Faculty Highlight: Lisa Des Jardins

Lisa Des Jardins
Lisa Des Jardins

As her job titles suggest, Lisa Des Jardins fills many roles in her work as admissions and recruitment coordinator for the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation (SMSC) and academic advisor for the Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESS) program, a joint degree between New Century College and the College of Science. Des Jardins works both in Front Royal and Fairfax. She supports and collaborates with students, faculty and staff to connect their conservation interests with meaningful educational opportunities, which for many students mark the beginning of their professional careers.

Des Jardins graduated from Mason with a BS in Conservation Studies and a MS in Environmental Science and Policy. As an undergraduate, she had a strong interest in botany and realized that the conservation program was the right fit as she learned more about environmental issues.

Des Jardins said, “I have a very broad interest in conservation—not just one particular area. I find it all fascinating and compelling.”

Her work assignment is similarly diverse. For SMSC, Des Jardins manages all aspects of program recruitment and admissions including facility tours, special events, general inquiries, and working with students to apply and maximize their opportunities during their time at Front Royal. Des Jardins also helps coordinate a high school summer residential program at SMSC through which students spend one week studying conservation issues in great depth while earning college credit.

For ESS, Des Jardins advises all 95 undergraduate ESS students, helping them coordinate their classes, internships and experiential learning. This fall, Des Jardins expanded her role even more and has also begun teaching NCLC 211: Introduction to Conservation Studies, her first time teaching in the program.

Des Jardins said, “The funny thing about my class is that I took it as an undergraduate and now I’m teaching it…It’s very fulfilling to see students reflect on issues that they previously just hadn’t thought about.”

As part of the class Des Jardins requires all students to fulfill 25 hours of service learning—working directly on a conservation issue. Some students volunteer at the Mason greenhouse, others volunteer at local nature centers or botanical gardens, or with different environmental or conservation agencies.

Des Jardins said, “Overall, the ESS program’s internship and experiential learning credits are designed to get the students real, hands-on, practical learning. This is so valuable and it helps the students build their confidence.”

Reflecting on her years with ESS and SMSC, Des Jardins hopes to see the program continue to grow and increase its undergraduate offerings. She said, “I would love to grow the program and offer more opportunities for students to engage with SMSC earlier, during their freshman and sophomore years. I see all the learning opportunities, and I want everyone to feel that they can gain from this incredible program and partnership.”