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Global Study

students in Barcelona

Where Will Graduate School Take You? 

Every MNR student participates in a ten-day Global Study experience—a required part of our degree in both programs—to engage with real-world global sustainability challenges. Given the dynamic nature of travel at the moment, we are following Virginia Tech’s travel and study abroad policies to inform our decisions on destinations and timing. 

Developing intercultural competence

The Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability is committed to advancing the knowledge and practice of environmentally sustainable development in a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing world. To gain insights and provide our students with direct global experience, we have developed a strong network of partners and projects in various parts of the world. 

Each semester, our graduate programs provide opportunities for graduate students and professionals from all disciplines and sectors to participate in these experiences and projects through our standard ten-day Global Study, a required part of our MNR degree. All students undergo a standardized cultural competence test, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), administered by trained faculty members. Students in the XMNR program take the 50-question assessment upon entry into the program, and students in the MNR (Online) program take it as part of the Global Issues in Environmental Sustainability core course.

Can you choose your destination? 

Master of Natural Resources (Online) students have a choice of several destinations offered during their study period, including an option to receive graduate credit with travel to multiple countries. Please see individual country descriptions to help in your planning.

MNR (Online) Destinations

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Global Study

Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world and the second-largest economy in South America. The country is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, with fifteen continental and three oceanic zones, plus the Antarctic region. The capital, Buenos Aires, is a 15.6 million-strong megacity, popular with tourists. Argentina’s unique geography, vibrant biodiversity, economic-growth and urbanization trends make it an informative destination for students of sustainability. 

Cities in Nature: Buenos Aires and Mendoza
What does it mean for a city to be a part of its ecoregion? And how do sustainable cities and sustainable ecoregions fit together? In this Global Study experience, students will explore two iconic Argentine cities, Buenos Aires and Mendoza, as complex urban areas within their ecoregional contexts, through key themes of sustainable urban form, environmental justice, habitat restoration and protection, grassland ecosystems and resources, desert oasis cities, water conflicts, wine economies, and global commerce.

By the end of this trip, students will absorb the vibrant culture of two important Argentine cities; make the connection between urban society, transportation, urban form, and equity; visit an informal urban settlement; explore the ecologically rich Paraná Delta; study the significance of the Pampas as a major and historical natural resource; investigate the Matanza Riachuelo restoration in comparison to other small watersheds around the world; engage in the discourse regarding benefits of certified B Corporations; connect the specific terroir of Mendoza to the global wine trade; and reflect on lessons that apply to urbanization back home and around the world.

Why here?  

In this video, Dr. Daniel Marcucci introduces sustainability topics MNR students will explore during a Global Study trip to Buenos Aires and Mendoza.

Large ship in Finland

Finland’s Contested Environment: Baltic Waters and Northern Landscapes
Finnish cultures have a long history of resilience, community values, and living closely connected to the land and the sea. This is a high-latitude exploration of themes including: climate change in the Far North, contested Arctic landscapes, traditional and renewable energy sources, reindeer farming, land–sea connections of sustainable water, Lapland, the Baltic Sea as an ecological and strategic resource, Nordic urban form, and resilient indigenous communities. 

By the end of this trip, students will understand how global warming forces transformations onto peoples and places; recognize the conflicting forces impeding a sustainable future for specific communities; analyze essential systems of a sustainable city; appreciate the importance of geopolitics in public decision making; understand the Baltic Sea as a valuable ecosystem; assess the challenges of transitioning to a non-carbon future; recognize sustainable tourism as a complex objective; travel above the Arctic Circle; experience Finnish and Sàmi cultures; visit with reindeer; and make connections between these global lessons and one’s own sustainability agenda.

Ireland, Global Study

Greening the Emerald Isle: Ireland
Ireland is a small country, slightly larger than West Virginia, with a population of just 5 million. It is also 100 years young, having only become an independent state in 1922 following centuries of conflict. 

The students on this Global Study will explore Ireland’s goal of achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and the barriers and opportunities that being a young, small, European Union country steeped in culture present. Students will examine connections between socio-ecological systems of agriculture and energy; the role of the EU, national, and local governance in the transition to renewable energy; and the ways that culture hinders and enables decarbonization efforts. 

The group will travel from the bustling capital of Dublin to the coastal town of Galway, with a stop in the medieval village of Athlone. During the journey, students will meet with government agencies and research organizations facilitating Ireland’s shift to renewable energy; learn how community engagement supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions; discuss issues related to sustainable rural development with rural farmers and advocates; visit universities, a working farm, a restored bog, and a wind park; explore the Burren and Cliffs of Moher; and immerse themselves in Irish culture.

Italy, Global Study

Transparency in Food and Fashion: Lessons from Italy
Italy is famous for two of the most impactful human activities—eating and getting dressed. This experience will shed light on food and clothing systems using Italian case studies. Traveling from Prato to Chianti and Parma, and finishing in Milan, students will experience the rich flavors of Italian culture; gain a transparent understanding of the impacts of clothing on the global environment; discuss important issues of sustainable clothing with leading innovators; model quality food production and distribution as a complex system; relate the UN Sustainable Development Goals to best business practices; understand the significance of B Corps and Benefit Corporations; recognize “greenwashing”; visit a textile mill; tour a centuries-old vineyard and winery; see the connection between landscape, history, agriculture, and tourism; and ride an Italian high-speed train at 300 kilometers per hour.

Why here?

Panama forest horses Virginia Tech Global Study

Panama: The Road to Climate Leadership and Security
Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an average annual growth rate of 5.6% over the last five years. It is also one of three carbon-negative countries in the world and has become a leader in sustainability and climate change solutions in Latin America. To mitigate and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change, the country has focused on strengthening conservation, implementing adaptation and mitigation policies, empowering indigenous peoples, and supporting and providing capacity to the next generation of climate leaders.

During this Global Study trip, students will learn how climate change and extreme weather conditions are affecting Panama Canal operations, which is one of the main contributors to Panama’s GDP. Hydroelectric power generation, agricultural production, and supply of potable and industrial water have also been impacted by climate change. Students will travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic side of the country and visit different projects and programs to assess the impacts of sea level rise at the Guna Yala Reserve; the importance and need of conservation, biodiversity, and ecosystem health for increasing resilience; and the role of indigenous peoples and how climate change is affecting their well-being. 

By the end of this trip, students will understand the role of climate policy on national and international scales; learn and engage with the diverse actors and institutions (public, private, indigenous communities) involved in climate governance; meet and exchange with young Panamanian climate leaders; assess the importance of agroforestry, silvopastoral systems, and decarbonization initiatives for the future of Panama; and experience and learn about new cultures and lifestyles that are outside of their usual comfort zones.

Kariega Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa; Photo by Dr. Michael Mortimer*

African Transformations: South Africa
The wealthiest of African nations and the financial gateway to the continent, post-apartheid South Africa is a fascinating place to consider the complex relationships between sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity, social justice, poverty, development, and governance. Beginning in Cape Town and the Cape winelands, continuing eastwards to the coastal town of Knysna along the spectacular Garden Route, and then on to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and the Kariega Game Reserve, students will explore South Africa’s complex cultures and history and the critical role these play in sustainability challenges and opportunities.

By the end of this journey, students will be able to make connections between social justice, culture, and the sustainable management of natural resources; recognize diverse transformations necessary to achieve sustainable global communities; learn about sustainable tourism and urbanization as complex propositions; appreciate the significance of UNESCO World Heritage designation; understand the Cape Floral Kingdom as a valuable ecosystem; make connections between these global lessons and one’s own sustainability agenda; experience a safari and understand the complex links between sustainable tourism, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development; and understand how global warming forces transformations onto peoples and places.

Why here?

Global Study, Barcelona, Spain, Rasmussen 2

Spain: Journeying Through Cataluña 
Students on this Global Study field experience will explore sustainability questions across a transect of rural and urban landscapes. The first stop is world-famous Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, known for its beauty and world-class innovations promoting sustainable development. We will visit one of Europe’s largest ports to learn about global trade, upon which so much of our economy depends, and what is being done to reduce the associated pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We will engage entrepreneurs reimagining Barcelona’s urban transportation by promoting sustainable mobility and quality of life; visit organizations working to sustain Barcelona’s water supply; and explore how water flows through the city, starting with farmers in the headwaters and going all the way to desalination plants at the city’s edge.  

Afterwards, we’ll head north towards the mountains to spend some days in Olot, a quaint rural village settled amidst a series of dormant volcanoes in the county of Garrotxa, province of Girona. While there, we’ll sample sustainable dairy and pork farms, tour biodiversity preserves and a nature park, and engage with a community group struggling to balance development pressures threatening the area’s rich cultural heritage. The field experience examines overlapping themes: history and culture, 1,000 years of land use, agriculture and the environment, water quality, tourism, climate change, and sea-level rise.

Why here?

For the Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) students, the Global Study destination for each cohort is chosen by the faculty. Previous XMNR Global Study locations have included China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and Turkey.

Is it covered by tuition? 

  • Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) tuition includes all costs associated with a Global Study, except international airfare. 
  • Master of Natural Resources (Online) students pay an additional fee of $3,650 plus international airfare for each Global Study trip. 

Unable to travel abroad? 

If your circumstances might prevent you from traveling abroad for any reason, please contact Lindsay Key to discuss the possibilities of other options for meeting this requirement.

Carbon Emissions Offsets

As an organization, we are focused on sustainability education, but our various programs and projects take us far around the world. All this travel is a significant source of carbon emissions, and we want to do everything in our power to help mitigate the negative effects of our work. 

To help us achieve our goals, we are partnering with Terrapass, an environmental company providing carbon offsets through clean energy and greenhouse-gas emission-reduction projects throughout the United States.

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