By Krista Timney

Michael Mortimer, founding director of the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, has been named associate dean for programs and initiatives in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area for the College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE).

“With our history and successful programming in the Washington, D.C., area over several decades and our unique proximity to the area with its federal agencies and nonprofit groups, the college is uniquely positioned to grow beyond our current offerings,” stated Dean Paul M. Winistorfer.

This organizational change celebrates both the college’s ongoing presence in the region and heralds efforts to accelerate the development of relationships that will enhance future degree programs, experiential-learning opportunities, and research ventures.

“An expanded presence in the D.C. area will leverage the regional opportunities and partnerships for our Blacksburg departments and faculty,” stated Winistorfer. “As we continue to think about creative ways to offer experiential learning for all students in the college, a larger footprint in the region will help create opportunities for our students through our current and future networks.”

These opportunities will be built upon the graduate degree programs offered through the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS), which has provided professional development opportunities for aspiring leaders in environmental sustainability for more than two decades.

The center currently enrolls 175 students pursuing an Online Master of Natural Resources. With Mortimer at the helm, online enrollment increased by more than 600 percent between 2011 and 2019.

Thirty-five students also are enrolled in the Executive Master of Natural Resources program, a hybrid, accelerated graduate degree program that takes place over three semesters in one year.

The two programs have taken more than 400 master’s students abroad to more than a dozen countries over the last eight years.

According to Winistorfer, now is the time to leverage the college’s success in offering financially self-supporting graduate degree programs to develop additional offerings. These new programs will target marketplace opportunities and shifting workforce skills and competencies, while also providing educational experiences in the formats sought by working professionals.

Winistorfer also envisions increased research activities as the college strengthens existing partnerships and enters into new collaborative efforts. These opportunities will be available to faculty based at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, which houses CLiGS, as well as those on the Blacksburg campus.

Mortimer is in a unique position to lead and capitalize on new opportunities for the college. He holds both a doctoral degree in forest resource policy from the University of Montana and a J.D. from the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law.

Mortimer arrived at Virginia Tech in 2001 after serving as special attorney general for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. He was named director of natural resources programs for the Washington, D.C., area in 2008 and became director of the then newly established CLiGS in 2014.

“CNRE has had a presence in the D.C. area since the 1990s. Since then, we’ve matriculated more than 700 master’s students, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for what the college can achieve in the region,” stated Mortimer. “As we witness heightened concerns over climate change and water, energy, and food security, and as we see our global societies facing more threats than ever from changing environmental conditions, new partnerships and collaborations in teaching, research, and outreach are not just convenient, they are critical."

“One of our goals is to help decision-makers see the world through the lens of natural resources and see national security through the lens of the environment and natural resources. Having an individual in the D.C. area who is empowered to represent our interests will help build our network and create opportunities for our faculty and for Virginia Tech,” Winistorfer said.