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The Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College, announced on March 2 that it has received a $1 million gift from San Francisco residents and Middlebury College parents Robin and Deborah Hicks in their capacities as trustees of the Loker Foundation.

The gift will help the Institute launch its planned Center for the Blue Economy, which will leverage the amazing marine science resources in the Monterey Bay area and complement them with rigorous economic and policy analysis. The center will offer graduate students a certificate program in international marine policy and management as well as carry out research related to quantifying the economic value of ocean and coast resources.

“The ocean has played a significant role in my family’s history,” said Deborah Loker Hicks, whose grandfather Martin Bogdanovich was the founder of StarKist Tuna. Deborah remembers the times as a little girl that she joined the fishermen heading out of the Port of Los Angeles in the purse seiners that fished local waters in the 1950s. “We see this gift as an investment that will not only generate awareness about the issues that threaten our oceans, but also prepare professionals who can advance sound policy decisions to address these issues. As we came to know the Institute over the past couple of years, this particular combination of research and policy focus was very appealing to us.”

The $1 million gift, paid over four years, will support initial course development, fund a new faculty position, and provide research and internship opportunities for students. The Institute offers a master of arts degree in international environmental policy among its 11 graduate degrees.

“We are extremely grateful to Robin and Deborah for this visionary gift, which will enable the Institute to take full advantage of our unique location and open up significant new learning and research opportunities for students in our international environmental policy program,” noted Monterey Institute President Sunder Ramaswamy. “My hope is that their strong endorsement of the work we are doing at MIIS will serve as a catalyst for others with similar philanthropic goals.”

“With the seed capital the Hicks have generously provided, the Institute will be able to greatly increase its offerings in international marine policy,” said International Environmental Policy Program Chair Jason Scorse, who will direct the center. “The goal is no less than to make the Institute a global leader in both academic studies and research dedicated to ensuring that the full value of ocean and coastal resources are incorporated into policy and business decisions.”

The Hicks also made a leadership-level gift last year to establish a scholarship fund to assist Middlebury undergraduate alumni who continue their studies at the Monterey Institute. They are members of the steering committee for eMIISsaries, a group of local friends of the Institute who seek to advance its mission by increasing awareness of and engagement with MIIS.

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