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Environment faculty takes root

April 2, 2009

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Spring has arrived and so has SFU’s newest faculty, the Faculty of Environment. The university’s green faculty encompasses the School of Resource and Environmental Management, the department of geography, the Environmental Science program, the Centre for Sustainable Community Development and the Graduate Certificate in Development Studies. The university has a tremendous pool of talented people who deal with environmental issues and who have been scattered across diverse faculties. Now campus members will be collaborating under the umbrella of this new faculty.

The faculty grew out of collaborative planning over the past half-decade, that included external reviews, a task force on restructuring, visioning workshops and report recommendations from an interdisciplinary programming committee.

John Clague, who chaired the curriculum-planning committee, says many university members have been involved in the faculty’s approach. "It’s important to seize the opportunity and, like our students, I wanted to be part of the solution."

University enrolment figures have increased compared to this time last year, due in part to the anticipated faculty launch. "Students recognize that many of the problems we face are environmental by nature. They want to make a difference and need to be educated to make the necessary changes," says Clague. "Incredible changes will happen and 10 years from now it’ll be amazing to look back."

John Pierce, dean pro tem, has a wealth of experience in administration, outreach and interdisciplinary environmental research and teaching. He is excited about building on the environmental expertise in the founding units and adding from other areas to enrich programming and research opportunities. Pierce says the faculty will encompass what our relationship to the environment is and what our relationship should be.

Students in the new faculty will acquire competencies in core areas of environmental study, and foundational skills in communications, critical thinking and analysis. They will study the environment as it relates to natural science, social science, and policy science frameworks and can participate in fieldwork, international studies, student internships and the co-op program.

Faculty graduates will be flexible and responsive to emerging issues, and apply their knowledge and skills to unique problems and context, says Pierce. A number of planning exercises are either underway or will soon commence relating to degree options, program streams, the redesign of the Environmental Science Program and new models to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research.

"SFU has an opportunity to show real leadership in terms of developing new technologies, research modes, practices, and engagement with the community and creating solutions to real world problems." Ideas or suggestions? jpierce@sfu.ca

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