E/S Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. Why are we doing this?
The University of Michigan is pursuing the creation of a new type of school focused on environment and sustainability as one of the ways to strengthen U-M’s position as a leader in interdisciplinary education that addresses global sustainability challenges.

Over the past decades, the university has created a variety of programs that focus on creating sustainable solutions. Today, it seeks to develop a new, flexible, dynamic model that builds on its interdisciplinary strength by creating tighter alliances and greater coherence and cooperation among programs, and creates new opportunities for faculty and students to work together on the next level of sustainability education and research.

The university’s new structure for environment and sustainability programs will give students and society the tools needed to help solve some of the world’s gravest problems.

Q. How will this be different than what U-M is currently doing?
The vision for the new school 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.  The new school will be organized differently (e.g., around themes that evolve). It will likely include a number of additional faculty with joint appointments and may have a strong affiliated faculty program so that other faculty can flow in and out as major projects arise.  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. It also will have a strengthened and more intentional connection to the Graham Sustainability Institute, and will be exploring a number of curricular innovations.

Q. What will the new school be called?
This fall, faculty within the School of Natural Resources and Environment were charged with providing a proposed name to Provost Martha Pollack. The proposed name will be considered by the Board of Regents and voted on later this year.

Q. What is the timeline of the project?
This is a multi-year transition. The first year will comprise mostly of planning and creating the recommendations for the new dean to build the new school.

Q. Where are we in this process?
This fall there are a number of milestones including the search for the inaugural dean, the launch of the Faculty Transition Team and SNRE faculty’s recommendation of a school name. The proposed creation of a new school also will go to the Board of Regents for vote.

Q. What is the charge to the Faculty Transition Team?
The Faculty Transition Team is responsible for expanding on the vision of the new school by developing a set of recommendations that can be provided to the new dean upon arrival to help guide him or her in building the new school. Expected outcomes include a process for identifying themes of the new school and for reviewing and changing themes over time; proposals for curricular innovations for the new school; and recommendations for faculty administrative processes. Full charge available here.

Q.  What does all of this mean for staff?
There are no immediate changes for staff in SNRE, PitE or Graham. Long term, there may be a focus on more coordination among the staff of these units.

Q. What will happen to SNRE?
All of its faculty, students, alumni and staff will become part of the new school that leverages interdisciplinary work in an unprecedented way. The new school will engage faculty from across campus more deeply, will have a broader mission, and will increase the university’s collective positive impact on global sustainability issues – all while building upon SNRE’s historical and existing strengths. Sustainability is a top priority of for the university, so the role played by the school will be more important than ever.

Q.  What does this mean for current SNRE students?
Current students will be able to graduate from the programs into which they are matriculating.

Q. Will tracks go away?
Fields of study (or tracks) may change over the next several years. The faculty transition team is working on questions like this over the academic year. However, students enrolled in a given track will be able to finish the program they started. If students prefer to switch programs mid-degree, that may be an option after new programs have been defined.

Q. Will there still be opportunities for field work?
Opportunities for field work continue to grow. There are no proposals or suggestions otherwise. In recent years SNRE reaffirmed its commitment to both an ecology core and a significant field component by revamping one of the core courses (NRE 509) to include weekly field labs. View a video here.

Q. What will happen to the science content of the curriculum at SNRE?
Science will continue to be a core component of the graduate programs in the new school

Q. What does this mean for prospective students?
Students recruited this year for fall 2017 will be so into the existing programs – which will be offered by the new school until the faculty choose to change or replace those degrees. That incoming class will have the same opportunity to complete the degrees they start.

Q. Will things look/seem different in the Dana Building next fall?
Deepening partnerships across campus is a core goal of the new school, so it is likely that the Dana Building will welcome even more people than it does now. School events and common areas may be busier than in the past. The sign outside will be different and the building may have to accommodate additional faculty and staff, but generally it will look the same as it does now. There are no plans to renovate the building in the next several years.

Q.  What will be the role of the Graham Sustainability Institute going forward and how will it relate to the new school?
The Graham Institute mission will remain the same, though responsibilities may evolve over time in response to emerging institutional needs and priorities. Graham and the new school will work closely together to ensure their missions are complementary in serving the university.

Q. What will be the role of PitE going forward and how will it relate to the new school?
The university is committed to continuing to offer strong, interdisciplinary, environmental education opportunities for undergraduate students. LS&A and the new School will jointly own the program. In fact, technically it already is, but the goal is to make real that early vision for it.