December 8, 2016
The new School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan will focus on global sustainability challenges at the intersection of environment and society.
The Board of Regents on Thursday approved the creation of the school, and its name, which was recommended to Provost Martha Pollack by faculty members from the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
The new school is expected to open in fall 2017. It will include the current SNRE faculty, build on that school's strengths, have a broader mission and be structured to engage faculty from across the university.
"Now, more than ever, the world's increasingly complex and dynamic environment and sustainability challenges call for the breadth of expertise that our university can provide. We have to adapt our programs to best meet these challenges," says President Mark Schlissel.
"I view the school as an essential new component of U-M commitment to academic excellence and impact at a time when many in our community consider sustainability to be one of our most important shared values."
The creation of the new school comes as the university pursues major changes to its sustainability education and research structure to strengthen its position as a leader in interdisciplinary education.
The changes are informed by an assessment of the university's academic programs in environment and sustainability — including SNRE, the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Program in the Environment, a joint undergraduate program between SNRE and LSA.
"The university's innovative structure for environment and sustainability programs will provide faculty, students and society the tools needed to help solve some of the world's gravest problems," says Pollack.
"Significant planning is being done over the coming year to bring to life the vision for a new type of school that will provide highly interdisciplinary approaches to issues that impact our environment, sustainable development and societal linkages.
"The strong commitment of faculty, students, staff and alumni is key to the creation of this new approach to research and education in environment and sustainability."
The search for the school's inaugural dean is underway.
As a new type of school, it will be organized around disciplinary clusters and interdisciplinary sustainability themes pulling expertise from the fields of sustainability science, design, engineering, policy, the humanities and the arts.
It will educate and train students on environment and sustainability concerns at all levels — including undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels — using the campus and local communities as living laboratories.
It also will have porous boundaries so it can provide leadership and work collaboratively with other schools, institutes and programs at the university.
Earlier this fall, a Faculty Transition Team representing a broad range of disciplines was charged with developing recommendations for the new school including a process for identifying sustainability themes around which to organize, proposals for curricular innovations and recommendations for the faculty administrative processes.
The team has established three working groups bringing approximately 20 additional faculty directly into the planning process. In addition, 300 faculty, who are engaged with environment and sustainability issues in schools and colleges across campus, were invited to participate in a new "Sustainability Brew" program in which small groups of diverse faculty discuss planning for the new school.
The new school will be housed in the Dana Building, the current home to SNRE.