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Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is expanding the range of its sustainability and outdoor leadership offerings thanks to two grants awarded over the past year from the VF Foundation totaling $100,000.

The VF Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the VF Corporation , a 120-year-old apparel company headquartered in Denver that includes brands like Smartwool, The North Face, Timberland and other outdoor brands. The foundation supports organizations that promote participation in the outdoors, education, environmental stability, and diversity.

Two VF Foundation grants awarded to the Colorado Mountain College Foundation will support increased participation among underrepresented students in the college’s outdoor leadership and sustainability programs, such as this mountain orientation course in the Hunter-Frying pan Wilderness. Image courtesy of CMC.

In December of 2019, the VF Foundation awarded the CMC Foundation $50,000 to build interest and participation in the college’s sustainability studies program among low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. The funds are being used for scholarships and experiential learning.

“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 the college’s Vice President for Advancement and CMC Foundation CEO, Kristin Heath Colon. “We are honored to partner with them to extend these opportunities to our students and community.”

CMC Vice President of Academic Affairs, Kathryn Regjo, explained  “Most CMC students pursuing degrees in sustainability and outdoor recreation ethnically identify as white. 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 for the first grant, the VF Foundation awarded the CMC Foundation a second $50,000 grant in December of 2020. These funds will be used for four projects which are all planned to be completed within a two-year timeframe.

Five sustainability or outdoor leadership students will again be awarded scholarships through the CMC foundation with the goal of supporting underrepresented student populations.

Then beginning in February, the college has begun exploring the feasibility of starting an outdoor industry soft-goods manufacturing program. If viable and approved by the state along with CMC’s accrediting body, the 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.

CMC will then conduct a viability study regarding creating the college’s first designated minor. Currently, the college offers associate degrees in outdoor education and outdoor recreation leadership. A new minor in the 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.

The grant will pay for informational signage at the Bear Park Permaculture Center at CMC Steamboat Springs. Due to COVID-19, Bear Park is not open to the general public and classes are limited.

As state and county-wide COVID-19 protocols lessen and CMC directives change, the center will return to offering year-round outdoor classes focused on food systems and environmental studies for students, employees, community and youth organizations.