NOVEMBER 18, 2013


A. Report on Sustainability Issues.
Chair Hart introduced Mr. Jim Walker (director, sustainability) who is the inaugural director of the Office of Sustainability. Mr. Walker began his presentation by encouraging faculty members to visit the campus portal for sustainability.1  He brought to Council members’ attention that the sustainability office has money from different sources to promote course development with sustainability content, particularly with flagged courses. Faculty members who either create a new flag course or modify an existing one with sustainability content may be eligible for a $1600 or $6000 award. Mr. Walker added that his office has a working partnership with the Center for Teaching and Learning and a community of faculty to look at outcomes related to the sustainability courses. Through this partnership, he is hoping that they will be able to pioneer studies that look at what students actually learn after completing a sustainability content course and how one would evaluate that. He said “There’s an amazing lack of that across the country.” The Office of Sustainability also has a partnership with the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) where they are putting together a spring lecture series, similar to the first one in offered in 2012 with Jamie Pennebaker and John Daly. 

Mr. Walker directed faculty members to the Sustainability Directory on the sustainability portal, which he said has proven to be an amazing resource for grant seekers since it lists all sustainability courses, faculty, staff, and research centers involved in sustainability work. It also includes various definitions and dimensions of sustainability.

Mr. Walker then mentioned that his office does a lot of work in energy and conservation, and that they have a series of energy conversations where, for example, energy resource staff explain why the thermostats for buildings and classroom are set the way they are. He said they view the campus as a “living laboratory with students,” and that they “are always looking for opportunities to draw UT’s physical presence into the classroom.”

Mr. Walker then introduced Professor Steven Moore (architecture) who spoke about a new proposal for a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies degree program. Professor Moore explained that if such a new degree program is approved it would be of interest to students who are disproportionately affected by changing environmental conditions such as climate change, economic collapse, and environmental degradation. He said that such a new degree would give these students “a way to deal with a very uncertain future.” He also added that the proposed degree program would be directed at increasing the four-year graduation rate, stating that based upon their data some 30 percent of entering freshmen self-identify with doing something for the environment and/or for social change, and that the proposed degree program would do a great deal in both areas.

Professor Moore indicated that the proposed program would begin with three gateway courses, and in the first two years, foundation, theories, and context courses, which would be balanced on both sides of environmental / earth sciences, and the humanities / social sciences. The second two years of study would be based on experiential learning with thematic concentrations in five different areas. At the end of the sequence there would be capstone and experiential learning courses that would ground the student’s knowledge and test them in a real world context. The five thematic concentrations would include two degrees in geography, two from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and one from the School of Architecture.

Professor Moore outlined the proposed timeframe for approving the degree program saying that it would require approval by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the Committee on Undergraduate Degree Programs Review, the Faculty Council, UT System, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He projected that final approval would be granted by spring of 2016 and that the first courses of the degree plan would be taught in fall 2016.  For Council members who want to learn more about the proposed degree plan, he encouraged then to read the executive summary, which is included in Appendix B.

Professor Linda E. Reichl (physics) asked about the possible career paths students might take following graduation with this degree. Professor Moore said that one-quarter to one-third of the students would pursue a graduate degree in some specialization, possibly in design, policy, or economics. The largest number would go into private industry and some would go into government. He pointed out that there is a new emerging job description often called sustainability manager; as an example he cited the chief sustainability officer for the City of Austin. He said the graduates of the proposed program would have gained enough science, natural science, and social science knowledge, and would have the sense to put that knowledge together to design a s proposal for changing conditions in the future—not doing analysis from the past. He said the graduates of the proposed program would have gained enough science, natural science, and social science knowledge, and would have the sense to put that knowledge together to design s proposal for changing conditions in the future—not doing analysis from the past. He concluded his presentation by saying this kind of job is spreading rapidly, and “frankly, we’re behind the eight ball in terms of creating a program that satisfies the need.”

1Also see Appendix A.

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