Building a brighter future

Jan 272011
Authors: Christopher Boan

Only seven percent of those working in natural resources fields are minorities, but CSU’s Gillian Bowser and Mark Brown want to change this statistic.

In March 2010, the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN), which was founded by and is under the leadership of Bowser and Brown, received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The goal of the project is to provide minorities with the chance to receive hands-on experience in the field of sustainability and to help them learn valuable skills in global leadership.

“Our goal is to help develop the next generation of diverse, global-minded leaders who are
prepared to address issues related to environmental sustainability and climate change,” Brown, director for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry, said.

Both Bowser and Brown are optimistic about the impact that RMSSN has had, despite its brief existence. According to Brown, up to 70 percent of the students from last year’s program in Great Sand Dunes National Park come from underrepresented groups.

They said that the general feedback from students has been positive.

“It’s too early to truly be able to see if our efforts have been successful, though our students are coming back and being engaged after they leave the program, which is pretty cool,” said Bowser, a researcher at the Natural Resource and Ecology Laboratory.

The program, which is an extensive network consisting of 15 universities scattered across the U.S., Canada and Mexico is intended to last for at least another five years.

All parties involved are hopeful, though, that the future will be bright for this program, as they have applied for an extension with the National Science Foundation to continue the program for at least another seven years.

“We want our students to enjoy the beauty of nature and hopefully let it grow their knowledge of the subject,” Bowser said.
Staff writer Christopher Boan can be reached at

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