Program Details:

A pilot Colorado-Brazil Program on Sustainable Development Education

This project responds to a direct request from the Acre Government and the Federal University of Acre (UFAC), Brazil to join with the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) to establish a robust education and exchange program focused on interdisciplinary forest-based natural resource management. The project will unite professors and students from across UCB and UFAC, and high-level decision-makers and civil servants in the Acre Government.

Acre is the birthplace of Amazonian environmentalism, led by rubber-tapper Chico Mendes. Acre has become famous for a new model of development, based on policies, programs, and market opportunities designed to conserve tropical forests and promote statewide low emissions economic growth. This diversified, forest-based economy includes agroforestry, aquaculture, and extensive extractive reserves and indigenous territories. Acre’s development pathway contrasts with other Amazonian states where deforestation, environmental degradation, and social injustice have prevailed.

For Acre to succeed in its ambitious plan to prove the viability of an alternative development pathway, it needs to train a cohort of skilled, motivated, and experienced young professionals who can work at the science-policy interface. Collaborators at UFAC and the Acre Government have identified a need to train graduate students and civil servants for these roles.

This project will address this need by developing an interdisciplinary, field-based, education and exchange program to tackle challenges such as tropical deforestation, climate change, and sustainable development. This project will 1) develop and teach a course on integrated sustainable development, and 2) develop a broader program of education and exchange between UCB and Acre.

Goal: To develop a comprehensive program of education and exchange, using tropical forests as classrooms and laboratories in which to develop interdisciplinary education on sustainable development.

Objective: Develop and offer a new course that equips graduate students and civil servants to tackles contemporary sustainable development challenges.
The project will train civil servants and UCB and Brazilian students to improve their knowledge and skills in three domains: 1) Systems-thinking approaches, which incorporate environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability; 2) Interdisciplinary approaches, which combine multiple methods and frameworks; and 3) Applied research, which better-connects universities with decision-makers. All three domains are largely absent from UFAC graduate programs, which are organized in more traditional disciplinary academic silos. The course will focus on the Chico Mende Extractive Reserve as a ‘living classroom and laboratory’. The reserve is a showcase field site, with two decades of successful community based natural resource management.

This is a private program by request only, or for a specific audience or group.


On Campus

  • 4001 Discovery Drive
  • Engineering Center
  • Wolf Law

Outside Colorado

  • Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil
  • Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, Acre, Brazil

Program Partners

Supporting This Program

  • Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Federal University of Acre (Universidade Federal do Acre (UFAC))
  • Governors' Climate and Forests Taskforce (GCF)
  • Institute of Climate Change and Regulation of Environmental Services (Instituto de Mudanças Climáticas e Regulação dos Serviços Ambientais (IMC))
  • Laboratory for Energy and Environmental Policy Innovation (LEEP), University of Colorado Boulder
  • State Government of Acre (Governo do Estado do Acre)

Sponsoring Units

Arts & Sciences, College of

  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Engineering & Applied Science, College of

    • Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering, Department of
    • Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities (MC-EDC)

    Program Contact

    Bernard Amadei
    Distinguished Professor, Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering

Program Categories


  • Anthropology
  • Biological Sciences
  • Business/Economic Development
  • Climate Change
  • Community Planning
  • Community Volunteering
  • Data Analysis
  • Education (Adult)
  • Engineering
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Environmental Issues
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Foreign Languages/Civilizations
  • Govt./Law/Public Policy
  • Natural Sciences
  • Political Science
  • Science
  • Sustainability and Energy

Program Types:

  • Classroom Instruction
  • Community Development
  • Field Trip
  • Professional Development - Other
  • Professional Development - Teacher
  • Public Lecture/Demonstration


  • Adult Learners
  • Government
  • International
  • Socio-Economic Disadvantaged

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