08.22.2016. Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund

In honor of Bill Raynor (February 22, 1957 – September 1, 2015), Director of The Nature Conservancy Pacific Division, and his 34 years of conservation work in the region, the Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund will support emerging leaders across the region. Bill worked with the Micronesia Conservation Trust to establish the Fund in 2015, and it is his last loving legacy to the islands and people he served and championed throughout his life. Your gift to Bill's Scholarship Fund will be matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous challenge grant for $20,000 - from now until the end of 2016.

As a longtime resident of the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Bill learned the Pohnpeian language and earned a Pohnpeian honorific title Soumadau en Pei ni Eng Eihr—the Lord of the Altar of the East Wind—for, among other deeds, growing giant yams and being a true Pohnpeian master agroforester. In 1992, he helped launch The Nature Conservancy's program in the FSM, focusing on innovative, community-led conservation and building partnerships. His inspiring leadership, deep commitment, and passion for innovation were critical to the success of groundbreaking initiatives at every scale—ranging from sustainable agriculture practices for local villages to international agreements to protect biodiversity. Bill lived life, including his end of life, on his terms—fully, with love, and with a commitment to others and to the world.

Awardees of this prestigious scholarship will receive support to earn graduate degrees while receiving close guidance and mentorship from leading entities and individuals within the Micronesia Challenge (MC) partnership, including the peer learning networks Micronesians in Island Conservation (MIC) and the Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Areas Community (PIMPAC). As a sponsor and founding member of MIC, Bill was committed to identifying and nurturing conservation champions in Micronesia. MIC focuses on building the capacity of conservation leaders and their institutions/organizations, while PIMPAC focuses on building the capacity and skills of conservation practitioners and technical staff tasked to work with governments, NGOs, and communities to develop and implement conservation management and monitoring programs.

Two students from the region will be selected through a competitive process, with each receiving up to $30,000 per year for two years for successful completion of a master's program and three years for successful completion of a PhD. We are limiting this program to just two students per scholarship round in order to provide the mentorship, guidance and support required to ensure their success. We will also help place them in permanent positions when they graduate. To keep them "close to home", so that they can continue to participate in Micronesia Challenge activities during breaks and remotely, scholarship winners will be required to study at universities in the Pacific Region (i.e. University of Guam, University of Hawaii, University of the South Pacific, Universities in Australia, New Zealand and Japan).

Proposed Endowment Need To support these students, our target goal is an endowment fund of approximately $1.2M dollars, generating an estimated 5% in earnings annually. This will support two full time students at $30,000 each per year. The Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund is housed at the Micronesia Conservation Trust and will be invested as a sub-account within the Micronesia Challenge Endowment Fund. During our global celebration of Bill’s life through December 2016, gifts to the endowment will be matched by a generous $20,000 grant from an anonymous donor.

The alumni of the scholarship program will form a cadre of new leaders, who will meet annually in association with the MIC network. This will allow the alumni to continue to be mentored by conservation champions around the region and grow as leaders, who will in turn serve as mentors for new scholarship winners.

The Micronesia Challenge is a groundbreaking commitment by the leaders of Micronesia (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, and the US Territory of Guam) to put under effective conservation at least 30% of Micronesia's near-shore marine resources and 20% of its terrestrial resources by the year 2020. The Micronesia Challenge Partnership employs four major enabling strategies key to achieving its goals:

  1. Leadership Development and Capacity Building, including professional and institutional development, peer learning networks, mentorships and internships; 
  2. Small Grants to support community led activities and programs to strengthen protected areas, fisheries management and climate adaptations activities; 
  3. Sound and Practical Science, which includes establishment of scientific research, monitoring and measures and evaluation programs for decision support at all levels of conservation leadership (community, state and national/regional); and 
  4. Sustainable Financing, which includes establishment of sustainable finance plans and mechanisms at regional, national and local levels.
 Leadership capacity and development continues to be a critical need and actually underpins the success of the other strategic areas. The MC partnership must continue to identify, support, and coach new successors to take on pertinent leadership roles and responsibilities within this partnership. The Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund honors the legacy of one of Micronesia’s original conservation champions and mentors by inspiring, supporting and mentoring the next generation of champions across Micronesia for many generations to come.