Out of the Classroom

Rare has supported local conservationists in more than 40 countries on five continents.
© RARE

Here's a new twist on school for those who are sick of the classroom: a master's degree that only spends four months in the classroom, and the other 20 months in the field. That's the premise of a new program offered by the University of Texas-El Paso in conjunction with Rare, a nonprofit environmental group. Students obtain a Master's Degree in Communications for Conservationists, merging interests in social change and environmental protection.

The first nine weeks of the program are spent in the classroom, followed by a couple of months in the field. Classroom topics include lessons in social marketing, environmental communication and qualitative and quantitative research methods. Students go back to the classroom for two more sessions, but spend a majority of their time in communities, teaching citizens about conservation. The main focus is social and behavior change, such as teaching sustainable agricultural practices.

This program is offered in four languages by region—Mexico, Indonesia, China and the United States. Students come from all over the world—for instance, many of the students in the U.S. are from Africa, the Caribbean, the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. Fieldwork is done in areas of high biodiversity, like developing tropical nations, and usually centers on a specific goal.

"You can't get your degree until you've changed the world—at least your part of it," said Brett Jenks, Rare's CEO.

Students become part of Rare's "Pride" campaign, which promotes people developing pride in preserving their community and the surrounding environment. After graduation, students can become part of Rare's Global Alumni Network and have access to career support.

"The Master's program participants do not graduate until they've made a measurable difference in the way people think about and practice conservation in their communities," Jenks added.

For more information, go to www.rareconservation.org/apply