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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 is this different than what U-M has been doing?
The vision for SEAS 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 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. How was the name chosen?
Faculty within the former School of Natural Resources and Environment were charged with providing a proposed name to then Provost Martha Pollack. The proposed name was approved by the Board of Regents.
Q. What was the charge to the Faculty Transition Team?
The Faculty Transition Team was responsible for expanding on the vision of the new school by developing a set of recommendations that could guide the inaugural dean in building the new school. Outcomes included 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 is the timeline of the transition?
This is a multi-year transition. The first year, 2017, will comprise mostly of planning and creating the recommendations for the inaugural dean to build the new school.
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 happened to SNRE?
All of its faculty, students, alumni and staff are now a part of SEAS to leverage interdisciplinary work in an unprecedented way. SEAS 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 SEAS will be more important than ever.
Q. What does this mean for current 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. 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 at SEAS.
Q. What does this mean for prospective students?
Students recruited for fall 2017 will be so into the existing programs – which will continue to be offered by SEAS until the faculty choose to change or replace those degrees. This incoming class will have the same opportunity to complete the degrees they start.
Q. Will things look/seem different in the Dana Building?
Deepening partnerships across campus is a core goal of SEAS, 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.
Q. What is the role of the Graham Sustainability Institute and how does it relate to SEAS?
As a UM-wide service unit and boundary organization, Graham supports U-M academic units in building networks and connections with external stakeholders. This includes catalyzing, facilitating and enabling sustainability collaborations and engagement involving faculty and students across all academic units, including those for whom sustainability is not their primary focus. Graham and SEAS will work closely together to ensure their missions are complementary in serving the university. More information available here.
Q. What will be the role of PitE going forward and how will it relate to SEAS?
The university is committed to continuing to offer strong, interdisciplinary, environmental education opportunities for undergraduate students. LS&A and SEAS jointly own the program.