Communication & Influence

By: Alec Masella

Emily Talley brings a unique perspective to class when teaching for Virginia Tech’s Master of Natural Resources (MNR). That’s due, in part, because before she became an instructor she was an MNR student, completing the Executive (XMNR) program in May 2014.

During her undergraduate studies, Ms. Talley completed several geology courses and became increasingly interested in addressing environmental issues. Shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree in English, she was recruited to work for an environmental consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia.

One of my earliest projects was to help assess the effectiveness of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology,” she explains. The following year, a novel opportunity arose and she began work as a writer for statesman Colin Powell who, at the time, served as the Chairman of America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth.

In this position, Ms. Talley had the opportunity to travel the country as she moved from writing and editing into community development, with a focus on multi-sector partnership development, coalition building, stakeholder engagement, and volunteerism. With this experience, she decided to pursue a Master of Communication and Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, and spent the subsequent decade applying and refining her leadership and communication skills in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors.

By 2013, Talley was also invited to create a new course for the Online MNR program on Communication & Influence, and in 2016 she joined the Executive faculty team with a focus on students’ professional development and independent studies.

“Environmental practitioners and sustainability professionals must have deep technical expertise,” she explains, “but to advance as leaders they must also hone essential skills such as self-awareness, active listening, framing, persuasion, presenting and public speaking, negotiation, and conflict management. Students come to our program with diverse backgrounds and objectives, and my goal is to enable each individual to be reflective and transparent about the content areas that will be of the greatest professional benefit.”

Much like in the Mumbai leopard attacks case featured on this blog in October 2017, communication can not only determine public perspectives on certain environmental issues, it also determines how these issues are addressed.

Talley explains, “I currently serve as a Board member for a national nonprofit focused on climate adaptation planning in rural watersheds, and recently had a discussion with the Executive Director about how we might frame the organization’s work when communicating with different audiences.” The language that resonates with a federal agency will likely differ from that which will motivate and empower consultants or field practitioners. When it comes to bringing attention to specific environmental issues, audience is everything.

Having begun her career writing for sustainability, Talley has since garnered 20 years of experience communicating across multiple sectors. Her Communication & Influence course is therefore an extension of her knowledge, equipping students with the skills necessary for working across sectors for environmental causes. Whether a student’s goal is to move into environmental law, organize sustainability initiatives, speak on behalf of affected communities, or manage renewable energy efforts, Talley’s course will supplement their industry knowledge with a keen communicative sense.

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As a Senior Fellow with the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS), Emily Talley serves as an instructor for both the Online Master of Natural Resources and the Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) programs. Her primary areas of focus are communication and student career development. Prior to her role with CLiGS and the formation of her consultancy, Emily was the Senior Director of Community Affairs for Capital One Financial Corporation, where she connected lines of business and nonprofit partners to lead and advance financial education programs, national philanthropy, and employee engagement through volunteerism. Previously, she directed Gonzaga University’s development efforts in support of Native American outreach, leadership, and community service programs, and spent five years as a writer and community development director for America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth, a national nonprofit founded by General Colin Powell, USA (Ret). Programs created and led by Emily and her teams have received recognition and awards from the Points of Light Institute, the Taproot Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Board Source, Junior Achievement USA, and the Washington Business Journal. A Board Member for the Model Forest Policy Program and consultant to the Virginia Environmental Endowment, Ms. Talley received a B.A. in English from The College of William and Mary, a M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University, and an MNR degree from Virginia Tech.