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A New Collaboration with Western Colorado University
The Telluride Institute MEM Cohort is a collaboration with Western Colorado University’s Master’s in Environmental Management (MEM) program and Telluride Institute in which MEM students can earn their Master degree while living and working in Telluride for Telluride Institute and other regional organizations. First year students gain important insight and skills into nonprofit management and regional issues while beginning to hone their ideas for their second year 600 hour Master’s project. Second year students identify and implement a Master’s project that aligns the needs of a regional organization or governmental agency with the interests and skill sets of the MEM student.

Students are provided with office space and a room for virtual classes by Telluride Institute, as well as unique team building experiences, presentations from regional organizations and individuals, potlucks and collaborative group projects to create an experience that is a mixture of online learning, community and place-based education. Many of the students currently enrolled in the program are from the region and or have lived and worked in Telluride for years. The Telluride Institute MEM cohort experience allows these students the opportunity to stay in the area and earn a Master’s degree, while completing meaningful projects that give back to people, place and planet. Fellowships, hands-on experience and regional contacts will provide these students with skill sets that will better position them to enter the workforce and help tackle some of the most pressing environmental management issues, both regionally and globally. Plus they get to live, work and enjoy all Telluride has to offer, not a bad deal.

Former MEM Students

Lia Cristadoro

MEM Student- Sustainable and Resilient Communities Emphasis

Lia completed her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Since, she has been inspired to promote sustainable community development through scientific and cultural efforts. One of her passions is entomology, specifically the relationships between insect health, climate change, social implications, and modern agricultural practices. Additionally, Lia is incredibly motivated to integrate Indigenous voices and perspectives into creating environmental management strategies. She has been working to create a graduate school project that considers all of these elements, while addressing the distinct needs of Telluride and the surrounding region. Away from school, she spends her time coaching gymnastics, climbing, and skiing. Working with children and devoting her time to exploring outdoor spaces has enhanced her appreciation for community and the value it holds in addressing environmental problems. Beyond this, she recognizes that providing environmental education to children from a young age is the recipe for generating a healthy, resilient, and climate-friendly world. She plans to pursue her future endeavors with a dedication to progressive science, sustainability, environmental justice, and unity.

Tessa Lightfoot

MEM Student - Public Land Management Emphasis

Tessa is a student in the Integrated and Public Land Management track of the MEM program. Tessa graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in Organismal Biology in Ecology and a minor in Environmental Studies. She is keenly interested in food systems and has worked at several organizations focused on farming and food distribution. Most recently, she worked as the Assistant Business Manager at Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative in Cortez, CO and helped the organization transition to an online platform. In this position, Tessa worked with both farmers and customers to improve access to local food and support small family farms in the area. Currently, she has a fellowship with Chris Hazen at the Terra Firm and is working on a Payment for Ecosystem Service Project for San Miguel County. Tessa is excited to work with ranchers and farmers in the county to improve soil health and create a more resilient local food system.

Paul Kieras

MEM Student - Integrated Public Land Management Track

Paul is a MEM student in the Integrated Public Land Management Track. Paul graduated from University of Massachusetts with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation. Much of Paul's professional work has been in field aquatic ecology. He has worked with federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service. He also has taught children snowboard lessons at Telluride Ski Resort since 2017. More recently, Paul took on the AmeriCorps VISTA position with Telluride Institute (TI). Paul assists with TI's environmental programs- Watershed Education and Prospect Basin Fens. Paul is looking forward to bringing more awareness to these two programs and to help create more research opportunities in the Telluride area. In his free time, Paul enjoys mountain biking and car camping in the desert.

Emma Youngquist

MEM Student - Emphasis in Integrative Public Lands

Emma is a first-year master student at Western Colorado University. She is studying in the Integrative Public Lands tract in the Clark Family School of Environmental Sustainability. She moved to Telluride in 2019 after graduating from the University of California, San Diego where she received a B.S in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. Emma is currently working with Dr. Garrett Smith of Telluride Institute on an elk monitoring project along the valley floor of Telluride. Dr. Smith is studying wildlife movement along the valley floor to better understand how increased recreation and tourism affects land and wildlife management decisions. Emma is passionate about wildlife biology, habitat restoration, sustainable agriculture, and creative writing. She grew up in Dolores Colorado, and found her way back to the mountains to pursue passions in skiing, biking, fishing, and everything outdoors.

Xander Critikos

MEM Student - Sustainable and Resilient Communities Track

Xander is a student in the Sustainable and Resilient Communities track of the MEM program. Xander graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management with a concentration in Sustainable Tourism. He is focused on improving resort systems in the region in order to increase sustainable practices within the ski industry as well as the public’s awareness of those efforts. Xander has worked for Telluride Ski Resort, the Public Works department and the Administrative Department for the Town of Telluride. Xander hopes to utilize his past work experiences to create a meaningful project that will benefit and educate his community. Xander enjoys backcountry split boarding, mountain biking and works in the local fly-fishing shop.

Chris Medary

MEM Student - Global Sustainability

After studying and living in Montreal Canada for several years, Chris graduated from WCU last year with a degree in Environmental Studies. Now a second year MEM student, where his research focuses on renewable energy transition for the San Miguel Power Association service region. Chris coauthored our region's 2020 Climate Action Plan and continues to contribute to greenhouse gas accounting processes in our area. Though his current research primarily focuses on energy, Chris's interests span a broad range of topics from esoteric to embodied. Over the past decade he has worked in various fields within sustainability including sustainable food systems, waste management, indigenous epistemology and oral traditions, relational ontology, watershed management, and climate risk mitigation and adaptation. Though his engagement with the world, he hopes to abate the colonial impact left on our internal and external landscapes - in the Telluride area, he hopes to expand research opportunities alongside Paul! Outside of the office, Chris enjoys hiking, camping, skiing, and above all rock climbing. Always interested in conversation, say hi if you see him around town, at the cliff, or on the trail.

Click on any of the photos above to read more about our MEM Students.


Need more information?

+ please contact Program Director, Dr. Evan Iverson

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