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Agenda and Curriculum

The NPI seminar agenda grows over time, but begins with a basic framework that ensures coverage of our leadership learning objectives. The course approach is to create a learning blend of academic thought leaders and researchers, with practitioners actually working in parks, mixed with field excursions that, taken together, create a learning experience that includes all the senses and is retained for the life of a career. Our aim is to ensure that the material learned may be practically applied in the most demanding real-world settings. This is why participants work on a case problem they bring from their home park, using the tools they learn in the seminar - to make sure there is a problem-solving reality check and opportunity for discussion during the seminar experience. At the end of the course, participants leave with a network of alumni friends as well as the teaching team, who are accessible as consulting colleagues from a globally scaled neighborhood. The agenda below represents that framework as of the fall of 2018 and will evolve between now and April.


APRIL 20 | Monday Afternoon

Class meets Monday afternoon at Cavallo Point

  • Introductions and roadmap to the course: David Sibbet and Steve Shackelton
  • Lecture and discussion Law, Science, and Policy – Foundation of Sustainable Park Leadership : Steve Shackelton
  • Participants share their own case studies in a speed round: facilitated by David Sibbet
  • Evening reception: Dr. Milton Chen Edutopia, Regional Director Stan Austin, Chancellor Dorothy Leland
APRIL 21 | Tuesday
  • Morning and early afternoon session: Dr. Charles O’Reilly, Leading Change and Organizational Renewal; The Importance of Organizational Culture; The Ambidextrous Organization; Understanding the Levers of Change.
  • Afternoon session: Dr. Erik Roland, The Value Proposition Model; Seeking Stakeholder Alignment; Reducing Conflict and Securing Sustainable Decisions
APRIL 22 | Wednesday
  • Morning field excursion to Alcatraz Island: Led by former site manager Armando Quintero
  • Lecture on Alcatraz Island Contemporary Issues in Water, Climate and Policy, Armando Quintero
  • Afternoon field session on partnerships, Marin Headlands, Marine Mammal Rescue Center
  • Walk across Golden Gate Bridge (optional)
  • Evening campfire and global parks (optional)
APRIL 23 | Thursday
  • Morning - Facilitated work on participants’ case studies in small groups: David Sibbet and mentors
  • Late morning depart for UC Merced via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

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  • Arrive UC Merced early evening – dinner lecture Vice Chancellor Dr. Samuel Traina: The Essential Science Relationship Between Parks and Universities
  • Keynote Presentation and Cohort Discussion Grand Teton Superintendent, David Vela
  • Youth, Inclusion, Outreach and Leadership Development
    • Dale Fergerstrom and Nahaku Kalei Na Pe’a
    • Kristina Rylands and Moose Mutlow, NatureBridge
    • Jesse Chakrin, Jessica Rivas, The Yosemite Leadership Program
  • Evening Bar-B-Que at Lake Yosemite – NPI cohort, David Vela, Na Pe’a, NatureBridge and Yosemite Leadership Program students
  • Indigenous Peoples Issues and the Importance of Cultural Resource Protection , Dr. Teenie Matlock
  • Technology as a Leadership Ally, Management Applications of GIS, Dr. Paul Doherty
  • Graphic Techniques in Planning, Organization and Problem-solving, David Sibbet
  • Participant Case Studies, Facilitated Small Groups, David Sibbet and Mentors

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  • Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park
  • Field Lecture, Dr. Jan Van Wagtendonk, Fire Ecology and How Science Undergirds Park Fire Policy and Ecosystem Restoration
  • Field Lecture, Shelton Johnson, The Importance of Stories and Public Understanding, Buffalo Soldiers and the Establishment of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Participants Case Studies, Facilitated Small Groups, David Sibbet
  • Dinner Tenaya Lodge, Yosemite Superintendent Mike Reynolds on Problem-solving in Today’s Complex Park Management Environment.
  • Field Excursion to Hetch Hetchy. This excursion takes a route from the south end of the park, northward, through Yosemite Valley and to the site of one of the greatest environmental battles of the last century: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Participants will hear the history of the damming of the Tuolumne River and engage in a discussion on the evolution of law and policy, generated by that series of events.
  • Concession Dinner. Participants will have dinner on the way back to base in Yosemite Valley and will delve into the relationship between park management and concession management – the balance of services to the public.
  • Facilitated Small Groups Sessions on Participant Case Studies, David Sibbet and Mentors
  • Indigenous Issues, Dr. Julia Parker, Growing Up as an American Indian in California and My Mission in Yosemite.
  • Seminar Participant Report-outs on Case Challenges
  • Seminar Concluding Certificate
  • TBD

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This seminar is designed specifically for leaders in the park and protected area management. Participants will learn to lead strategic change by anticipating change, reinvigorating their organizations, and incorporating innovative thinking into their management. A practical framework will be applied to real-world case studies and take-home action plans. These four modules are incorporated throughout the 10-day intensive.


Leading Change and Organizational Renewal

The leading organizations habitually innovate, adjust quickly to new conditions, and exploit emerging opportunities. They perform efficiently today while continuing to explore new sources of value for tomorrow. Such organizations don’t just happen; they’re created by leaders who understand the importance of change. Analyzing real-life successes and failures in both the corporate and public land management arenas, participants will learn how to anticipate, evaluate, and proactively respond to external changes, while examining how to balance innovation with performance. Participants will gain the tools and perspectives needed to develop specific action plans for renewing organizations.

Key takeaways:

  • Learn a universally-adaptable framework and create a usable action plan for strategic leadership that includes:

  • Setting a forward-thinking strategic direction with measurable objectives

  • Analyzing performance gaps and opportunity gaps and their root causes

  • Defining, diagnosing, and shaping desired culture change to execute strategy

  • Managing for short-term solutions while building capacity for long-term strategic visioning & innovation

  • Overcoming resistance to change


Context Matters: Trends and Critical Issues in Public Land Management

Managers need to understand the context in which they work in order to articulate a clear vision and set a strategic direction. The context surrounding today’s parks and protected areas are rapidly changing. They are linked to the economic welfare of nearby communities and to the global welfare at large. Boundary-crossing issues of global concern such as climate change, watershed protection, and an increase in the severity of wildfires have arisen. Partnerships and fundraising have become central to park operations, and parks are increasingly struggling with relevancy due to demographic changes and cultural shifts. Public land managers need to be sure they understand the current context in which they work in order to implement informed, forward-thinking decisions.

The course will present situations that encourage participants to think about trends that may impact them in the future. Embedded in this module are answering the questions, "Are we moving in the right direction?" and "How can we anticipate these changes rather than simply react?"


Innovation in the Field

In the past, public land management agencies and institutions have worked primarily within the context of their own organizations—possibly insulated from breakthroughs and revised thinking in disciplines that may have relevancy in public land management. Creative, fresh thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration across agencies is needed in addressing pressing issues identified in the “Context matters” module and in their individual parks.

This module will focus on expanding the opportunities and mindset of public land managers in imagining possibilities through contact with innovators and best on-the-ground practices in a variety of disciplines. Participants will learn how emerging technologies and creative communicating may allow for more effective operations. Besides hearing from leading innovators, participants will become a think tank of ideas through the creation of a global cohort network of park and protected area leaders.


Generating Motivation and Commitment

One of the most challenging tasks for a leader is to generate the motivation and commitment necessary to implement change efforts. Managers need to analyze the current culture’s ability to execute the desired strategy, and, if necessary, shape the culture. In doing so, they create satisfied employees who understand the goals they are working toward. Highly engaged employees tend to be more resilient to, and supportive of, organizational change initiatives, and can lead to better company performance overall. Strong leaders help shape culture by building clear and consistent communication across the organization, empowering employees, and creating systems for rewards and incentives.

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