Student Wildlands Adventure Program Receives Diversity Award

Student Wildlands Adventure Program Receives Diversity Award

Holly Appleton
Thursday, August 18, 2022 12:00 AM

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The Student Wildlands Adventure Program (SWAP) recently received The Wildlife Society’s Diversity Award. The Wildlife Society was founded in 1937 and is an international network of over 11,000 leaders in wildlife science, management and conservation who are dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship.

The SWAP program is a student exchange program that allows students to gain hands on experience through activities led by professional biologists in other parts of the country at little or no expense to them. The SWAP program originated from an idea from Robert Brewer, CSCC Associate Professor and Director of The Greg A. Vital Center for Natural Resources and Conservation Daryl Ratajczak, former TWRA Chief of Wildlife, now a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We are so proud of the tremendous opportunities Robert Brewer provides for our FWF students both in and out of the classroom,” stated Dr. Barsha Pickell, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “His work with the SWAP program exemplifies his collaborative, student-focused, real world approach to education and his efforts to provide diverse and engaging learning experiences for our students. I am so thankful for the energy and dedication he brings to CSCC and his exemplary leadership of the FWF program.”

According to Brewer, programs like this set Cleveland State apart from others schools in the region.

“First and second year students simply do not have opportunities like these anywhere else,” stated Brewer. “This is something they might expect to do at a senior level institution at the graduate level, but they are getting these opportunities now as freshmen and sophomores. The goal of the SWAP program is to expand horizons, shape lives, and change the world by showing students what opportunities are out there and allowing them to make connections across North America.”

During previous SWAP adventures, students from CSCC were able to travel to New Mexico to learn about and experience first-hand the ecosystems throughout Northern Mexico, and the next year, the students from New Mexico came to Tennessee where they were able to experience Tennessee’s forests and water resources. Other SWAP adventures include a trip to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to learn about various management challenges in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and a week walking in the footsteps of Aldo Leopold throughout the state of New Mexico. This past summer, students from Texas, Washington, Utah, Alaska, British Columbia (the first international student), Minnesota, and California visited Tennessee with the SWAP.

Ratajczak continued, “We always want to make sure the host site really goes out of their way to show them something that they don’t normally see.”

“We are so excited about the recognition this program is receiving,” stated Karen Wyrick, Dean of Math and Science. “Mr. Brewer and the SWAP program have done an excellent job in providing opportunities such as this for students interested in Forestry Wildlife and Fisheries to learn more about the field in a hands-on environment. And these are students that normally would never get the chance to do something like this.” 

 In previous years, the SWAP program has been funded by grants from Cleveland State, as well as by a Youth Engagement Grant from the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, there were still other major expenses that were covered by generous donations.

This is not the first year CSCC’s SWAP program has won an award. In 2018, it was the winner of the southwest section (Region 3) of the U.S. Forest Service’s Gifford Pinchot Award for Excellence in Interpretation and Conservation Education.

Cleveland State will be honored with the Diversity award at the 2022 Annual Wildlife Society Conference in Spokane, Washington later this year. For more information on Cleveland State’s Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries program or SWAP, contact Brewer at (423) 473-2342 or by email at

About CSCC’s FWF Program:
The FWF program is a transfer program that allows students the opportunity to work with professionals from several state, federal and private entities during their first two years of college. During their time in this program, students will be able to explore the variety of jobs associated with the Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries field. It is the only 2-year FWF program in the state and the program articulates to several major universities.

About the CSCC Wildlife Society:
CSCC is the only two-year school in Tennessee with a student chapter of The Wildlife Society. Membership in this student chapter allows students to gain valuable hands-on experience working alongside wildlife biologists, meet with and compete against senior institutions, and it also allows students to meet with and discuss their future with advisors from senior institutions.

Photo Cutline: Students participating in the Student Wildlands Adventure Program (SWAP).


Partners & Initiatives

  • Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator
  • America's SBDC Tennesseey
  • Your Skills. Your Future.
  • OneSource
  • Cleveland State Sustainability Initiative
  • TBR The College System of Tennessee
  • TN eCampus
  • Tennessee Transfer Pathway