11-7-01 Thoemke named chair of environmental management program

Kris Thoemke, Ph.D., a recognized environmental authority and most recently manager and ecologist of the National Wildlife Federation’s Everglades Project, was named chair of International College’s new environmental management program.

International College plans to launch a master’s degree program in environmental management as early as May 2002 in Naples and Fort Myers.

A committee of representatives from developers, government agencies, environmental organizations, engineering and consulting firms collaborated with International College on the new program. International College also surveyed members of organizations and individuals with environmental interests about the need for a program that combines environmental science with business applications.

"It was evident from the research that an area we should concentrate on and emphasize is the government regulatory, permitting and planning processes," said Thoemke, who served as Everglades Project manager from 1997 until October of this year.

"We hope to develop a curriculum that will allow a person insight, understanding, familiarity and experience with the permitting process," said Thoemke, also a team member of the Southwest Florida Feasibility Study of the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Most people starting work in the environmental field have little experience in this area and are forced to learn on the job. We want to implement practical education and training that will allow a person to step in and do the job right away."

Thoemke, 50, said he’s excited with the challenge of starting a master’s level college curriculum from scratch. Thoemke has taught biology, anatomy and physiology and environmental science courses at the University of Maryland, the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Edison Community College and International College.

"We are starting with a clean slate and we hope to create something that is unique," he said.

Thoemke, who also served as manager of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples from 1979 to 1990, said he is contemplating other courses exploring environmental economics, watershed management, environmental policy, geographic information systems and computers in environmental science.

More general courses in the curriculum could include analytical thinking, conflict resolutions and interpersonal relationships, he added.

"I see this program being a perfect marriage between our core business curriculum combined with necessary training in environmental issues that are so prevalent to us here locally," said Terry McMahan, International College president. "If you consider some of the major issues facing Southwest Florida such as wildlife habitat loss and declining water quality it becomes apparent that educating students in this area will ultimately benefit our communities."

"Environmental issues are not going away," said Thoemke, who holds a doctorate in biology from the University of South Florida. "An aim of the program is to prepare our students for all facets of environmental project management."
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