Sustainability Leadership Fellows program applications now open

Charlotte Lang

Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability has opened applications for its Sustainability Leadership Fellows program. Applications must be sent in by March 11.

“Our goal is to empower future leaders with the skills and tools to more effectively address sustainability’s grand challenges,” said Aleta Weller, senior research and engagement officer with SoGES. “When it comes to sustainability, the stakes are too high and the need is too great to do business as usual. More will be asked of our future experts in this space.”


The program is designed to help the scientists who will be solving future challenges of sustainability to have a greater impact, reach broader audiences and think more expansively about their work and its role in the world, Weller said.

The SLF program is recognized nationally for shaping today’s and tomorrow’s sustainability leaders to address the new and fastly changing intersections of environmental and societal challenges.”

Diana Wall, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability

The program helps future scientists and leaders in sustainability by teaching them to be adept at understanding, translating and communicating their work in a larger context so it can have a meaningful impact on the social, environmental and economic challenges the world faces.

“This means that we need leaders with additional skills beyond what might be trained in their degree program,” Weller said. 

These include skills that can help them apply their knowledge effectively, understand stakeholder needs, work collaboratively, communicate outside their discipline, affect policy and decision making, make decisions in the face of ambiguity, be adaptable and resilient and more.

Diana Wall, director of SoGES, pioneered the program as one of the school’s first initiatives at CSU.

“The SLF program is recognized nationally for shaping today’s and tomorrow’s sustainability leaders to address the new and fastly changing intersections of environmental and societal challenges,” Wall said. 

Any Ph.D. student nearing the end of their degree and early-stage post-doctorates at CSU are welcome to apply, so long as they are addressing grand sustainability challenges in their research.

“SoGES is proud to have had Fellows from colleges across campus who are contributing their expertise to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, whether locally or internationally,” Wall said. “These Fellows are making a difference.”

The program’s application is a competitive one. Fewer than half of the well-qualified applicants make it in each year, Weller said. 

“The total time commitment over the course of one year is around 40-50 hours,” Weller said. “We try hard to balance excellent content and training opportunity without overwhelming them time-wise.”


Fellows are required to attend an orientation, a 2 1/2 day workshop, a half-day workshop and four out of five shorter two-hour training sessions.

Fellows will also have the option to attend additional skill-building and networking opportunities throughout the course of the year, including practicing their elevator speeches to the University provost and writing and peer-reviewing for the SoGES blog, according to Developing Change Agents’ chapter on the SLF program.

According to the chapter, the SLF program was built on the premise that communication and leadership are intrinsically linked.

“While there are a number of skills and trainings in this program not focused on communication, there is a heavy emphasis on communication training overall,” Weller said. 

The primary emphasis is placed on science communication.

“We believe that one of the greatest needs in sustainability science is leaders with the ability to articulately and thoughtfully speak to, connect with and listen to diverse audiences and stakeholders,” according to Developing Change Agents. “Through this program, we are creating effective science leaders who can present research findings to relevant audiences using an accurate and compelling narrative.”

Applications can be found online and are due by March 11.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.