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Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute To Kick Off Fourth Year Of Successful Program

April 10, 2003 -- A successful program to help Virginia’s leaders address difficult environmental and community issues will kick off its fourth yearlong program this fall.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute trainspeople from industry, businesses, local and state government, and the environmental community. VNRLI is a partnership between the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Virginia Tech’s Center for Economic Education and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Graduates of the institute give the program rave reviews. Ed Daley, Winchester city manager and a 2001 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."

Beginning in September, the institute will launch its fourth 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 Resources Leadership Institute is encouraging applicants from business and industry; state, local and federal government; American Indian tribes; environmental and civic organizations; African-American and Latino communities; as well as individuals who are involved in some capacity with natural resource issues and are catalysts in their communities.

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 2004 program is land use, and each session will offer panel discussions and field trips associated with issues such as open space conservation, smart growth, environmental justice, water quality, Superfund site cleanup and redevelopment, and sustainable agriculture and forestry.

Unlike many workshops that may have short-lived effects, the institute appears to have long-term impacts. One year after graduating, a 2001 fellow noted that the institute “sharpened my negotiating skills and mediating skills. [It] provided me greater insight into how people form opinions that sometimes become the basis of personal missions [and] increased my awareness of tactics used to sway public opinion.”

For others, the institute has also been life-changing. Gavin Sanderlin, a watershed protection specialist and organic farm manager, credits the institute with “giving me the courage to take on projects that I could not predict the outcome of, but doing so while living by my ethics. [It] exposed me to tools that I can use to move through conflict, not only with other individuals or at the group level, but also within myself.”

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 goal 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”

Cost for the yearlong course is $1,600, excluding travel, lodging and some food.

The deadline for applications is May 30, and those accepted will be notified by June 25.

“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. “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.

For an application, contact Tanya Denckla or program manager Caroline Brennan at (434) 924-1970 or email: ckb5r@virginia.edu. The application is also available on the institute‘s Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/~envneg/VNRLI_home.html.

The leadership program is supported, in part, by the U.S. Forest Service, the Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program and a grant from the Chesapeake Bay License Plate Fund.

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: Thursday, 10-Apr-2003 16:14:59 EDT
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