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Practical dissonance: Bridging the gap between academia and agencies


  • Susan P. Rupp

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Enviroscapes Ecological Consulting, Brookings, SD 57006, USA.
    • Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA.
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  • Associate Editor: Haukos


Traditional natural resource programs in higher education tend to target biota, habitat, and human users and/or values as interacting components of a system. In the 2007 Journal of Wildlife Management article “Dinosaur Ramblings,” Scalet (2007) described a shifting continuum between applied or management-oriented research and basic ecological research that continues to challenge how programs in higher education approach the training of young professionals. In a 2008 issue of the same journal, a seminar on this topic resulted in students publishing “Dinosaur Evolution: Student Response to Dinosaur Ramblings,” (Parker et al. 2008) in which they concurred that this continuum exists, but argued that change has been more an integration of applied and basic research as opposed to a shift away from management. The multiple-use mission of many organizations today requires a more holistic approach to management. However, professionals often report that students lack the basic skills needed for applied management. I propose an alternative model, based on modern psychological principles, that redirects our focus toward the area of greatest concern—the apparent and increasing disconnect between what is taught to students in academic settings and what agencies expect from employees in practice, as both make the shift to more holistic management at different rates. The magnitude of this “practical dissonance” can be reduced by changing practices, adding consonant activities, or altering the perceived importance of those discrepancies to bring the trajectories more in line with each other. Change is inevitable in society, higher education, and natural resource management; our responsibility is to ensure that the link between agencies and higher education is maintained and strengthened. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.