Schools offer new career pathway for students passionate about rivers

River Management Society welcomes three new schools to its unique certificate program 
Eastern Washington University Fort Lewis College Western Colorado University


The River Management Society (RMS) welcomes Western Colorado University, Eastern Washington University and Fort Lewis College to its growing network of colleges and universities dedicated to preparing the next generation of river managers and stewards. By offering the River Studies and Leadership Certificate (RSLC), these schools now provide students with a new pathway to professional river-focused careers.

Photo by Dr. Gigi Richard. FLC students measure groundwater levels in the alluvial aquifer adjacent to the Dolores River in western Colorado

Photo by Dr. Gigi Richard. FLC students measure groundwater levels in the alluvial aquifer adjacent to the Dolores River in western Colorado

RSLC coursework focuses specifically on river systems, yet it is interdisciplinary in nature. Students explore and study river systems in ways that integrate the life and earth sciences, policy and conservation, socio-cultural and economic factors, as well as education and recreation.

Faculty members serve as RSLC Advisors at their respective schools, collaborating with students to design and complete a personalized academic program that empowers them to address the real-world challenges facing our nation’s rivers.

“We are immensely proud to know our RSLC Advisors for they will introduce to students the opportunity to understand the multi-faceted aspects of rivers as resources to protect, manage, and enjoy,” said RMS Executive Director Risa Shimoda.

Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Cheney, WA, will host the certificate program through its Geosciences Department. Assistant Professor of Geosciences Dr. Erin Dascher will serve as the RSLC Advisor. Her research focuses on human-nature interactions related to river connectivity and restoration, aquatic species distributions, and water resource management, as well as broader human-environment interactions.

Fort Lewis College (FLC) is located in Durango, CO, which is home to the Four Corners Water Center, an interdisciplinary information hub that builds relationships and creates dialogue to address the challenging water issues faced in the southwest. Dr. Gigi Richard, who was one of the original RSLC founding Advisors and started the RSLC program at Colorado Mesa University, is now the Director of the Four Corners Water Center and an instructor of Geosciences and has brought the RSLC program to Fort Lewis College.

Dr. Richard’s research focuses on watershed hydrology in Colorado, from snowmelt driven systems to intermittent desert streams. She also studies human impacts on river systems including the downstream impacts of dams, levees and other human activities on rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and New Zealand.

A perfect complement to the RSLC program, FLC launched a new college-wide river program called Fort Lewis on the Water (FLOW) in 2020 in collaboration with Four Corners Water Center, Outdoor Pursuits and departments at the college. According to a school news release, “FLOW opens the door to next-level experiential learning opportunities, leadership development, recreation and wellness outlets, service-learning components, and programs that serve to advance partnerships with regional schools.”

As Dr. Richard prepares to launch the program she said, “This unique certificate gives students hands-on experience and fits perfectly with FLC’s experiential learning focus, natural resource courses, and programs like the Four Corners Water Center and Fort Lewis on the Water.”

Western Colorado University (WCU) in Gunnison, CO, is home to the Clark Family School of Environment and Sustainability, which offers interdisciplinary education focused on global networks of place-based change, cultural inclusivity and cross-boundary environmental stewardship. In addition to solution-focused academic programs, the Clark School includes major conferences and public initiatives under two centers: the Center for Mountain Transitions and the Center for Public Lands.

The RSLC Advisor is Dr. Jeff Sellen, Professor of Environment & Sustainability where he teaches classes in U.S. and global environmental politics and policy and water policy. He is also the Director of the Colorado Water Workshop, which is held annually in July in Gunnison and serves as a venue for the ongoing discussion about the most significant natural resource in the West, water.

When reflecting on what excites him most about his field, Dr. Sellen said “As we address the most challenging issues of the day (climate change, wealth inequality, biodiversity loss, global poverty, to name a few) we are required to think in terms of fundamental change. I remain optimistic, but committed (along with my students) to making this fundamental change. Our work at the Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability at Western is not merely academic; it is the work that is necessary to change the world”.

With the addition of these three schools, RMS is excited about the growth of the certificate program and preparing the next generation of river professionals.

To learn more, visit https://www.river-management.org/river-studies-leadership.

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