Every year, the Academy focuses on different themes within the broad concern of human dimensions of global environmental change (see GESA Schedules & Sessions). It spans local to global scales, diverse ecosystems and all geographical regions, exploring the most critical contemporary environmental issues from multiple perspectives including biocultural diversity, environmental history, political ecology, sustainability studies and personal activism.
From hundreds of applicants every year, course convenors select 18–21 activists, professionals or students from around the world who have the capacity to become environmental leaders who impact academia, civil society, the private sector or government. Applications are invited from from English-fluent candidates in the arts and humanities, natural sciences and social sciences – as well as those working in advocacy, law, media or policy – who focus on the relationship between environment and society.
Accompanied by international and multidisciplinary resource people, participants are mentored as they expand their understandings of policy, develop their academic insight and competence, transcend their disciplinary and place-based boundaries, and enhance their advocacy skills. Practical experience is a founding principle of GESA: participants gain expertise in policy matters as they engage with leading policy-makers; acquire skills in research design, fieldwork methods and data analysis with support from seasoned field researchers; develop their academic acumen in close collaboration with leading scholars; and explore their creativity and its importance for their work with artists.