A new Master's Degree in Communications for Conservationists has an unusual requirement: "You can't get your degree until you've changed the world--at least your part of it," explains Brett Jenks, CEO of the non-profit Rare, which co-developed the program with the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP).
The majority of this two-year Master's program takes place in the field. Students from areas of highest biodiversity around the world implement an entire social marketing campaign designed around a specific conservation goal, by mobilizing constituents in their communities.
"The Master's program participants do not graduate until they've made a measurable difference in the way people think about and practice conservation in their communities," Jenks said.
The program is administered in four languages by regional university partners in Mexico, China, Indonesia (as of late 2008), and, as of Spring 2009, at Georgetown University in the U.S. All graduates receive an accredited Master's Degree from UTEP's Department of Communications.
Rare's model for changing local awareness, attitudes, and behaviors regarding climate change is called a "Pride" campaign, so-called because it attempts to inspire local people (mostly in the developing tropics) to take pride in, learn about, and act to preserve the precious natural resources that make their homes so unique. All students in the Master's course are simultaneously "Pride" campaign managers throughout the two-year program.
The Master's program includes classroom training where participants--most of whom are already career environmentalists chosen by Rare's local partners--learn how to change attitudes and behaviors, inspire support for environmental protection, and reduce threats to natural resources. The curriculum includes topics from social marketing and messaging, to threat analysis and multi-disciplinary strategic planning, as well as organizational, intercultural, and environmental communication and both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Rare said campaigns have been used to create new protected areas, reduce destructive fishing and illegal logging, and increase adoption of more sustainable agriculture, among other outcomes.