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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

Nordic Transformations: Finland
The Baltic Sea in northern Europe is the largest brackish water system in the world. It’s also a challenging-to-manage water body, bordering 11 different—and often uncooperative—nations. And now the sea is being threatened by eutrophication, fisheries depletion, pollution, non-native species, construction projects, and the fastest sea level rise in Europe. We will explore the complex management and the cross-national cooperation efforts in the region, including those of national and subnational governments, NGOs, cities, and corporations. We will examine the web of interdependencies among regional environmental issues and the strategies that Finnish sustainability professionals have developed to address them systematically. 

Sólfarið (The Sun Voyager), Jón Gunnar Árnason; Photo: Michael Mortimer]

Boiling Rivers and Receding Glaciers: Iceland 
Unlike many of our other Global Study sites, Iceland is a sparsely populated island nation, one facing environmental challenges that differ from most other countries. Students will examine Iceland’s unique energy transitions, present and future, and their potential impact on global climate change; entrepreneurial approaches to building a circular economy; ecological and social transformations associated with building a sustainable fishery; land and species conservation, including issues of forestry, invasive species, and soil loss; and climate change, carbon capture, glacial retreat, and their meanings for Iceland and the world.

Why here?

Ireland, Global Study

Ireland has a rich agricultural history and is a net exporter of meat, dairy, beverages, and crops to 180 countries, which makes the country an important contributor to global food security. Students will explore Ireland’s role in the global agricultural supply chain and meet with key stakeholders, from national leaders to local farmers, to learn how large companies, artisan producers, manufacturers, retail, and food service are working together to create a sustainable agricultural industry. 

Venice, Italy, Global Study

Watch this space for updates on the Italy Global Study. 

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

Cliffs and Coasts: Catalonia and Valencia, Spain
Spain has a long history of managing water, a resource vital to its centuries-old agricultural culture, now at risk due to climate change. Students will begin exploring this subject as well as learn about sustainable farming, 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 in Olot, a small Catalan village nestled amidst dormant volcanoes.

In Valencia, students will meet with municipal leaders of another small village on the Mediterranean Sea who recently wrestled back control of its water system from a private contractor. An innovative NGO will share their experience promoting local foods (consumim de proximitat), while getting healthy food into school lunches, preserving an ancient Arab irrigation system, supporting farmers working in the urban fringe to keep land open rather than developed, and connecting residents to their food supply. The trip will conclude in Barcelona, the ancient, thriving city, which is home to exemplary innovations in sustainable urban development. Throughout the trip we will be accompanied by local experts and cultural guides and will be able to enjoy world-class cuisine, shopping, history, and art.

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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