Environment and Sustainability Education and Research at U-M

Updated Dec. 15, 2016

The University of Michigan is pursuing major changes to its current environment and sustainability structure to strengthen U-M’s position as a leader in interdisciplinary research and education that addresses global challenges in this area.

“Our vision is for a more integrated, collaborative, innovative and dynamic set of programs that will magnify the impact of faculty, staff and student work in the sustainability area,” says Provost Martha Pollack. “We aim to be a ‘go-to’ university for research and education in environment and sustainability, something that fits with one of our core strengths: our breadth of academic excellence.”

Central to this new structure is the creation of a new school, to be named later this year, that addresses global sustainability challenges at the intersection of the environment and society through research, teaching and civic engagement.

Expected to open in the fall 2017, the new school 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.

The search for the school’s inaugural dean is underway.

The new school will bring together faculty from a wide variety of disciplines that will pursue collaborative and highly interdisciplinary approaches to issues that impact our environment, sustainable development and societal linkages. 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.

The school 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.

Strong connections will be enhanced with other key programs on campus, including the Graham Sustainability Institute, the undergraduate Program in the Environment and the Erb Institute, to amplify the campus’ impact on sustainability challenges.

In preparation for these changes, the university invited an external team of experts to review its programs in sustainability in the fall of 2015, and followed that on with a broad faculty committee that developed concrete recommendations building on the external report.

Reports and Appendices
U-M Sustainability Academic Programs Final Report
U-M Sustainability Academic Programs Appendices
Academic Programs in the Environment Report of External Review Committee

Frequently Asked Questions


Fall 2017  – Formal dedication of the new school (date TBD).

Fall 2016
– The provost moves forward with process for creating a new school.
October 5, 2016 – University Record – Sustainability efforts progressing across campus 
●      Search for the founding dean of the school launches. Job posting available here.
●      Faculty Transition Team is charged with expanding the vision of the new school by producing specific recommendations for the founding dean.
●      Search for the new director of the Graham Sustainability Institute launches.
●      Board of Regents approve the creation of the new school.

Spring 2016 – Committee on Academic Programs in Environment and Sustainability submitted its report and recommendations to the Provost.
May 25, 2016 – University Record – Provost’s panel suggests new sustainability education structure

Winter 2016 – The Committee on Academic Programs in Environment and Sustainability gathered feedback from faculty, staff, students and alumni through a variety of ways including meetings, town halls, surveys and email.

December 2015 – The Provost charges the Committee on Academic Programs in Environment and Sustainability to explore ways to make progress based on the external report’s findings and recommendations.

November 2015 – The external faculty team produces a report that identified strengths and challenges for U-M while providing recommendations for how to achieve the university’s full potential as a leader in sustainability.

Fall 2015 – The Office of the Provost asked a small team of external senior faculty in the fields of sustainability and the environment from other universities to assess U-M’s academic programs in these areas.