AUNE Introduces New Graduate Fellowship in Conservation Psychology

Carol SaundersAntioch University New England (AUNE) is creating a new graduate fellowship in conservation psychology, thanks to an anonymous gift of $50,000. The fellowship, the first of its kind in the country, was announced at the celebration of AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies’ fortieth anniversary, on November 9.

Conservation psychology is the science and practice of understanding and promoting human care for nature. “It’s really about appreciating our relationship with the natural world and encouraging people to act on behalf of that relationship,” said Carol Saunders, one of the founders of conservation psychology and a research faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies. Ten years ago, she co-edited a special issue of Human Ecology Review that helped define the new discipline.

The fellowship will help coordinate a network of interested professionals and broaden the reach of this new field through training and other opportunities. Saunders is excited about the potential, saying that “it will help build our capacity to connect people who want to apply insights from psychology toward environmental issues.”

Kayla Cranston, an AUNE doctoral student in environmental studies, will serve as the first fellow. Kathy Henley, a master’s student in environmental studies, will also join the conservation psychology team. Cranston will work on the Conservation Psychology Institutes (CPI), helped by Henley, who will also be the teaching assistant for the spring conservation psychology class.

In the CPI, one of AUNE’s core endeavors, students, scholars, and faculty learn to use the tools of psychology in conservation and sustainability practices. AUNE will present its fifth CPI in June 2014 in Keene, New Hampshire. Since May 2011, there have been four of these intensive, multiday workshops, held in San Diego, California, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as in Keene.

One of the strengths of the CPI is that it draws from leading researchers in the field. Past CPI faculty have included Saunders; P. Wesley Schultz, professor of psychology at California State University, San Marcos; Thomas Doherty, who developed the Ecopsychology in Counseling course sequence at Lewis & Clark Graduate School; and Louise Chawla, professor in the Environmental Design Department at the University of Colorado in Boulder and associate director of the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Community Engagement. Eventually a library of content modules will be created with contributions from many other conservation psychology leaders, which can then be shared in future CPIs.