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National Capital Region Highlights

First cohort in Executive Master of Natural Resources works on sustainability plan with premiere China hotel

Executive Director Brian Linden (seated on

steps) speaks with students in Linden

Centre's main courtyard

The inaugural cohort of 20 students in the Virginia Tech Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) in Leadership for Sustainability program is working with the Linden Centre, a boutique hotel in the Yunnan province of southwestern China, to build its capacity to provide leadership for sustainability in today’s global society. This spring, as part of a four-month International Residency course that includes 10 days of international travel, the students went to Dali City, China, to present the initial strategies from their research to the client. They also conducted field analysis for a final report that will be completed prior to graduating as the first 18-month cohort in the XMNR program on May 13.

Accompanying the students on the 10-day trip to China were two faculty—Michael Mortimer, director for the College of Natural Resource and Environment programs in the National Capital Region and David Robertson, director of the XMNR program.

Students meet with Linden Centre staff
to discuss water and energy management

Linden Centre, a young and rapidly growing social enterprise, launched in 2008, is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach to historic restoration and cultural preservation through educational tourism. As a result, the Linden Centre has become one of the most desirable travel destinations in Asia if not the world, and for the past two years has been consistently ranked as the number one hotel in China on TripAdvisor, an international user-generated travel review and recommendation platform.

“It is a privilege for our Virginia Tech students to be asked by such a respected and impressive business to help examine and recommend ways in which its facilities and operations can have a more positive environmental impact,” said Robertson. “The goal of the Linden Centre is to be a leader of sustainability not only on its own site and in its own neighborhood, but in the local community of Xizhou village, and throughout the Dali City and Erhai Lake region in the Upper Mekong watershed and Yunnan province.“

Mortimer added that it is important that students in the XMNR program have the opportunity to work as an interdisciplinary consulting team and complete a project for a real world international client. “Working with a business in China is an added plus. As a large emerging economy, China has the potential to set new international norms and standards. The Linden Centre is a perfect example because it has developed a model of cultural and historic preservation and is aggressively striving for a level of environmental sustainability that is expected by both the Chinese government and international clients,” said Mortimer.

The first XMNR cohort during trip to China

The students’ sustainability strategy for the Linden Centre focuses on how it can continue to grow while maintaining its goals of protecting and strengthening the ecosystems and communities of which it is part. The project is the most recent in a series of similar projects conducted as part of the Global Sustainability Initiative (GSI) which helps professionals gain international work experience by offering service learning projects each year in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—the BRICS nations. Reports from prior trips to southern China are accessed here; the report from this trip will be available on the website later this month.

Virginia Tech’s Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) in Leadership for Sustainability is an interdisciplinary graduate degree program for full-time professionals working in the public and private sectors.

Posted May 3, 2012