Thanks to two grants awarded in the past year totaling $100,000 from the VF Foundation, Colorado Mountain College is expanding the range of its sustainability and outdoor leadership offerings to a diverse population.
The VF Foundation is the philanthropic arm of VF Corporation, a 120 year-old apparel company headquartered in Denver that includes Smartwool, The North Face, Timberland and over a dozen other outdoor brands. The foundation supports organizations that promote participation in the outdoors, environmental stability, education and diversity.
Opening doors to the outdoors
In December 2019, the VF Foundation awarded the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Foundation $50,000 to build interest and participation in the college’s sustainability studies program among low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students.
“VF Corporation and Colorado Mountain College both have a strong interest in expanding to underrepresented populations the pipeline of employees and enthusiasts interested in sustainable studies and the outdoor industry,” said Kristin Heath Colon, the college’s vice president for advancement and CMC Foundation CEO. “We are honored to partner with them to extend these opportunities to our students and community.”
Those funds are currently being used for scholarships and experiential learning.
“Most CMC students pursuing degrees in sustainability and outdoor recreation ethnically identify as white,” said Kathryn Regjo, CMC vice president of Academic Affairs. “They are not first generation, and don’t come from financially affluent families. As a college, we believe it is critical to expand student engagement and access to these career pathways.”
As an extension of the first grant, the VF Foundation awarded the CMC Foundation a second $50,000 grant in December 2020. These funds are being allocated for four projects, all of which are planned to be completed within a two-year timeframe.
First, five sustainability or outdoor leadership students will again be awarded scholarships through the CMC Foundation, with the goal of supporting underrepresented student populations.
Second, beginning in February, the college will explore the feasibility of starting an outdoor industry soft-goods manufacturing program. If viable, and approved by the state and CMC’s accrediting body, this program would join the college’s other outdoor leadership programs that are based at its campuses in Steamboat Springs, Leadville and Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs.
Third, CMC will conduct a viability study regarding creating the college’s first designated minor. The college currently offers associate degrees in outdoor education and outdoor recreation leadership. A new minor in outdoor industry could allow students to study outdoor industry topics as part of a broader degree program, while providing them with more post-graduation career options.
Fourth, the grant will pay for informational signage at the Bear Park Permaculture Center at CMC Steamboat Springs. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Bear Park is not open to the general public, and classes are limited there and in the new growing dome. As state and county COVID-19 protocols relax and CMC directives change, the center will return to offering year-round outdoor classes focused on food systems and environmental studies for students, CMC employees, and community and youth organizations.