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What are you looking for in an applicant?

The selection committee is looking for emerging leaders in protected area management and conservation.  Ideal candidates are self-starters with a track record of innovation and dedication, that are near the half-way mark in their career. The selection committee also looks for participants with a wide range of areas of expertise and geographic diversity.  

Should I apply if I am not from a public agency, but rather a partner or stake-holder organization?

Yes. We understand that official government agencies cannot do their job without partners. We only ask that your organization be related to conservation of natural or cultural heritage or educational institutions that support these values. We would, however, be excited to see applicants from for-profit organizations that are trying to learn how to support resource protection as part of their corporate culture.

May I apply if I am from a university or other learning institution?

Yes. Once again, if your field of study, research or teaching has to do with the management and leadership of protected areas, you are encouraged to apply.

We hear the phrases "land management” or “protected lands" a lot: are managers of marine, river, lake, or littoral environments encouraged to participate?

Yes. We want our body of course participants to reflect both terrestrial and maritime/freshwater protection.

I am a student, studying management of protected areas and not yet in the workforce: can I apply?

Yes. This year we are changing the course a little and will admit a small number of students to round out both the diversity of inputs and the learning objectives of the course. We recognize, that especially in the area of emerging technology, students can bring in relevant new information, that is otherwise not as accessible. The course still focusses on mid-career people coming into positions of executive leadership, so the number would be relatively small, but very welcome.

I have been a senior manager for some time, but see value in this seminar toward rounding out my background for better executive performance: can I apply?

Yes, but with the caveat that we are targeting mid-career people who still have several years to invest in their organization as a leader. So, if you apply, please talk to us about how you can re-invest what you learn. We understand that people these days have second and third careers and often pitch in as individuals after they leave their primary career. We also understand that - like students with their youthful voice - people who have more years of management experience can bring a valuable mentoring voice into the course discussions and problem-solving perspectives.

Are scholarships available?

At this time, we do not have scholarships available. One of the reasons we’re making our announcement 10 months in advance, is to allow applicants to seek funding help for tuition from cooperating associations, philanthropy groups, and government agencies that promote workforce development. On our side, we have tried to keep tuition as reasonably linked to course cost as we can - to make it affordable. We have also endeavored to keep the quality of the course as high or higher than any other similar management offering - but with a distinct focus on the management and leadership of the Earth’s protected areas and protected cultural and historic values.

Does the course cost include travel to and from the seminar?

No, tuition does not cover to and from travel costs. However, once the student is at the first venue in the Bay Area, internal travel is provided - which includes travel back from Yosemite to a central point in the Bay Area, where local ground transportation is easily accessible for each student, at their expense. If a student needs emergency transportation back to the Bay Area, once the course has moved to Merced or Yosemite, the facilitators will actively help that student arrange safe travel back to the airport, but the course cannot cover the expense of emergency transportation.

Is it okay if I come to California early or stay late after the course?

Yes. UC Merced cannot cover the cost of extending your stay in California, but you are welcome to communicate with us and we can share ideas about what you might see or help you with connections with parks or park management individuals you might want to meet.

How can we communicate with people facilitating the course?

Start with email. Contact Steve Shackelton at Because there will be several communications going on, be sure to individualize yours by placing the words “NPI question - and your first and last name” in the Subject line - example - Subject: NPI Question, Mary Smith. This will keep your question distinct and recognizable - and will keep it from getting buried in a mixed thread of emails that may result in your question not being addressed. Once the email connection is made, it may be able to be moved to a telephone conversation if that suits your need better.