Student Spotlight: Eco-Leader

Natural Leadership

Christopher Michel

Congrats go to Shannon Reece, MA in Sustainable Design student, who was the featured Eco-Leader for the National Wildlife Federation last month.

Shannon recently returned from a trip to Africa in March with his daughter. He was visiting an area he previously lived and worked for three years. Shannon achieved his goal to meet with key people and organizations (World Wildlife Fund, Foundations for Farming, Mutemwa Lodge and the local Lozi community) in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya in order to begin design exploration for the Foundations for Life Resource Center. They aim to apply the design criteria of the Living Building Challenge to the new center.

Shannon says, “I would like to expand the value of the eco-tourism industry as a means of restoration and healing in war-torn areas of the world. Eco-tourism can be an effective tool for stimulating local economies, supporting reforestation and the restoration and protection of wildlife, and celebrating lively cultural communities. I would also like to use my skills and experience in exhibit design to teach people how to be more resilient in the face of global change and more responsible in their interaction with the environment. Finally I would like to revitalize sustainable tourism within the US including changing the old RV park model into a completely new paradigm.

We can’t wait to learn more about what you’ll do as an eco-leader, Shannon! Learn how you can become a NWF eco-leader.


Shannon (left) with Jacob (a friend and young farmer interested in sustainable agriculture), his daughter Morgan and Simon (East Africa’s foremost falconry expert) up in one of his treehouses in Kenya. 


Kenya sunset courtesy of Flickr CC Christopher Michel

Cindy Gilbert / Director

Cindy Gilbert is the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. The MASD program blends theory, practice and leadership into a holistic, hands-on learning experience that culminates in student-driven thesis work that brings novel, sustainability-focused products and services to fruition.

Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry. She is founder of Alula Consulting which specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects for educational institutions, non-profits, and corporations. Most recently, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the professional certification program, annual education summits, affiliate and fellows programs, and design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana.