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W&M launches new minor in integrative conservation

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A new minor program in integrative conservation will be offered to William & Mary undergraduates as early as the fall, 2021 semester.

The new minor was approved by the university’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences on April 14 following a motion brought forward by the Education Policy Committee.

John Swaddle is faculty director of William & Mary’s Institute for Integrative Conservation (IIC) as well as Class of 1938 Professor in the university’s Department of Biology. He said the new minor is the first step toward an undergraduate major in integrative conservation.

The integrative conservation minor is, in part, designed as pre-professional preparation for students interested in career opportunities in conservation and the preservation of cultural and biological diversity. Swaddle said the program will assist the IIC in its goal of pairing students with external conservation-related organizations.

“We’ve designed the coursework for this new program to prepare students to enter into internships and research collaborations with conservation NGOs and other partners, to help solve complex global conservation challenges,” Swaddle said. He added that such external collaborations will serve as capstone experiences for the minor.

Swaddle says there is considerable demand for the major, noting that six students already are pursuing a self-designed conservation major with the IIC. The CONS minor requirements will include courses already offered through a number of academic programs as well as new courses designed for the minor. Swaddle said some of the new courses have been approved by the Arts & Sciences Educational Policy Committee, while others are in process.

“In particular, we are excited to welcome two new faculty members to the IIC in fall 2021. Mara Dicenta Vilker takes up a joint appointment in anthropology and Fernando Galleana Rodriguez will be co-appointed in sociology,” he said. “Mara and Fernando are developing new CONS courses that apply the humanistic social sciences to conservation, including areas of environmental justice and in courses that focus on indigenous voices in conservation.”

Swaddle explained that the CONS minor will require 21 credits, with five credits in each of three distributional areas: biodiversity, human wellbeing, and communities. He and Rob Rose, the executive director of the IIC, are teaching the introductory course to the minor this semester — CONS 201 Introduction to Integrative Conservation.

“We’ve been stepping students through the integration of the human-centered lenses of wellbeing and communities to understand how to conserve biodiversity in a sustainable manner,” Swaddle explained. “We’re about to launch the final assignment of the course, where students devise a business plan for a solution to a global conservation challenge and produce a video pitch for their ideas.”