Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment has launched a new program to develop leadership abilities in some of its top students to help prepare them as future leaders in managing natural resources for sustainability and biodiversity.

Thanks to generous donations from Frank and Susan Boucek of Naples, Fla.; Jon DeHaan of Naples, Fla.; the Donahue Family Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Guy Crane of Chicago, Ill.; and Steve McMullin of Radford, Va., the college recently welcomed 12 students to the Leadership Institute's inaugural class.

The Leadership Institute is a two-semester special study sequence in which select students with demonstrated leadership skills and academic ability will strengthen their talents through in-class discussion and hands-on leadership projects. The students will also travel to Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., to meet with leaders and policy makers in the field of natural resources. Through these experiences, students will explore aspects of natural resources leadership such as service learning, profit motives in natural resources management, teamwork, and success in the political arena.

“Thanks to the generous and immediate support of our donors, we were able to launch the Leadership Institute within nine months of planning this unique educational experience for our students,” said Paul Winistorfer, college dean. “I hope the institute will grow to complement the college’s strong technical and scientific curriculum as a signature program, because preparing future leaders in the natural resources arena is the core of our mission.”

Associate Professor Steve McMullin, who is also a program donor, will teach the institute’s courses. “I love dealing with issues of leadership,” remarked McMullin, who has addressed this subject regularly while teaching courses on the human dimension of natural resources as well as classes in continuing education for natural resources professionals.

Many environmental challenges facing society are essentially issues of managing natural resources, so the need for future leaders at all levels of natural resources management is ever more critical. “This program is about being influential regardless of where you work in an organization,” said McMullin. “We aspire to have our students engaged in their communities, helping to make the world a better place to live.”

Charles Turner, a senior wildlife science major from Bentonville, Va., and a member of the institute’s inaugural class, noted, “The more I become a leader, the more I can influence other people, and especially the generations to come. The Leadership Institute will help me apply my knowledge and skills to solving the environmental issues this country faces.”

The 2010-11 Leadership Institute includes the following students:

  • Walker Baldwin, a senior geography major from Huddleston, Va.
  • Adam Christie, a senior forestry major from Buchanan, Va.
  • Lydia Eggleston, a junior geography major from Danville, Va.
  • Kenneth Erwin, a senior wildlife science major from Powhatan, Va.
  • Kathy Hixson, a senior wildlife science major from Union Hall, Va.
  • Mitchell Kern, a senior wildlife science major from Charlottesville, Va.
  • Hannah Lee, a junior environmental resource management in forestry major from Williamsburg, Va.
  • Kelly Merkl, a junior natural resources conservation major from Chevy Chase, Md.
  • Brittany Schultz, a senior natural resources conservation major from Poquoson, Va.
  • Carine Lynn Squibb, a junior wildlife science major from Eggleston, Va.
  • Patrick Trail, a junior geography major from Richmond, Va.
  • Charles Turner, a senior wildlife science major from Bentonville, Va.
Share this story