Conservation Education Outdoors

Warren Wilson Launches Master of Science in Applied Climate Studies

Warren Wilson College

By Emma Castleberry

Warren Wilson College (WWC) will offer a new, low-residency master’s program, the Master of Science in Applied Climate Studies (MACS), intended to equip students to address the pressing challenges of climate change.

“From an academic perspective, when we explore climate change causes and impacts, we very quickly find ourselves entangled in interdisciplinary questions,” says Dr. Joshua Arnold, assistant professor of sustainable agriculture and chair of the Environmental Studies Department at WWC. “Solution areas for these issues, whether they be focused on adaptation or mitigation, are deeply rooted in the confluence of many different fields of study.”

Dr Arnold was part of the team that consulted on the college’s proposal for the new master’s program. The program’s low-residency format was intentional and will model the existing MFA Program for Writers in this way, allowing participation from students that are already in the workplace. The program will kick off with a 12-day summer residency, followed by three 12-day campus residencies and four online semesters for a total of 44 credit hours over the two-year program. “We want to focus on applied studies here,” says Dr. Arnold. “A traditional college education is a wonderful process, but what if students can solve problems on the ground and engage with a world-class education? As a work college and an institution with a working landscape, we are uniquely suited to a model where students are not only exploring but also doing.”

The college’s 1,100-acre campus serves as a laboratory for research in regenerative land management and sustainable agriculture through the college’s Center for Working Lands (CWL), creating an ideal learning environment for the new program. “Land management systems that are adaptive to, and mitigate the effects of, climate change are essential to protecting the ecological, economic and social integrity of communities,” says Dr. Dave Ellum, dean and director of the CWL. “The new MACS program coupled with the CWL will provide a unique opportunity to develop those systems in ways that are directly applicable to the health of rural communities and the conservation of biodiversity.”

The search for a director of the new program is underway. The first cohort of students in the MACS program will begin their studies in 2025. “We are at a crossroads,” says Dr. Arnold. “We have both a mandate and an ethical imperative to do this hard work and create experts who can advise our communities on best practices.”

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