The University of Wisconsin-Madison emphasizes practical experiences in its Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s Program. The idea is to prepare students for leadership positions in environmental groups, government organizations, and related businesses.
“The placement in the program is one of its biggest features,” says faculty member Robert Beattie. “After we’ve given students roughly a year of in-class instruction, we put them in a setting where they’re able to demonstrate leadership. The placements are a match between the students’ interests and opportunities from partners UW-Madison has developed over time.”
Caitlin Williamson, for example, worked on biodiversity programs in Gabon with the Smithsonian Institution.
“I was able to work with the communities there and with the Smithsonian team to help address human/elephant conflict issues,” Williamson says. “What was great about the experience is I was able to pull in a lot of the different skills I learned in the program and apply that to my work with the Smithsonian.”
In the Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s Program, students complete courses on the UW-Madison campus throughout the first summer and fall semesters. The spring courses are delivered online so students can participate from any location. The final semester is a summer leadership experience, which can take place anywhere in the world. It allows students to apply lessons they’ve learned about conservation planning, environmental policy, and sustainable development.
‘The cherry on top’
The placements at the Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s Program tap into UW-Madison’s extensive network of alumni and partners. Students have a chance to expand their contacts and gain real-world experience.
Christa Droste did her placement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at Horicon Marsh, where she explored a perceived decline in muskrats .
“The internship was like the cherry on top of the sundae,” Droste says. “It wrapped it all up and gave everybody the experience they needed.”