The Wyss Scholars Program at NAU Shaping the future of conservation

This report provides a glimpse into the impact that philanthropic investors like the Wyss Foundation have on NAU's students and programs, and the connections they foster throughout the American West.

Philanthropy elevates connections.

"People in the conservation field are drawn to NAU to connect with the unspoiled landscapes that they love and to be closer to the cultural traditions that value nature and protect it as a first priority.

"NAU's graduate program in environmental science and policy has become a leader nationally in large part because philanthropy allows us to take science and policy outside the university and apply it in the real world. NAU's partnership with the Wyss Foundation has created ripple effects throughout the conservation science field.

"Being a witness to the learning, the growth and how students come to focus on how they're going to contribute to society: that's an amazing gift. We are grateful to our partners who help us create change agents for a better world."

Thomas D. Sisk, Olajos-Goslow Chair of Environmental Science and Policy, Director, NAU Landscape Conservation Initiative

The impacts of the Wyss Scholars program at Northern Arizona University are growing on the ground, in the field, among partners, and across the west.

"Philanthropic leaders like the Wyss Foundation and Marcey Olajos, and partners like the National Forest Foundation elevate our shared priority to educate tomorrow’s innovators in the fields of conservation and sustainability. Because of investments and alignment with these influential partners, NAU is a catalyst for important and impactful research as well as applied conservation projects that will shape the future of our home on the Colorado Plateau and beyond."

Jason Wilder, Dean, NAU College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

Partnership in action

“Wyss Scholars and Wyss Fellows from NAU have become an integral part of the Grand Canyon Trust’s work since the program's inception. We have brought a great number of scholars and fellows into our organization to work on critical, time-sensitive conservation issues, and have hired several to work with us as permanent, full-time conservation advocates. NAU’s stewardship of the Wyss Scholars program simultaneously builds on-the-ground conservation capacity, and launches young professionals into a career in conservation."

Ethan AumackMS, Environmental Sciences and Policy, '03, Executive Director, Grand Canyon Trust

“Over the years, NAU’s Wyss Scholars have been important members of the National Forest Foundation’s team in our work to develop successful conservation efforts, helping restore and enhance the country’s National Forests and Grasslands. As we continue to address the challenges facing the conservation of America’s public lands, the Wyss Scholars program will remain crucial in developing the next generation of conservation leaders. The National Forest Foundation is committed to building meaningful connections to the outdoors and collaborative approaches with partners like NAU and the Wyss Foundation to catalyze restoration.”

Rebecca Davidson, Southwest Region Director/Youth Program Director, National Forest Foundation

"Because of the multifaceted experience I gained through NAU's Environmental Sciences and Policy masters program, and especially because of the support that the Wyss Foundation provided, I was able to work with a variety of conservation advocacy programs like the Grand Canyon Trust in graduate school. This exposure to the Trust's work early on guided my course of studies and career path. I sought out leadership opportunities in organizations that were doing science-based environmental justice work that included hands-on experiences for participants of all ages, especially young people. Eventually that brought me back to the Trust, where I now work as the Community Engagement Director, managing our stewardship, citizen science, and youth engagement programs."

Audrey Kruse (below, left) MS, Environmental Sciences and Policy, '14

Crane Lake wetland protection project

"I applied to Northern Arizona University’s Environmental Sciences and Policy graduate program because of the interdisciplinary focus and the accomplished faculty working on place-based conservation. I felt that, through this distinctive graduate program, I would gain the knowledge needed to advance my career working across disciplines in environmental conservation. Thanks to this graduate program, its network, and the generous support of the Wyss Foundation, I was able to pursue a career at Grand Canyon Trust. Now, as the Climate Resilience Director, I work with many partners to forward on-the-ground conservation and adaptation efforts. I am deeply grateful for the knowledge and experiences I gained as a Wyss Scholar and NAU graduate that inspired this path forward."

Cerissa Hoglander (above, right) MS, Environmental Sciences and Policy, '12

Views from NAU Wyss Scholars

The Wyss Scholars program at NAU advances conservation science and partnerships, and develops leaders in the field across the American West. The financial support from the Wyss Foundation during graduate studies and beyond attracts highly motivated and accomplished applicants. NAU's environmental sciences and policy master's degree and the Wyss Scholars program provide a clear framework and pathway for students to advance career goals in western land conservation.

NAU's Wyss Scholars program enables our students and faculty to build strong relationships with internship organizations and research partnerships, benefitting all students in our program. The bridges enable students to immediately link their science, policy, and management knowledge to real conservation challenges. Our government agency and non-profit partners benefit from faculty-supervised student research, helping to advance their conservation missions while building lasting professional relationships.

The roster of Wyss Scholars alumni currently working in the American West demonstrates the impact of the program, and the ripple effects it creates. Our ongoing relationship with the Wyss Foundation, and the community of professionals that it fosters and sustains, strengthens our entire program and advances our mission in a fundamental way.

NAU Wyss Scholars alumni work with and for non-profits and state, federal, and tribal agency partners. Together, we are fostering emerging knowledge, promising science, and respected leaders in conservation. Together, we are influencing policy and management decisions.

NAU Wyss Scholars alumni are working on land conservation in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, and California and hold influential employment positions in national, regional, and local NGOs; federal, tribal, and county agencies; and in the private sector. Many work together in collaborative efforts that facilitate western land and water conservation.

Of the 30 NAU Wyss Scholars to date, 25 are working in Western States on land and environmental conservation; the remaining five are continuing their education or applying knowledge in other settings. Thirteen have risen to significant leadership roles in their organizations.

14 NAU Wyss Scholars alumni work in non-governmental organizations, including 3 with leadership roles in statewide or national programs
  • 8 hold public sector roles
  • 5 work in private sector conservation
  • 2 are employed in conservation work beyond the American West
  • 1 is pursuing a PhD in conservation science
Thank you for investing in NAU students and our shared future.

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NAU is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution.