduate students in Western’s recent history. Eight students will become distance learners in their communities after two weeks of orientation and coordination on campus.

“We’re thrilled to finally have our program under way,” says Dr. John Hausdoerffer, MEM director and Western professor of Environment & Sustainability and Philosophy. “Our first class of students form an impressive group, and our new professors are eager to begin working with them.”

Western’s newest graduate program has drawn eight new instructors, including Dr. Jessica Young, a former vice president for Academic Affairs at Western, who will both teach in the MEM program and serve as its global coordinator. Students in the program choose from two tracks: Integrative Land Management, directed by Dr. Corrie Knapp, or Sustainable and Resilient Communities, under the direction of Dr. Abel Chavez. Students can spend two years earning a master’s degree or choose to earn a certificate for a single year of graduate study.

Dr. Ryan Atwell will split his time between teaching duties at Western and directing the new Coldharbour Sustainable Living Center, about 8 miles east of Gunnison. That property, at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Colo. 114, along with $100,000 to fund five graduate fellowships for four years, were donated by Ralph “Butch” and Judy Clark, who have long supported sustainable solutions for the Gunnison area. The Gunnison Housing Foundation is contributing $150,000 to help fund Atwell’s position with Coldharbour.

Hausdoerffer says he marvels at the synergies that have coalesced around the MEM program, Coldharbour and other efforts to explore and expand sustainable living in the Gunnison Valley. Clearly, others have noticed, too. He says the program received three times the number of applications expected during its first year. And each student will complete a master’s project that applies what he or she learns.

“With MEM projects around the world bringing together diverse environmental organizations,” Hausdoerffer says, “we at Western expect Gunnison will become a hub for resilient solutions that reach far beyond our incredible valley.”

Monday, August 4, 2014 - 10:45am