A Campus for the 21st Century: Online
Programs Open Yale Expertise to the World 

Two new online certificate programs —  on tropical forest landscapes and renewable energy, respectively — have made F&ES expertise available beyond the university’s New Haven campus. Working professionals from a range of sectors — and 34 countries — are already taking advantage. 
Paola Fajardo had recently finished her master’s degree in geography at McGill University when she received an email from the Mexican National Forestry Commission, her former employer. She had worked there for four years, leading efforts to conserve and restore endangered ecosystems around the country. Among other things, the email mentioned an online certificate program offered through the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI) at F&ES. 

“It sounded like a really innovative program,” said Fajardo, who  makes a point of staying apprised of professional education opportunities.  
 
The ELTI program not only offered a formal certificate, but it covered a wide range of forestry concerns — from the social dimensions of conservation work to project funding strategies — and it provided live interaction with Yale professors and fellow participants. “I knew  
I wanted to be part of the first cohort.” 
 
Now she is. 
 
Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration, & Sustainable Use” is one of two experimental online certificate programs launched this academic year at F&ES. The other, “Financing and Deploying Clean Energy,” is offered through the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) in partnership with the Yale School of Management. Drawing on the center’s vast network of professionals and Yale faculty, the program helps participants strengthen their skills in policy, finance, and technology in order to develop innovative approaches to how society produces, distributes, and consumes energy. 
More than anything, [the online program] is giving me the tools to dig deeper into what really matters — a true foundation for lifelong learning.
— Martha Danly, participant in first clean energy cohort
Both programs are supported financially and technically by the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, a Yale center that offers training, consultation, and resources to make teaching and learning more public and collaborative. In fact, they emerged from a request for proposal from the Poorvu Center for new projects related to online learning.  
 
After receiving seed money, each center ran a market survey of potential participants: Which subjects would be most useful? What format was preferred? What were reasonable expectations for time and tuition? With answers to these basic questions, ELTI and CBEY designed programs with different structures but fundamentally similar purposes. 
 
First, they have established a new platform through which expertise from across Yale is opened to a global audience. “Financing and Deploying Clean Energy,” for instance, takes advantage of 15 faculty members from four different schools across the university and draws course material from environmental science, economics, business, finance, engineering, law, and political science.  
 
“Tropical Forest Landscapes” also covers a range of topics related to forest restoration and conservation and has enrolled a predominantly global group: 43 people from 29 countries. 

Second, both programs are deeply invested in effecting real and enduring change. 
Fall 2019 Canopy cover image
This article was originally published in the fall 2019 edition of Canopy magazine

“The goal of this certificate is to accelerate the deployment of clean energy and have immediate impact,” said Vero Bourg-Meyer ’15 M.E.M., who manages CBEY’s program. “Deploying and financing clean energy requires both specific skills and people from many different disciplines, so we’ve built an educational model to impart these skills and support people who are seeking to accelerate the transition to a clean economy.” 
 
The first cohort includes a roughly even division among consultants, policymakers and lobbyists, representatives from energy and utility companies, and banking and finance experts. 
 
“We are a wonderfully diverse Noah’s ark of backgrounds and personalities,” said Martha Danly, an independent consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area who is part of the first clean energy class.  

“The program is helping to clarify where my skills as a technology entrepreneur could have the greatest impact. More than anything, it’s giving me the tools to dig deeper into what really matters — a true foundation for lifelong learning.” 

Carishma Gokhale-Welch, a clean energy project leader with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who is also part of the first class, said the program has helped her understand not just the technoloy, but also project development and finance. She was initally attracted, in part, by the access to the Yale faculty. But she has also been impressed by the cohort that the program brought together.

Applications for the next Clean Energy and Tropical Forest Landscapes cohorts are now being accepted.


“Energy is an interdisciplinary field in general, but I've appreciated that the program is technical but also gives you the ability to be broad if you like,” she says. “I’d consider myself being in a later stage in my career. And in that phase and it's helping coalesce concepts and theories... I think it does a good job of reaching out to both people who are advanced in their careers and people who are less familiar in the space and need to get up to speed.”
Not only has the course content been amazing, but so has interaction with the other participants.
— Paola Fajardo, participant in first tropical forestry management cohort
Like the Center for Business and the Environment, ELTI is also focused on real-world impact. “The selected participants have clearly articulated how this program will not just help them advance their credentials, but also lead to on-the-ground changes in land management,” said Gillian Bloomfield ’10 M.F.S., the online training program coordinator at ELTI. “We wanted participants to be able to apply what they learned.” 
 
Take, for instance, Liboum Mbonayem, a research official with the Center for International Forestry Research. He is based in Cameroon, which in 2017 committed to restoring 12 million hectares of forest, much of it destroyed or degraded by slash-and-burn agriculture. Mbonayem is currently outlining a plan that will tackle 1.5 million hectares of restoration; he will submit this proposal to the U.N.-backed Green Climate Fund for financial support. He heard about the ELTI curriculum while in the midst of this work and applied. Though coursework has been difficult to balance with his full-time job, the certificate program, he says, has already been an undeniable boon. “We were learning in class about tropical forest succession, for example, and I was able to tie that into the climate fund proposal.”
 
Fajardo has found the same to be true as she works on a plan to balance indigenous community use of mangrove root on the western coast of Mexico with the trees’ precarious status. “Not only has the course content been amazing, but so has interaction with the other participants,” she said. “They come from all over the world and are working in different institutions — NGOs, government, the U.N., universities — and so it’s incredibly helpful to hear what they have to say.”  
 
She mentioned one of the first course assignments, in which participants were asked to define “conservation” and “restoration.” Though a straightforward task, the results from the group varied tremendously, and this led to a wide-ranging conversation on both what these words can mean and the risk of misunderstanding. “Already,” she said, “the certificate has exceeded all my expectations.” 
 
PUBLISHED: January 2, 2020
 
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.

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