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Leadership Training

Leadership Training

Yosemite National Park

Directors' Leadership Academy

The Directors’ Leadership Academy trains leaders that have the skills and abilities to strategically address the complex, multidisciplinary challenges facing local, state, and national parks.

  • Address Key Challenges

    Challenges facing park leaders are constantly evolving and include:

    • Complexity of issues that influence natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources.
    • An aging workforce. For example, the average age of full-time staff in the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) is 55 years.
  • Modeled After Visionary Park Leaders

    Training programs are modeled after former National Park Service and state park directors who have made significant contributions to park innovation, management, and leadership, including:

    • George Hartzog Jr., 7th NPS Director (1964-1972)
    • Ronald H. Walker, 8th NPS Director (1973-1975)
    • Gary Everhardt, 9th NPS Director (1975-1977)
    • Robert Stanton, 15th NPS Director (1997-2001)
    • Fran Mainella, 16th NPS Director (2001-2006)
    • Phil Gaines, retired South Carolina State Park Director (2005-2018)
  • Develop Strategic Capability and Capacity

    The Academy enhances the capacity of new and aspiring leaders of local, state, and national parks through two leadership programs. 

    The Ronald H. Walker Park Leadership Development Program 
    This program helps provide specialized training to current and aspiring local, state, and national leaders that are interested in innovative solutions and approaches to persistent and emerging management issues. Current park leaders train new leaders in a program that allows participants to discuss, study and examine the role of a park or public lands leader in the ever-changing world of park management. More information can be found below.

    The Gary E. Everhardt Park Break Program
    This program help us give graduate students with diverse backgrounds experiences in protected areas, in the only graduate-level service, science and stewardship program that focuses on scientific and other scholarly inquiry in a National Park Service (NPS) park. More information about these programs can be found below.

  • How You Can Help

    Your support is needed to help potential park leaders participate in this program, by:

    • Enrolling your current and emerging leadership staff in Academy training programs.
    • Sponsoring a scholarship for a student or emerging leader to attend a program.
    • Financially contributing to the development of a leadership training program.

    Give now to the:

    CUIP General Fund Walker Park Leadership Fund Everhardt Park Break Program

Ronald H. Walker Leadership Development Program

Yosemite National Park

Walker's Lesson In Leadership

Eighth Director of the U.S. National Park Service, Ronald H. Walker was the youngest to hold the position and the second to be appointed from outside the NPS. He led the NPS through a time of significant growth and change. For example, in only two years, Director Walker:

  • Realigned regional boundaries
  • Added 14 park units
  • Added North Atlantic and Rocky Mountain Regional offices
  • Initiated planning for the American Bicentennial Celebration
  • About the Program

    Walker’s Leadership Development Program helps new and emerging leaders interested in finding innovative solutions and approaches to persistent and complex management issues.

    Walker’s Leadership Development Program immerses participants in real world challenges, using case studies and field experiences. Working through relevant and timely park issues helps participants:

    • Learn to anticipate and approach challenges with a strategic focus.
    • Strengthen their critical thinking and decision-making skills.

    When they complete the program, participants will be ready to apply what they’ve learned to challenges they’re facing at their own park – and to prepare for issues they are likely to face in the future.

    Participants will also participate in discussions, insight, and observations with past park leaders (from the National Park Service and state and local parks) and direct interaction with government and business executives.

    Blending online and seminar study, program participants will discuss, study, and examine the role of a park or public lands leader in the ever-changing world of park management. 

    Participants may choose to earn 45 contact hours that can be taken for continuing education or graduate credit (equivalent to a 3-credit course through Clemson University).

  • Training Tomorrow’s Leaders

    The program is designed for current and aspiring national, state, and local leaders that:

  • What You’ll Learn

    The program focuses on several different types of leadership skills, including:

    • Visitor management
    • Education and interpretation
    • Conservation planning
    • Conflict resolution and problem solving
    • Strategic thinking
    • Partnerships and grantsmanship
    • Wildlife ecology and management
    • Tourism and economic development
    • Economics
    • Land use planning
  • How to Apply
  • Sponsor a Student

    If you contribute $5,000, you can fund a leadership student to attend the program at no cost to them, providing an opportunity to a potential parks leader who may not otherwise be able to participate.

    You can also contribute dollars to be pooled towards a funding a student’s participation in the program. Every donation, no matter how small, gets us closer to sponsoring a student.

    Director – $5,000 contribution

    Helps us meet program costs for one student to participate in the Ronald H. Walker Park Leadership Development Program.

    Superintendent – $5,000 contribution

    Your inaugural contribution will help financially contribute to the development of this leadership program.

    Ranger - $2,500 contribution (1/2 student)

    Helps us meet ½ of the program costs for one student to participate in the Ronald H. Walker Park Leadership Development Program.

    Friend

    Every dollar donated by Friends of the Directors’ Leadership Academy will be applied to fund program costs for students to participate in the Ronald H. Walker Park Leadership Development Program.

    Help send a leader to the Ronald H. Walker Leadership Development Program. 

    If you prefer to mail your donation, please add “Clemson University – Ronald H. Walker Program” to the Memo line of your check and address it to:

    Clemson University Foundation
    P.O. Box 1889
    Clemson, SC 29633-1889

Gary E. Everhardt Park Break Program

Clemson students on a bench in a national park

Everhardt’s Lessons in Leadership

Ninth director of the National Park Service (NPS), Gary E. Everhardt (3rd from left):

  • Started as an NPS engineer in 1957
  • Was Superintendent of Grand Teton N.P. and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Led the Bicentennial celebration
  • Formed a policy council to produce service-wide management objectives
  • Created the first-ever national symposium on urban recreation

We were saddened to hear about the passing of Director Everhardt and his wife Nancy in December 2020. Read more about his achievements and legacy within the national park system.

  • About the Program

    Offered in partnership with the George Wright Society, the Gary E. Everhardt Park Break program is a nationally competitive and fully supported five to seven-day, park-based science, service-learning and stewardship program. Over 100 applicants apply for every Everhardt Park Break and between eight and ten graduate students considering careers in parks, protected areas and cultural sites are selected to develop solutions and explore topics of importance to the host park.

    The program provides students with diverse backgrounds with experiences in protected areas, and is the only graduate-level service, science and stewardship program that focuses on scientific and other scholarly inquiry in a NPS park.

  • What You’ll Learn

    Park Break participants benefit from the opportunity to:

    • Experience the challenges and rewards of managing a protected area.
    • Understand complexities of park management and research.
    • Explore a possible career with the NPS and interact with possible mentors.

    A typical park break includes:

    • Direct field experiences in the host national park.
    • Interactions with top-level park personnel, staff/subject matter experts (such as biologists or historians), and outside scientists or scholars working in the park.
    • One or more excursions into the surrounding community.
    • Other interactions and presentations by local NGOs, elected officials, and community members. 
  • Opportunities for Host Parks

    Managers of parks that host Park Break programs benefit by having a team of highly skilled and motivated graduate students develop solutions to an important park issue. Products can include:

    • Interpretive plans
    • Resource management plans
    • Social media analysis
    • Cultural resource inventories
    • Species monitoring plans
    • Social science needs assessments
    • Visitor management research
    • Future visitation modeling
    • Identifying promising new park employees and innovative collaborators.
    • Investing in the future of the NPS, its people, and its commitment to science-based stewardship.
  • Program Eligibility and Dates

    Programs are offered in collaboration with host parks that work with CUIP and the George Wright Society. Program dates, specific topics and issues, and application requirements will vary depending on the host park’s area of focus.

  • Sponsor a Student

    All donated funds will be used to support graduate students to participate in the Gary E. Everhardt Park Break program.  

    A contribution of $3,500 will sponsor one graduate student, however every donation, no matter how small, helps contribute to providing graduate students with diverse backgrounds with experiences in protected areas. Levels of support include:

    Director – $3,500 contribution

    Helps us meet program costs for one student to participate in a Park Break program.

    Superintendent – $2,000 contribution

    Your inaugural contribution will help financially contribute to the development of this leadership program.

    Ranger - $1,750 contribution (1/2 student)

    Helps us meet ½ of the program costs for one student to participate in a Park Break program.

    Friend

    Every dollar donated by Friends of the Directors’ Leadership Academy will be applied to fund program costs for students to participate in a Park Break program.

    Help send a student on a Gary E. Everhardt Park Break.  

    If you prefer to mail your donation, please add “Clemson University - Gary E. Everhardt Program” to the Memo line of your check and address it to:

    Clemson University Foundation
    P.O. Box 1889
    Clemson, SC 29633-1889

Clemson University Institute for Parks
Clemson University Institute for Parks | 281 Lehotsky Hall, Clemson, SC, 29635