EFN BY THE NUMBERS
EFN fellows return to their home countries upon completion of their degrees
EFN alumni currently work in conservation
EFN fellows have reported being promoted after completing their degrees
Professional development grants awarded to women—an upward trend in building capacity for women in conservation in Africa, Asia and Latin America
Invested in the education and training of rising conservation leaders worldwide
Grants awarded to individuals and organizations since the EFN program’s inception
Professional development grants awarded since the program’s inception to conservationists from 26 countries to pursue graduate studies and take on leadership roles in their home countries
Countries around the world that are home to an EFN grant recipient
Individuals supervised and trained in conservation skills by EFN grantees
The Sants and the Trains traveled together frequently, for business and for pleasure. Russ and Aileen were the more experienced international travelers, so when the Sants were planning their first trip to Africa it was the Trains whose advice they sought on where to go, what to see and what to do. “We followed the itinerary they recommended to the letter,” says Vicki, “and everything was perfect.” The couples ended up visiting the continent together four times.
When Russ passed away in 2012 at the age of 91 and the question arose of how best to honor his extraordinary life, the answer was an easy one. EFN had been such a labor of love for him, and had already done such enormous good for so many. So, led by the Sants, WWF launched a campaign to expand EFN’s reach in two important ways: by doubling the number of grants offered annually and creating a virtual conservation college.
“The image of Russ that always stays with me is that he felt the people who had the most access to education about the environment were in the developed world,” says Roger, “and the developing world, where all the biodiversity was, didn’t have the same kinds of opportunities. So he was devoted to the idea that the best chance for turning around appreciation for nature was to give the people who lived there, who are native to the areas under threat, more opportunities to learn about and care for the places where they live.”
What exactly the virtual conservation college will look like is now in the hands of WWF’s EFN and Conservation Science teams, who are working to better understand what is possible technologically, and what is needed by the students and trainees who EFN aims to reach. The idea is to start with one course in order to test different platforms for online learning and to verify that it serves students in the developing world effectively. From there, they will seek to expand the offerings over time.
That level of investment in education is something to which the Sants have long been committed. Much like she approached her initial exploration of Africa, when Vicki Sant was designing the fellowship program for the Sant family’s Summit Foundation she relied on Russ’s wisdom and experience. This time, she wanted to pick his brain about how EFN had created such a successful fellowship program. “I came over to WWF to learn all I could about setting up a fellowship program,” she says. “I knew Russ would have great advice for me, and of course he did.”
“Whether we’re evaluating a project our foundation is working on or considering funding something new, Vicki’s always asking: what about the people?” says Roger. “Sometimes it can be too easy to forget that among the grand landscapes and gorgeous creatures there are people whose lives are intertwined with these resources.”
And if there’s one thing Russ Train believed in, it was people.
“We just thought, maybe we have an opportunity where we can increase the number of people exposed to a better education by tenfold, or even more,” says Roger. “Russ would’ve loved that.”