Wyss Conservation Scholars Program Offers Renewed Commitment to Land Conservation in the United States – The NAU Review

Created out of deep respect for the landscapes of the American West, the Wyss Foundation renews its commitment to support NAU graduate scholarships in the Master of Environmental Science and Policy program. This conservation leadership program has supported 35 NAU graduate students, and this new award will support three more cohorts of conservation leaders, helping to increase the conservation impact of this unique scholarship program.

The Wyss Foundation, dedicated to protecting at least 30% of Earth’s land, water and oceans by 2030, is the creation of Hansjörg Wyss. The Swiss-Wyoming native developed a lifelong attachment to western landscapes while working for the Colorado Highway Department as a student in 1958. Although he later launched his own successful business in the fields of research medicine and design, he never forgot his brief adventure in the Rockies. Fueled by an intrinsic desire to conserve the landscapes that filled his heart with so much joy, Wyss established his eponymous foundation in 1998. Since then, Wyss’ philanthropy and innovative vision have contributed greatly to environmental conservation in the States. United and around the world.

The Wyss Scholars Program at NAU

The Wyss Scholars Program is one of many philanthropic investments the Wyss Foundation has made over the years. The program financially supports graduate students in their pursuit of knowledge in the areas of United States land conservation and conservation law and policy.

The highly competitive program is available to students pursuing innovative conservation programs at universities in various parts of the country, including Lewis and Clark College, University of Colorado, University of Montana, Yale University, University of Michigan, and Northern Arizona University. The six schools are known for their programs in the areas of law and environmental science and policy.

The Wyss Foundation recognizes and supports NAU’s key role in advancing land conservation efforts. For years, the university’s location on the Southern Colorado Plateau has attracted prominent scholars passionate about public land conservation. Students enrolled in NAU’s elite Environmental Science and Policy Master’s program have the opportunity to engage in conservation from a natural science and environmental policy perspective.

“Linking science and policy in our curriculum and research is an innovative element of our curriculum that aligns well with what the Wyss Foundation is trying to accomplish in training the next generation of conservation leaders,” said Erik Nielsen, associate professor in the School of Earth and Sustainability at NAU and principal investigator of the Wyss Fellows. “We strive for our students to understand the basic science around conservation challenges, the stakeholders and policies that govern how to protect and manage these resources in the most sustainable way.”

The Wyss Scholars program is unique in that it supports NAU students both during graduate school and early in their conservation careers. The funding that follows them as NAU alumni has an impact on many levels. First, graduates are supported in their direct transition to work in environmental science and policy; the Wyss Scholars program complements internships and professional positions, a boon for alumni and employers. Second, the program supports ongoing relationships between Wyss program graduates from the six institutions, creating a network of advocates and experts. Finally, the Wyss Scholars program creates strong ties between the NAU and conservation partners, businesses, nonprofits, government and tribal entities, communities, and more. These connections facilitate the implementation of new research and practices, the sharing of information and other collaborations.

Wyss Scholars Program Recipient Jessica Archibald (BS, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, ’19; BA, Modern Languages, ’19), was selected for the fellowship because of her passion for science, politics, and community engagement. This budding leader used her scholarship not only to further her own academic journey, but also to educate other loggers on important environmental topics. “With the grant money from the Wyss Foundation, I was able to help organize a workshop on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for students in NAU’s SES program – a key skill needed for many jobs in conservation,” said Archibald.

In terms of her own professional goals and development, through the Wyss program, Archibald can access the vast network of Wyss scholars to advance her own experience and career in the field she loves.

“I was able to complete an internship of my choice without having to circumvent the institution’s funding restrictions,” she said. “I completed my internship at the Center for Collaborative Conservation in Fort Collins, Colorado, and that experience was a formative and important learning opportunity that shaped my professional goals and career path. None of those experiences would have been possible without funding from the Wyss Scholars program.

Meet the next class of Wyss Fellows

NAU is proud to announce the newest class of Wyss Fellows who share an interest and passion for conservation landscapes in the United States:

Yazhmin Dozal’23, MS Environmental Science and Policy

Yazhmin Dozal’s goal after graduation is to engage policy, science and collaboration with vulnerable communities in the Southwest to address key conservation issues related to land use and some water. Dozal is the Climate Action Director for the NAU Graduate Student Organization. She will be interning this summer with the National Forest Foundation’s Wood for Life Tribal Fuelwood Initiative.

Sarah Colombo’23, MS Environmental Science and Policy

Sarah Colombo hopes to connect her passion for conservation research to support social/environmental justice efforts as she believes there is an inextricable link between them. She also plans to help other members of BIPOC communities connect with the land, identify available resources, and foster their own diverse voices in conservation.

Yazhmin Dozal (left) and Sarah Colombo (right)

“I would like to congratulate this year’s class of Wyss Scholars from Northern Arizona University and thank each of them for their deep commitment to protecting and conserving our country’s precious natural resources. Thanks to future conservation leaders like Yazhmin and Sarah, I am confident that we will solve the most pressing challenges facing our natural world,” Wyss said. “I’m excited to watch and learn all about their contributions to the environment over the next few years.”

To read biographies of Wyss Fellows, visit the MS Environmental Sciences & Policy website, nau.edu/ses/masters-in-environmental-sciences-and-policy.

The future impact of the Wyss Foundation on NAU

As state funding continues to tighten and northern Arizona continues to face conservation challenges, organizations like the Wyss Foundation are providing students with the financial power they need to create and implement implement solutions for a more sustainable future.

“My vision for the future is that we learn to live sustainably with the environment where we don’t overexploit our resources and we also allow other species and biodiversity to persist,” said Claire Aslan, associate director of the School of Earth and Sustainable Development. “Communication and knowledge sharing with agencies, conservation organizations, foundations, and tribes is key to reaching and implementing this knowledge.”

If you want to learn more about the Wyss Foundation’s efforts to protect the world’s most precious places, visit https://www.wyssfoundation.org/. Learn more about the impacts of the Wyss Foundation at NAU on foundationnau.org/impact. You can also make a difference in the lives of loggers and support their efforts to conserve and defend the great American West by donating to the NAU Foundation.

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