Four years ago, IslandWood together with our partner Antioch University Seattle (AUS) welcomed the first 14 students to our Urban Environmental Education Master’s Program (UEE). These pioneers and the 37 students who followed have been a vital part of a journey to redefine environmental education in the urban context. We have learned so much from them, from our partnership with AUS, from our practicum partners in the community, and from designing and delivering a program that puts social justice in the center of environmental education.
Led by our program directors, Sue Byers and Cindy Thomashow, running the UEE program has evolved IslandWood in ways that are profound and irreversible. That makes it particularly difficult to share the news that, together with Antioch University Seattle, we have mutually agreed to end our partnership for the co-delivery of the Urban Environmental Education Graduate Program following the 2018-19 academic year.
When I joined IslandWood as CEO in March, I genuinely intended to push off any big decision-making for at least one full year. Unfortunately, this was one decision that IslandWood and AUS couldn’t postpone. While both organizations have been invested in UEE’s success, the combination of the program’s high cost with lower than budgeted enrollment has led to unsustainable financial losses for four consecutive years. The continued financial impact on both organizations meant that neither IslandWood nor AUS could sustain the program as currently designed beyond the 2018-19 academic year. And with the recruitment season for the next cohort beginning in this fall, it accelerated the need to make this tough decision.
I want to assure our 12 current students and all our partners that IslandWood and Antioch University Seattle are fully committed to delivering a high-quality M.A.Ed. program as promised to the graduate students enrolled in the 2018-19 cohort, and to supporting and caring for our UEE faculty and staff during the year and in their future transitions.
While our involvement in the UEE program is ending, IslandWood’s commitment to the work will not. In fact, we are focusing resources and energy over the next two years to evolve our Education for Environment and Community Graduate Program to ensure its relevancy and sustainability, incorporate our learnings from the UEE program, and weave our commitments to justice and racial equity into all aspects of that program.
We are incredibly proud of what UEE’s alumni have already accomplished and look forward to learning from them and their work for years to come. While UEE couldn’t continue as designed for financial reasons, we will not stop supporting the program’s alumni or urban communities in the critical work of cultivating thriving, healthy, sustainable environments and communities.