Since 2012, the college’s Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) accelerated graduate degree program, based in the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, has sent a cohort of students on a 10-day international residency to Yunnan Province, China, to concentrate on sustainable development in the region.

“For each cohort, we planned a distinctive international residency that allows students to work with global partners and apply lessons learned during the program to develop multi-scale strategies for global sustainability,” said David Robertson, director of the XMNR program, located in the National Capital Region.

The cohorts tackled a variety of challenges facing China, including tourism and housing development, watershed management, and the creation of a sustainability network of government and community people. Each residency provided a layer of information for the succeeding cohort to build upon.

As reported in the fall 2012 issue of CNRE News, the program’s inaugural cohort designed a sustainability strategy for the Linden Centre, a boutique hotel and historic landmark in the village of Xizhou.

The second cohort investigated the feasibility of using an agent-based participatory model for the Erhai Lake Basin to simulate impacts of various development decisions, with an emphasis on water quality and availability. Stakeholder perceptions, access to technology, language differences, and uncertain government support for citizen involvement required the students to first develop long-range recommendations. “The project pushed our limits,” said alumnus Jarrod Lichty. “We left China with a different perspective on the scientific, social, and cultural implications of natural resource management.”

The third cohort split into teams to explore four strategies for sustainability: housing development, luxury tourism, heritage tourism, and networking best practices in China, including how to form partnerships and determine networking needs. Results ranged from identifying trends in sustainable housing to making recommendations on how to reduce environmental impacts and support the local cultural knowledge and traditions. “A group of visitors, no matter how well intentioned, cannot provide useful input without understanding the community as a whole and the motivating factors that drive the way a community forms and functions,” said alumna Sally Parker.

Following its three-year run in China, the program’s 2015 international residency ventured to Turkey to examine enterprise sustainability, including Coca-Cola’s water-use strategies, and to Morocco to study development of an environmental services industrial cluster and a phosphate mining remediation project. The 2016 residency is planned for South Africa.