Building environmental leaders through university-community partnerships
Environmental Leaders Program
The Environmental Leaders Program creates transformative experiences for both graduate students and communities through civic engagement that addresses local environmental issues. This UC Davis program facilitates place-based learning experiences for graduate students ("Environmental Leaders") and greater access to resources for communities. Graduate student liaisons provide technical, scientific, organizational, and educational assistance, with an emphasis on collaborative problem solving and exchange of knowledge. The Environmental Leaders Program is one strategy for how universities can: 1) engage in public scholarship, linking theory and practice, and 2) make graduate education more critical and applied.
The Environmental Leaders Program (ELP) was launched in Spring 2006 as a program for solution-oriented research and engagement addressing environmental issues in California, emphasizing graduate student leadership, civic engagement, and partnerships with communities to solve local environmental problems. The ELP established an innovative model for research universities to involve graduate students in a campus-wide and interdisciplinary service-learning framework to address community environmental issues and to promote university-community partnerships.
The program encourages students to apply their academic training to real world problems, learn from interactions with communities, and become life-long leaders in civic engagement and public scholarship. The ELP places graduate students into California communities to foster citizen-based learning, engagement, and decision-making about the environment. Projects result from collaboration between graduate students and community members, link with university faculty research and research centers, and facilitate graduate student PhD and Masters level research.
ELP projects link UC Davis graduate students with community members to address environmental issues and solve local environmental problems, primarily in California. The resulting collaborations develop environmental and civic engagement skills and experiences for both the students and community members. Topics range from creek restoration, place-based identity, environmental justice, natural resource protection, regional growth and development, land use changes, community design, watershed health and conservation, air quality, human health and more. Techniques for engaging with community members include public education, community science, community mapping, and participatory research.