Andres Esparza

Atop a mountain, Andres stand in Western gear with his skis strapped to his backpack.

Andres Esparza was a member of the inaugural MEM class. Now working his dream job as a diversity and inclusion instructor at the Teton Science School, he credits much of this success to his MEM degree from Western.

“The program’s uniqueness, affordability and the area’s recreational opportunities drew me to Gunnison.  I would do it all over again if I could,” Esparza said.

Director John Hausdoerffer’s passion sold Esparza on enrolling. Esparza, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Texas at El Paso and who worked as an outdoor educator in Yosemite, said he has been surprised at the freedom students have to set the course for their studies.

Hausdoerffer told Esparza to “create something we’re not giving you.” So Esparza did.  

For Esparza’s MEM project, he worked with Montrose’s public lands agencies to help engage underserved populations. His work influenced policy and funding to better allocate resources for engaging more diverse populations in public lands. 

While at Western, Esparza was the coordinator of the Resilience Studies Consortium (RSC), a nationwide network of universities that seek to advance place-based educational opportunities for undergraduates from a diversity of backgrounds and passions. The expertise and passion Esparza demonstrated with RSC earned him an invitation to lecture two courses at Western after receiving his degree.  This unique honor stood as a testament to Esparza’s hard work and natural teaching abilities.  Undergraduate students were fortunate to have Esparza’s knowledge of environmental education and diversity issues in Introduction to Environment and Sustainability and Environmental Sociology.

“Andres is the quintessential MEM student and graduate—a lover of mountain exploration and thus a risk-taker in all areas of life, from recreation to education to connecting youth with environmental action,” Hausdoerffer said.