Wilson College and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) have formed a partnership that will provide academic opportunities for Wilson students and help develop future generations of conservation professionals.
Wilson and SCBI officials recently signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the intent of a five-year partnership that was suggested by Wilson alumna Susan Breakefield Fulton, a longtime supporter of both organizations. Fulton, of Washington, D.C., proposed that the college and SCBI team up, and made contributions to both organizations to help launch the partnership, according to Camilla Rawleigh, Wilson’s vice president for institutional advancement.
“Susan’s been very generous over the years to nonprofits, but there were two that really stood out to her — SCBI and Wilson,” said Rawleigh of Fulton, a 1961 Wilson graduate whose interests include environmental sustainability and the welfare of animals.
SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Va., the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability, according to institute officials.
The partnership between Wilson and SCBI will draw on mutual strengths and interests of both institutions, allowing Wilson students to be exposed in their first year of college to the work being done at SCBI, whose 3,200-acre Front Royal campus is just 90 miles from Chambersburg.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with Wilson College,” said Ricardo Stanoss, academic program manager for the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. “We look forward to expanding our horizons to the benefit of both institutions.”
Stressing that details have not yet been finalized, Wilson Professor of Biology Dana Harriger explained how the partnership might work for Wilson students. He said in a student’s first semester, they would be introduced to the discipline of conservation biology through their first-year seminar, which would include an introduction to SCBI. Students in the program would enroll in specific collaborative courses in their sophomore year to expand their knowledge of conservation biology.
“The goal would then be for the students in this program to study in residence for a semester in Front Royal at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Biology,” Harriger said. Jointly operated by SCBI and George Mason University in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation Biology is the on-site education center at SCBI.
As part of Wilson’s established, undergraduate research sequence, students in the program would be mentored by SCBI scientists and faculty at its education center, as well as have an opportunity to use the institute’s laboratories and other facilities, according to Harriger.
The partnership would also benefit Wilson faculty members, providing an opportunity for faculty exchanges in which Wilson professors might teach classes at SCBI’s education center. Likewise, faculty from SCBI could teach an occasional course at Wilson, Harriger said.
“At the end of four years, the students enrolled at Wilson would fulfill the requirements for their biology degree, focusing on conservation biology, and they would have the experience of working with top-notch research scientists from the Smithsonian,” said Harriger, who sees the partnership as an incredible opportunity for Wilson, SCBI and in particular, Wilson students.
“Having the ability to interact with the Smithsonian is something that most institutions don’t have,” he added. “From an institutional perspective, this partnership will strengthen our program, while developing a strong core in conservation biology.”
The institute’s work and resources would open up tremendous opportunities for Wilson College and its students, according to Harriger, who said a variety of careers are associated with the field of conservation biology. “Conservation biology is huge – it’s not just about saving animals,” he said. “Genetics are involved. There are the molecular aspects. There are many facets to conservation biology and the Smithsonian’s on the cutting edge. Students in this program will be exposed to current techniques used in conservation biology, as well as develop the critical skills afforded by the broader Wilson education that will make them adaptable for the future of conservation biology.”
More information about SCBI can be found at https://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation.
Founded in 1869, Wilson College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college offering bachelor’s degrees in 34 majors and master’s degrees in education, the humanities, accountancy, management, nursing, fine arts and healthcare management for sustainability. Wilson is committed to providing an affordable education that offers value to its students beyond graduation.
Located in Chambersburg, Pa., the college has a fall 2016 enrollment of 1,098, which includes students from 18 states and 16 countries. Visit www.wilson.edu for more information.
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