University of Montana assistant professor wins award for outstanding academic achievement

November 1, 2019

Dr. Jenn Thomsen, assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at the University of Montana, was recently honored with the Dwight A. Holder Award by the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of her outstanding work as a conservation researcher and teacher in the environmental field.

Dr. Thomsen and Clemson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department Chair Dr. Wayne Freimund.

Dr. Thomsen and Clemson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department Chair Dr. Wayne Freimund.

The institute presents the annual awards program, which is named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. Specific awards were named after visionary leaders that Hartzog respected and admired. Award recipients are following in Hartzog’s footsteps by making significant contributions to the management of parks and preservation of our natural, historical and cultural heritage.

The Dwight A. Holder Award recognizes academic professionals that exemplify Mr. Holder’s illustrious career as an entrepreneur and public servant, which included leading South Carolina’s parks to a new era of service. Dr. Thomsen received this award for outstanding work and sustained achievement that fosters understanding, wise use and conservation of natural and cultural resources.

Wayne Freimund, chair of the parks, recreation and tourism management department at Clemson University, presented the award to Dr. Thomsen at a ceremony on October 22. According to Dr. Freimund, Thomsen has made a significant impact on the conservation field at a relatively young age.

“Jenn already has an impressive publication and teaching record, with a research focus that requires her to pull groups together on almost intractable issues, such as livelihood versus wildlife population management,” he says. “She does it masterfully, with an unparalleled ability to find the glue that holds several different collaborators together.”

Dr. Thomsen graduated with her M.S. in Wildlife Biology from Clemson University, where she also earned her PhD in parks and conservation area management. Her research largely focuses on stakeholder collaboration associated with large landscape conservation, sustainable tourism and protected area management. Her work has involved partnerships with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation and the IUCN Connectivity and Transboundary Specialist groups to conduct surveys addressing the challenges, opportunities and outcomes associated with stakeholder collaboration and how these groups evolve over time in their transboundary ecosystem management. She also contributes to UNESCO’s biosphere reserve network and serves on the National MAB Committee.

Dr. Thomsen with fellow Hartzog award winners (l to r) Dr. Steve Trombulak, David Vela, Dr. Carolyn Ward and Chris Lehnertz.

Dr. Thomsen (second from left) with fellow Hartzog award winners (l to r) Dr. Steve Trombulak, David Vela, Dr. Carolyn Ward and Chris Lehnertz.

Her work in sustainable tourism and protected area management focuses on the management of resources that balances the environmental, social/cultural and economic needs of diverse stakeholders. Her research explores unique types of tourism, such as voluntourism in Peru and Haiti, whitewater ecotourism in Bhutan and safari hunting tourism in Botswana. She’s conducted research for the US Forest Service and National Park Service and is part of the INSAKA collaborative group that brings together partners of African universities to address social-ecological issues. Dr. Thomsen is passionate about her teaching and field experiences for students, and about engaging the next generation of conservation and protected area leaders.

“Jenn’s students love her, and her faculty and collaborators love working with her,” continues Dr. Freimund. “And now as the recipient of this year’s Dwight A. Holder award, she can be rest assured that her alma mater feels the same way. I can’t wait to see where she takes her already-impressive career.”


The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 8 Scholars working on park-related research.

Visit the CUIP website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and its recipients.