Director, Sustainability and Global Development Practice Programs
What first drew you to your field?
I first began working in the environmental field more than two decades ago, focusing on natural resource management on US public lands. But as the challenges of climate change became full fledged and as other environmental problems have emerged over time, I too have shifted my own areas of focus to a more urban and global perspective. The environmental problems of the 21st century are not those of the late 20th, and practitioners need to adapt alongside the problems.
What drew you to the role of program director at Harvard Extension School?
Without a doubt, it was the institutional commitment Harvard has made to addressing the threats of climate change. This most notably includes the establishment of the Salata Institute.
But I was also attracted by the combination of the two degree programs in this field — sustainability and global development practice. They are distinct yet complementary, and each provides a robust opportunity for working professionals to advance their education at a time of critical need on our planet.
Finally, the nontraditional student body at Harvard Extension School is the type that I have worked with for more than 15 years. I enjoy working with them immensely, and I see in them vast potential for impact in our world.
What are some opportunities you see for the future of the sustainability programs at Harvard Extension School?
Harvard Extension School provides coursework in a set of remarkably important fields. I believe — and I am surely showing my bias — that none is more important in this moment than the sustainability and global development fields. By empowering professionals to be able to tackle global threats to our mutual environmental well-being, HES is poised to deliver positive impacts domestically and internationally.
More about Michael
Dr. Michael Mortimer was most recently associate dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. His involvement with Virginia Tech originally dates back to 2001. During that time, he founded and directed the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability. He designed and implemented educational programs in Brazil, India, China, Panama, Argentina, Ireland, Morocco, Turkey, Croatia, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Finland, Indonesia, China, and the United Arab Emirates — taking more than 500 master’s students to these locations. He has directed an interdisciplinary set of programs, including graduate education, professional and executive education, research, and service-learning projects in locations around the globe.
Dr. Mortimer earned his PhD from the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation in 2001. He also holds a JD from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, and a BA from Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. He has co-authored 37 peer-reviewed articles and 26 more in outreach publications, reports, and papers; published one book on Leadership for Sustainability; and contributed chapters to three other books. He has given expert testimony before the US House Committee on Agriculture regarding review of litigation on Forest Service firefighting and forest health efforts, and participated in sponsored research for the US Department of State, the National Association of Regional Councils, the USDA Forest Service, the American Forest Foundation, and the Virginia Forestry Association.