Warner College of Natural Resources introduces Human Dimensions of Natural Resources major

Starting last spring, the Warner College of Natural Resources offered a new major to its curriculum.

The Human Dimensions of Natural Resources bachelor’s degree had its first two graduates in its first semester.


The HDNR major was introduced into the curriculum to help students understand a broad area of environmental communication, conservation, parks and protected areas.

This degree program is to prepare students in addressing conservation and environmental issue though including a human component to all plans. The HDNR major allows students to explore how to help environmental/conservation issues while understanding the human needs involved.

“Our students love the outdoors and people and have a desire to preserve what is left of our natural resources for future generations,” wrote Brett Bruyere, associate professor for the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

The HDNR major was approved by the CSU Faculty Council in October 2015, and began accepting students into the major in January 2016 after receiving approval from the CSU Board of Governors.

The HDNR major was the result of a survey of more than 40 employers in 2012, but had been informally discussed before that.

Students in the HDNR major will explore the challenges to conserving and sustaining resources on the planet that are typically caused by human behaviour.

“It’s human behavior that has typically caused the challenges, and it’ll take human behavior to solve them” wrote Bruyere.

These students will gain the skills to see a conservation issue through a variety of perspectives that may be beyond their own.

“(It taught me) how to work with different stakeholders, how to get them to work together around different issues,” said Malissa Balthrop, human dimensions of natural resources graduate.

Balthrop was one of the first two students to graduate from this major after switching from a similar program.


The Human Dimensions of Natural Resources curriculum contained many parts that were already offered by Warner, though some courses adapted based on feedback from public, private and nonprofit sectors.

“My classes focused a lot on two things primarily, one was outdoor and environmental education,” said Balthrop. “(I learned) how to teach others about nature and how to make them care and change their lifestyles in order to help improve it.”

Balthrop’s experience in the HDNR program brought her to an internship program that allowed her to intern in the Breckenridge Outdoor Center, an adaptive outdoor facility.

With the skills Balthrop gained from the HDNR program, she interned last summer and taught participants how to help their environment while simultaneously doing activities such as rafting.

“[Human Dimensions of Natural Resources] opened the door to be able to discover this field that I am now very passionate about,” said Balthrop.

The HDNR major has allowed Balthrop to continue working in conservation while pursuing a therapeutic aspect for the public, which includes people with degenerative diseases, terminal and children.

“The thought that we are preparing students to handle contemporary conservation issues that exist at a scale unprecedented on our planet (climate change, biodiversity loss) is exciting, if not a little bit daunting,” wrote Bruyere.

The HDNR may be a generalist path for the students, but it gives them the opportunity to explore their degree as well.

“I am confident in my outdoor leadership skills because of what I have learned at Warner College,” said Balthrop.

The HDNR students gain experience in applying social sciences to conservation problems, and see the connections between human livelihoods and ecosystem services.

“I love it so much.” said Balthrop. “I feel like I haven’t worked a day.”

Collegian reporter Tony Villalobos May can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on twitter at @TonyTheGnarly.