Aug 272008
Authors: Kristin Compton

A first for the state of Colorado, the opening of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability looks to offer students a multiple-disciplinary approach to tackling rising environmental issues in the global community.

Comprised of faculty from all of CSU’s eight colleges, the School of GES, still in the planning phase, will add to existing environmental research and education platforms at CSU.

Not affiliated with one specific college, the school will combine disciplines from all colleges to provide curriculum and experiential learning in issues such as climate change, food shortages, water scarcity and pollution. The school has yet to set potential research or curriculum apart from existing environmental course offerings, but organizers are focused on hiring staff and assembling committees to begin the decision-making process.

Presiding over the school’s planning is a 14-member task force appointed by Senior Vice President and Provost Tony Frank following President Penley’s announcement of the school in May of 2008. Task force members include faculty and staff, representing disciplines across campus, from biology to business.

Alan Knapp, a professor in the biology department, spoke on the task force’s outlook on global environmental sustainability.

“Sustainability means simply that we plan our actions and control our impacts on the environment in such ways that we don’t deplete the quality and quantity of resources and services that the planet is capable of providing to us, our neighbors and our grandchildren,” Knapp said.

The appointed director of the school, Diana Wall, said she wants to make a difference. Her research has taken her around the world, including to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, where she studied soil biodiversity and ecosystems.

“I think we have to recognize that the environment is responsible for how well we live,” Wall said. “If we want to continue to live on this planet, we have to think of strategies that will sustain the ecosystems and us. Not one or the other.”

Wall said the school originates from and focuses on a collaborative effort.

“The idea of an institute of the environment, environmental studies, or some type of ‘umbrella’ has been discussed for years by faculty in several colleges, and there have been many previous committees formed from only a few colleges that might contribute to some sort of umbrella structure,” Wall said.

Other universities with similar institution models include Yale, Stanford, the University of Wyoming and Arizona State. The School of GES starts its beginning stages with $350,000 from the environmental initiatives fund allocated by the university.

Estimates have shown an increase in the number of jobs available in the environmental workforce, with 40 million new jobs predicted by 2030, according to the American Solar Energy Society.

“I don’t think there are many people who are just studying it as one issue anymore. In a way, it’s a new way to provide green jobs,” Wall said. “I think the demands are high, and so the benefits are going to be with the students who want new jobs, who want different careers, who want to be on the forefront on solving problems for the future.”

Tracy Smith, administrative assistant to Wall, said multiple disciplines are needed to address global challenges.

“You have to consider economy when you think of alternative solutions. You have to involve policy, sociology, and just a broad base.”

Offices for the School of GES are currently located in the Natural Science and Environmental Sciences building. No construction has been planned. In about a month, Wall said, volunteer opportunities will be available to students interested in getting involved with the new program. Still deciding on specific activities, Wall and Smith are considering bringing together student organizations involved with the environment, strengthening these organizations and going out into the community.

As plans for the school become more concrete, opportunities for students may include field trips and seminars highlighting the multi-disciplinary effort for global solutions. Interested students can contact Tracy Smith at

Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications for Housing & Dining and a member of the Live Green Team, an organization on campus that works to promote the “green” movement, sees a bright future for CSU.

“The school is a really exciting opportunity. It definitely makes sustainability a focal point for education. I hope that being a green university will become a way of life.”

Staff writer Kristin Compton can be reached at

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