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You are here: Home > > David Ostergren
Director of the Graduate Program in Environmental Education
Professor in Environmental Education
Ph.D. Forest Resources Science; Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources, West Virginia University, 1997.
M.A. Political Science; Policy Analysis, West Virginia University, 1997.
M.Ed. Outdoor Education, Emphasis in Special Education. University of Minnesota, 1992.
B.S. Biology; Chemistry Minor, University of Minnesota, 1982.
Merry Lea Phone: (260) 799-5869
Dr. Ostergren joined Merry Lea in 2008 and serves as administrator and teacher in the graduate program. His experience includes outdoor education/recreation since 1980 in Minnesota, West Virginia and Arizona.
Dr. Ostergren’s research includes U.S. Wilderness policy and Russian national park and nature reserve management.
For questions and interest in the graduate program he can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How I became an environmental educator
My road to becoming an environmental educator was fraught with opportunities both taken and forgone, roads less traveled, and rewards measured by the quality of relationships and the richness of memories. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis but matured in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and working at YMCA Camp DuNord.
In the 1980s I worked at a camp in northern Minnesota and realized the power of nature to transform individuals. Many kids in that camp had learning challenges that they carried within themselves, and some had challenges at home or school. In the quiet of the woods (deserts, swamps, mountains, prairies) we can hear ourselves think. In the woods we leave behind what Sigurd Olson called the steel, and I call the big noise. The northwoods was quiet enough so that those young children could concentrate on themselves, and often make progress on controlling their own lives. The camp in the northwoods was a rich, stimulating environment --- a place of personal growth in part because it is where nature runs a bit wild.
I have learned that nearly all children, and any adults who stop to listen, will find life and wonderful secrets in the wild places. The place can be as divers as the Malaysian sub-tropics or summertime Indiana where life explodes, to the deserts of the Grand Canyon and winter landscape of Minnesota where life is subtle and surprising.
I have a BS in Biology (1982) and M.Ed. in Outdoor Education (1991) that are rooted in the Minnesota north. From 1985-1993 I directed two university outdoor programs and dedicated myself to blending adventure with an awe and knowledge of nature. I pursued my PhD. in Forest Policy in Morgantown, West Virginia where I worked on Russian protected areas and the repercussions of the fall of the USSR. I met and married Janine in 1995 and we moved to Flagstaff, AZ to grow our family (Charlie 1998 and Sam 2002). There I doggedly achieved tenure as a professor in Environmental Sciences, Forestry and Political Science.
Now (2008) I am at Merry Lea ELC to work with graduate students on their own journeys. But our goals are the same. To change the world so that nature is respected, cherished and valued as a gift. This chapter in my journey holds great promise. My research interests are to blend peace and justice into environmental education. Merry Lea and Goshen College are excellent sources of inspiration and support for my long term goals.
Ideas that matter to me
I measure much of my life in breathtaking experiences; bubbling creeks in rhododendron thickets with my wife in West Virginia, standing in the stark landscapes of Antarctica or Mt. McKinley, and the fantastic power of friendships. I marvel at the miracle of my sons discovering frogs, fish, fowl, the wonder of water, or the adventure of reading. But in the end, wherever I may be, I find that our spiritual energy fuels our connection with the natural world and the natural world in turn fuels our spirit. This connection between spirit and nature can be nurtured with just a few moments a week --- the more the merrier. My goal is to help as many people as possible to make those connections.
I am available for lectures in American Wilderness, Russian Protected Area Policy, Energy and the Environment, Environmental Policy.
A couple of quotes for thought:
“In some [people], the need of unbroken country, primitive conditions and intimate contact with the earth is a deeply rooted cancer gnawing forever at the illusion of contentment with the things as they are.”
--- Why Wilderness? Sigurd Olson 1938
“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”
--- "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963
“When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored by the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion only speaks in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--- its message becomes meaningless.”
--- God in Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel 1955
Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, P.O. Box 263 Wolf Lake, IN 46796 | Phone (260) 799-5869 • Fax (260) 799-5875