Chautauqua Institution Launches Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative, Appoints Mark Wenzler as Director
Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of Mark Wenzler as the inaugural director of the newly launched Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative. Wenzler currently serves as senior vice president for conservation programs at the National Parks Conservation Association.
As part of the Institution’s longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability, the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative builds on years of Chautauqua programs investigating this and related topics. The initiative elevates climate change as a key issue that Chautauqua is uniquely positioned to address through intergenerational and multidisciplinary experiences and programs. It also represents Chautauqua’s first major initiative that was conceived and created not only as a program that comes to life during its traditional Summer Assembly, but also that operates year-round and for multiple years — delivering on a strategic vision to expand and deepen the impact of Chautauqua’s mission both during and beyond the Summer Assembly.
The initial phases of the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative have been funded entirely by philanthropic gifts to Chautauqua from Peter Nosler and Julie Veitch and Jane Batten.
“Our ability to attract a candidate of Mark’s caliber for this new role and initiative speaks to Chautauqua’s ability to play a distinctive and important role in the global climate change conversation,” said Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution. “We look forward to building out this year-round, multidimensional initiative with Mark’s leadership and vision.”
The Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative launches with three primary areas of focus: education, stewardship and justice. These elements align the Institution’s existing values and competencies with national and international frameworks for advancing awareness, understanding and engagement in the climate change arena. The scope of the Climate Change Initiative will grow and evolve over time, including through partnerships and as a result of our learnings and patron response.
“As a legacy organization whose mission is rooted in care for creation and education, Chautauqua has an informed and critical role to play in the import work of shifting the trajectory of climate change,” Wenzler said. “I look forward to building this new initiative in collaboration with the incredible Chautauqua community, the regional community, and existing and new partners alike.”
As a seasoned leader who embodies the commitment of his career in environmental education, stewardship and justice, Wenzler plans to launch his service to Chautauqua with a “climate ride,” a 350-mile bike ride from Chautauqua’s Washington, D.C., office to its headquarters in Western New York.
“As I contemplated how I might start my journey with Chautauqua, an educational, eco-friendly bike event patterned after the Climate Ride model seemed like a great way to invite people into this conversation from the start,” said Wenzler. “I look forward to sharing information about how Chautauquans can follow the #CHQtoCHQ bike ride online and via social media. This is something that I hope we can continue and possibly expand in the future.”
Wenzler begins his service to Chautauqua on June 14. He will work primarily out of the Institution’s Washington, D.C., office while also maintaining a significant presence on the grounds at Chautauqua during each Summer Assembly and otherwise as called for by Climate Change Initiative programs and experiences. In addition to the #CHQtoCHQ biking event, patrons can plan to engage with Wenzler as he co-hosts the Chautauqua Travels experience in New Orleans, “Responding to a Changing Climate: Resilience and Adaptation in New Orleans,” Nov. 7–11, 2021.
As senior vice president for conservation programs at the National Parks Conservation Association, a not-for-profit organization working since 1919 to protect and enhance America’s National Park system for present and future generations, Wenzler created and managed multiple programs focused on addressing climate change, air and water pollution, landscape conservation, energy development and sustainability.
Before arriving at NPCA, he directed the climate and energy programs at the National Environmental Trust (now the Pew Charitable Trust’s Environment Group). He is a lawyer who began his career as a deputy attorney general prosecuting environmental cases for the New Jersey Division of Law, Environmental Practice Group, and later joined the Public Justice legal advocacy organization to represent organizations and communities in pursing environmental justice against polluters.
Wenzler volunteers as chair of the board of trustees of Experience Learning, a high-alpine wilderness-based nonprofit focusing on experiential learning adventure programs for children and adults. He also volunteers as secretary of the board of directors of Climate Ride, a non-profit that runs multiday cycling and hiking adventures around the globe, raising awareness and funds to fight climate change and advance a just and sustainable future. Wenzler previously served as volunteer chair of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Sierra Club.
Wenzler earned his law degree at Syracuse University, where he also completed a master’s degree in international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, with a focus on economic and environmental policy. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at Providence College. A New Jersey shore native, he resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with his spouse Dare, daughter Nina and dog Ranger. He is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys backpacking, bike touring, backcountry skiing, paddling, wilderness running and adventure travel.
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