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Dr. John Hausdoerffer, who conceived and will lead the new program, says the Master in Environmental Management is so popular that there is now a waiting list for admission.
The university has also hired five of the six new instructors.
“With these new hires, we are tripling the faculty in Western’s Environment & Sustainability department,” Hausdoerffer says.
The 35 admitted students hail from 25 different universities, representing 15 different major areas of study. After attending the introductory sessions in early August, 27 of them will remain in Gunnison to continue their studies, while eight will study remotely, while continuing their professional work.
“It’s very exciting,” Hausdoerffer says. “The quality and diversity of the students coming to the program is very impressive. It’s quite a community we’re building. I’m excited to see all this talent coming to the Gunnison Valley.”
The new faculty members include:
- Dr. Abel Chavez, who will be an assistant professor of Environment & Sustainability and coordinator for the MEM in Sustainable and Resilient Communities. Chavez comes to Western from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. He has led community-based, climate-action planning for cities as diverse as Delhi, India, Broomfield and Ouray. He holds a PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado Denver's Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems and an MBA from the University of Houston. Dr. Chavez has also held management positions in several major companies.
- Dr. Corrie Knapp, who will be an assistant professor of Environment & Sustainability and coordinator for the MEM in Integrative Land Management. Knapp has considerable experience with Gunnison Valley, where she has done research and shared ideas on climate-adaptation planning in the Gunnison Basin. She holds a PhD in Human Ecology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. In addition to her position with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, which brings together landowners and public lands agencies around the question of climate adaptation, Knapp previously served as the farm co-manager and program coordinator for Denver Urban Gardens.
- Dr. Jessica Young, who will serve as MEM faculty and global coordinator for the program, building international partnerships and enhancing international student participation in the MEM. Young has worked in conservation biology for the past two decades. Her research, along with others, resulted in recognition of the Gunnison sage grouse as a new species. A former, popular provost at Western, she has supervised student research on a variety of projects and joined local stakeholder working groups, as well as advising the United Nations International Union for the Conservation of Nature specialist grouse group on global conservation issues.
- Dr. Tom Grant, who will work as a part-time MEM faculty member. Grant is research director for the Mountain Studies Institute in Silverton. He holds a PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University and continues to research issues in forest management through a grant with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
- Sally Thode, who will work as a part-time MEM faculty member and Gunnison field coordinator. For the past 23 years, she has focused on public lands management, most recently leading the Bureau of Land Management’s Gunnison office. She has worked with diverse user groups, land-management professionals and governmental agencies, at all levels, to better manage lands for public recreation. She holds a Master of Science degree in Recreation Resources with an emphasis in Administration.
A sixth new instructor, yet to be hired, will work under a partnership between the MEM program, the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation and the Coldharbour Sustainable Living Center.
Hausdoerffer emphasizes the diversity among the faculty, as well as the students. He points, in particular, to Chavez and Knapp, who represent two different – yet compatible – approaches to climate change.
“Dr. Knapp works on climate adaption and Dr. Chavez works on climate mitigation,” Hausdoerffer explains. "Bringing the complementary expertise of two leading thinkers in Colorado climate mitigation and adaptation is a really big deal for our Center for Environment and Sustainability."