A new graduate program will train National Park Service leaders in the preservation of public lands starting next fall, bolstered by a $2.6 million gift from a former faculty member.
The graduate certificate in environmental policy, offered by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, will take in employees of the federal agency that oversees national parks and monuments.
Participants can work at any national park across the country, but would come to Foggy Bottom for a year to earn the certificate. They will take classes with other students in the environmental resource policy program.
Columbian College Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Tara Wallace said she thought the program would be a "wonderful partnership, intellectually and ethically."
"I think, in part because GW is so committed and so good at combining academics and service, this is a perfect gem of an example," Wallace said. "The people who work for the National Park Service are already committed to service. Nobody goes into that job to make money."
Peter Linquiti, director of graduate studies for the environmental resource policy program, said the program will help students relate their work into the broader context of environmental policy.
"As these NPS staff participate in GW classes alongside current [environment policy] students, they will introduce a more practical, field-oriented perspective into course discussions than otherwise might be the case," Linquiti said.
The program will also include a fellowship in honor of former National Park Service director Roger Kennedy, who died in 2011 and was also an adjunct professor of American studies. The fellowship will provide tuition for the participating employees.
Kennedy and his wife, Frances, decided in 2003 to leave about $2.6 million to the University for National Park Service employees to study. After Kennedy died in fall 2011, his wife began working with Jane Kolson, a member of the University's fundraising team, to fundraise to create the program.
Kolson said they raised $75,000 in eight months, which Frances Kennedy matched to create a $150,000 fellowship to subsidize tuition.
"I am excited about this program because it brings together two major Washington institutions – GW and the National Park Service – for a common purpose: education," Kolson said.
The program will be open to permanent National Park Service employees of more than three years, who hold a bachelor's degree. Applicants will be considered by the National Park Service admissions committee and the Columbian College. Students will take four courses for the certificate, including a policy course and electives in policy, social studies and culture.