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Creating Future Leaders to Overcome Sustainability Challenges

Good leadership doesn’t just happen – it takes intention, reflection, training, and practice.

I’ve come to deeply appreciate the diverse ways in which leadership is activated and expressed, and to identify and understand my own aspirations for leadership. Since my days as a PhD student and then as a Fellow in the Leopold Leadership Program in 2004, I’ve begun to recognize how important it is for societies to simultaneously strive toward human well-being and environmental conservation, and demonstrate leadership to transform global sustainability.

With the launch of the Earth Leadership Program, an evolution of the Leopold Leadership Program, we’re able to offer mid-career scientists in this space an outstanding opportunity to develop as global leaders to bring their expertise to effect positive change.

Over the past decade, I’ve participated in advanced training sessions hosted by the Leopold Leadership Program, engaging with the network of fellows in many professional settings and across many disciplines. What I love about transdisciplinary research is that it focuses critically on the relevance of the scholarship to societal issues, and it engages diverse members of society to participate in generating that knowledge into finding solutions.

To address Earth’s changing climate, an urgent global crisis, I believe that it is essential that we collaborate with these diverse stakeholders to generate robust science and to implement meaningful action.

My research over the past three decades has focused on human-environment interactions, particularly regarding the consequences of landscape change for species and communities. I’ve worked with a variety of species whose continued existence is threatened by human activities.

To me, sustainability science perfectly embodies that idea – how do we maintain human prosperity on this planet, while also maintaining the life support systems on which we depend?

My Leopold Leadership Program Fellowship was one of the best professional experiences of my life. Through the cohort model of leadership training, I connected with so many professionals, mentors, and colleagues who were doing outstanding work in environmental leadership in a variety of contexts.

My vision for the Earth Leadership Program is to re-launch a North American cohort, drawing on the learning and evolution of the highly successful Leopold Leadership Program, and to extend the program to other regions around the globe.

The new partnership with Future Earth brings significant value through connections with global networks of scientists and sustainability practitioners. The fact that Future Earth already has strong relationships in countries and regions throughout the world means that we will be able to more quickly and easily understand and adapt to a variety of contexts, co-designing programs that address needs and situations in those regions.

The new training program provides opportunities for Fellows to learn leadership skills and to practice them in a dynamic setting. The network of trainers, mentors, and peers promotes relationships that are meaningful and may lead to new professional opportunities. The value for each Fellow is in building these connections and in becoming inspired and confident that our research has purpose and impact on the world.

It is essential that we work collaboratively with environmental scientists all over the world to identify their needs for environmental leadership and to develop appropriate training programs for scientists in many different places.

Applications are now open for the North American cohort until May 29, 2020. Visit the website to find out more and to apply.

Sharon K. Collinge is the Executive Director of the Earth Leadership Program.