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Students handling a radio-tagged turtle

The Smithsonian-Mason Semester for Conservation Studies program sends students on field trips to such places as Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation blazes path to adventure

A semester at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Va., sent Giulia Manno down an unexpected road.

“I went in thinking I would be interested in research,” says Manno, an integrative studies major in Mason’s New Century College. Then she heard a lecture about environmental economics by Peter Balint, associate professor of public and international affairs.

“That was a big turning point for me,” she says. “I realized if I really want to make a difference, then I should learn about business.” Manno made business her minor and started taking business classes this semester. That’s just the kind of eye-opening experience the program is designed to give, says Alonso Aguirre, associate professor and executive director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

Undergraduate students live at the 3,200-acre Front Royal campus and take classes in conservation studies. The program also has a graduate and professional studies program.

The campus is housed at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Students live near endangered animals such as clouded leopards, black-footed ferrets, maned wolves, cheetahs, Eurasian cranes, red pandas and Przewalski’s horses.