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Virginia Natural Resource Leadership InstituteTo Kick Off Third Year Of Successful Program

May 15, 2002-- A successful program to help Virginia's leaders address difficult environmental and community issues will kick off its third year-long program this fall.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute trains people from industry, businesses, local and state government, and the environmental community. It is the result of a partnership between the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, the Center for Economic Education at Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Department of Forestry. With the second class of 25 fellows graduating at the end of May, the three sponsors will continue the program for a third year.

Graduates of the Leadership Institute give the program rave reviews. "The [Leadership Institute] has been one of the rewarding and beneficial opportunities that I have experienced," said S.D. Mallete, owner of a natural resource management company in the Eastern Shore town of Locustville.

"Once people are really communicating, all kinds of 'thinking out of the box' can occur," said Mike Roberts, an extension agent and Farm Business Management coordinator in Virginia's South East District. "Because of the nature of my work and volunteer activities, I often find myself in situations that require mediation, negotiation or facilitation skills. The institute offers education and hands-on experience in all three."

Another institute fellow, John Deuel with a Hampton Roads nonprofit group said, "[The Leadership Institute] will help you become more effective in your work as a leader of environmental programs. I have gained a much broader perspective of the environmental challenges we face. More importantly, I have developed more confidence and knowledge in my efforts to bring people together on particular issues."

Beginning in October, the institute will launch its third series of six seminar workshops, held throughout the year in various locations across the state. Participants accepted into the program attend all six workshops, which generally run from Wednesday through Friday.

The Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute is seeking applicants from industry, business, local and state government, environmental organizations and community groups – specifically, people who work with their communities and who are involved in some capacity with natural resource issues. The new class is limited to 30 people.

Participants will gain personal skills in leadership and collaborative problem-solving, with a goal of being better able to both convene and engage in collaborative problem-solving and consensus-building. Each session offers interactive exercises that focus on a topic such as conflict resolution, facilitation, consensus-building, interest-based negotiation, mediation, environmental justice and special group processes.

In addition, participants will gain deeper understanding of key environmental issues in Virginia and discover opportunities for dialogue and collaborative problem solving. The overall focus for the 2003 program is land use, and each session will offer panel discussions and/or field trips associated with such issues as open space conservation, smart growth, environmental justice, water quality, Superfund site cleanup and redevelopment, and sustainable agriculture and forestry.

Ed Daley, Winchester city manager and an institute fellow, said the program offers "powerful tools" to those seeking to improve their effectiveness as a participant and mediator of community conflict. "[I left] the program with an expanded toolbox of dispute-resolution and leadership skills and a broader understanding of the environmental issues confronting us at the community and global levels."

The Virginia Department of Forestry is eager to see the institute thrive. "The demands and pressures on our resources are becoming greater every day," said Mike Foreman of the Department of Forestry. "We need to develop new, innovative approaches to doing business. One way to do that is to build an understanding of each other and of the issues."

Mike Ellerbrock, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic Education, one of the program’s co-sponsors, said, "One of the institute's goals is to bring people together who normally don't have the opportunity to interact on an informal, friendly basis. The institute does not try to convince anyone of any particular solution or outcome, but it does aim to help people gain insight into different perspectives about the same issue."

"We're pleased to be able to offer scholarships to the next class," said Tanya Denckla, senior associate with U.Va.’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation and coordinator of the program. "We want to make it possible for people to participate without a cost barrier." She urges people to apply even if they’re not sure they can afford the entire registration fee. Cost for the yearlong course is $1,600, excluding travel, lodging and some food.

The deadline for applications is July 5, and fellows will be notified of admission decisions by July 30.

For an application, contact Tanya Denckla at (434) 924-1970 or email: tanyad@virginia.edu, or download the application from the institute's Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/~envneg/VNRLI_home.html.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 15-May-2002 12:16:28 EDT
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