Environmental Programs Steering Committee

November 17, 1998

1044 Duncan 3:45-5:15pm


  • Joyce Almaguer
  • Kathy Ensor
  • Arthur Few
  • Paul Harcombe
  • Priscilla Huston (staff)
  • Walter Isle (chair)
  • Bill Leeman
  • Donald Ostdiek

Not present:

  • Mark Wiesner
  • Gordon Wittenberg



1. Meeting dates

Meetings for the remainder of the Fall 1998 semester:

  • Thursday December 3 in 3076 Duncan Hall 3:45-5:15pm

    Tuesday December 15 in 1044 Duncan Hall 3:45-5:15pm


    2. Ryan McMullan suggestion to "In Business"

    Ryan McMullan has suggested that we submit a few paragraphs to In Business Magazine about sustainable indicators at Rice University. We agree and Paul Harcombe will work with Ryan to prepare a draft for committee review. He provided the committee with a sample section from "In Business" and with an example report from the Penn State Website.


    3. Spring Courses/New Courses

    The current list of Spring 1999 Environmental Programs Courses is based on a list put together last spring by Paul Harcombe, Mark Wiesner and Chelsea Valdes plus the three new courses. Priscilla Huston will review all courses offered in Spring 1999 and remove those from our list that are not being offered. She will create a second list of "other courses" will include those from the Fall semester as well as ones sometimes offered in the Spring but not this spring. Both lists will be in alpha order by course title. We do not intend to include courses just because they are required for an environmental program unless they specifically address environmental topics. The committee will review the lists and make suggestions for corrections and additions before the spring semester begins.


    4. Website:

    Riceinfo now indicates the three new Environmental Programs courses and Enviro-Web has been updated to include these as well.

    Mark Wiesner, Bill Leeman and Priscilla Huston will continue to work with Alan Thornhill to improve the website.


    5. November 12, 1998 Reception

    There was a excellent turnout (about 50) and many comments on the value of meeting new people involved in environmental programs. We discussed the need to update the current list in the General Announcements and to consider different ways to open communication and encourage others to be more involved. We briefly mentioned the need for committee replacements for next year. These issues will be discussed again when we get to strategic planning.


    6. Updating the Faculty List

    Priscilla Huston distributed a list of all faculty invited to the reception divided between those listed in the General Announcements and those not currently listed. Others were asked to consider suggestions for expanding the General Announcements list. In the past, Walter Isle sent email to all participants asking them to confirm their interest. We will plan to do something similar with the expanded group and then probably in a second phase we will begin to pull more information together about environmental research and courses. We can use this list to query each semester before course registration regarding potential courses.


    7. Biosphere 2

    Walter Isle visited Biosphere 2 at the end of the first week in November. He shared a number of interesting experiences with the committee and is pleased with the apparent progress in the short time since he was there in the spring. He noted that there are some challenging differences between public and private university participation. He had an opportunity to discuss how the various institutions transfer credit and to get a better idea for the level of courses used. He noted that the first course is really a combination of Earth Systems and Geology and we might even consider splitting the credit between two courses. The other two core courses offered each semester are Ecology and Earth Systems with other varying modular units that change each semester. Finally the student will be involved in individual research. It is fine for Rice to be different than other institutions in handling transfer credits but we do need to make our process clear to students in advance.

    The academic program at Biosphere 2 has been expanded to include Universe Systems in addition to Earth Systems. Priscilla Huston will send information to all committee members.

    Tony Burgess has been assigned as our liaison and we hope to have him visit our campus before spring registration. Dale Rothman is a new person at Biosphere 2 who is in Policy Studies. Walter Isle indicated that there is a growing amount of research going on. He said there is a strong impression of wanting the partner institutions to consider Biosphere 2 as an extension of their own campuses.

    Walter reported that we have three students (Mary Derr, Somereet Nijjer, Mary Watrous) who have applied and been accepted for the Spring 1999 semester. Two other students (Hillary Barelas, Lea Ann Chen) considered applying this spring but have decided to delay until summer or fall. Two additional students (Anna Miller and Allegra Legrande) appear to be accepted for Fall 1999.

    Walter also wants to get the word out to faculty to consider either a semester or a shorter visit to Biosphere 2. He indicated that Biosphere 2 support for visiting faculty is very strong and could include an office and modest stipend.

    We will consider including Biosphere 2 in the General Announcements, etc.

    Bill Leeman has indicated that the Geology department has considered Biosphere courses and will allow 'independent studies' course (Geol 491) to serve as the catch-all for part of the Biosphere 2 curriculum. Students can not substitute Biosphere 2 courses for their major requirements. He has suggested that we pull together input from the various Rice departments and draft a description that could eventually be shared broadly.


    8. Hewlett Freshman Seminar program and other courses.

    November 30th is now the deadline for First Year Seminar Hewlett proposals. Paul Harcombe, Ronald Sass, Randy Hanson, and Walter Isle are preparing a proposal where they would team teach UNIV 200 and then each of them would teach a first year seminar with a small group. Others are encouraged to participate.

    SPAC 203 will not be offered this spring. The content has moved to SPAC 443 and the level of the material will be slightly higher (more mathematical). Neither course will be offered in Academic Year 1999-2000.

    Several questions were raised:

    How will UNIV 200 evolve as an official introduction to Environmental Programs?

    Who will teach UNIV 303 next year?

    How informed have we kept Mark Sheid?


    9. Speakers


    This is an area where we really need to maintain a calendar. Below is a start. Please add details and provide updates to Priscilla Huston.


  • February 1 &emdash; Brian Norton


    February 5-6 Arthur Few has invited John Firor (Global Climate Change) and Judith Jacobson (who is coming to Houston for the Environmental Conference on Feb 5-6)


    February ? Kathy Ensor will confirm date for Joel Schwartz. She will try to coordinate with the Environmental Club (Mike Ford, Jessica Cohen, and Maria Stalford). She would like to arrange for 4pm on a Monday since this is a good departmental colloquium time.


    March 15 Paul Harcombe indicated that EEB and EPSC will jointly sponsor Callicott


    Before Fall registration for Biosphere 2 or semester courses: Walter Isle will arrange to have Tony Burgess speak on campus.


    Paul Harcombe is looking into Don Kennedy.

  • Walter Isle is looking into inviting Scott Slovic from the Center for Environment in Reno.


    Randy Hanson can arrange to have Environmental Historian, Alfred Crosby from UT Austin, speak.


    10. Announcements:

    Arthur Few brought an example of an insulated glass from House of Coffee and suggested that this might be the type of device we could use to get the word out about environmental programs while encouraging departments to use fewer Styrofoam and paper products. Joyce Almaguer and Arthur will work together on a proposal along these lines.


    11. Review of where we are and where we are heading (not addressed this time)

    Action Item: Reread the Environmental Strategic Planning Report for the next meeting on December 3 in 3076 Duncan Hall at 3:45pm.