Environmental Programs Steering Committee

May 29, 1998

Faculty Club 11:45am



  • Kathy Ensor
  • Paul Harcombe
  • Priscilla Huston (staff)
  • Walter Isle (chair)
  • Bill Leeman
  • Gordon Wittenberg

As we assembled, Walter Isle introduced each of us to the others. Walter, Paul, and Bill have been active participants in many ways from the strategic plan to teaching courses to the reading group. They have been interacting with each other, students, and others for some time. Kathy, Gordon and Priscilla are all new to the Steering Committee. Mark Wiesner, Arthur Few, and Don Ostdiek were out of town but are also on the steering committee and have been actively involved for a long time. We discussed the possibility of adding one or two others, especially someone from the Jones School.

Websites: There is an existing website (http://conbiodev.rice.edu/test/chelsea/main.shtml) that was setup by a recent graduate, Chelsea Valdés and Paul Harcombe. It has four primary sections and is currently on a CONBIO server. We will take a look at it and consider building it into our primary public image space. We hope to have a website that is stimulating and useful both on and off campus. We will reference other such websites, etc. In addition, Priscilla Huston, will work at establishing a semi-private space where we can keep notes, references, works in progress, etc. Priscilla will also setup and maintain listserves.


Walter Isle reviewed the group of speakers who had come to Rice last year, the funding, attendance, publicity, etc. In addition to the Orion Society's Forgotten Language Tour early in October, we talked about having two speakers in the Fall of 1998 and two in the Spring of 1999. The Forgotten Language Tour will be several days (two sets of talks with 3 speakers each plus classroom and other campus and community exchanges) co-sponsored with University of Houston, and open to the community.

Several Suggestions:

  • Joel Schwartz at Harvard (Bill)
  • Check with Mark Wiesner about speaker from Johns Hopkins.
  • Scott Slovic from University of Nevada at Reno, Director of the Center for Environment in the Arts and Humanities
  • Edward O. Wilson was discussed but not strongly endorsed. He spoke here some time ago.
  • Internal speakers



We discussed the current four pronged approach to undergraduate second majors with environmental engineering, science and policy studies well underway and humanities yet to evolve. We just discovered that the History department has declined to hire Randall Hanson to teach Environmental History in 98-99. This is a disappointment since his course in United States Environmental History has been well received and is an important thrust for our programs.

Environmental Programs will have a page in the 98-99 General Announcements and we will look for other ways of getting the word out to faculty and students about the programss, majors, and unviersity 200/300, "Introduction to the Environment," which Arthur Few, Ron Sass, and Walter Isle will be offering in the fall. Orientation week and the advising system are key and we will talk with Mark Scheid. We discussed potential relationships with General Education, especially Freshman Seminars and Ways of Knowing.


Internships and moving the student experience beyond the classroom:

An undergraduate student, Ryan McMullen, who participated in the Bake course this spring, has proposed an internship on campus this coming fall in which he would work closely with the campus to analyze and evolve a plan for composting based partly on the work in that course. Malcolm Gillis has agreed conceptually and Bill Leeman has communicated with Bill Mack and Dean Currie. We think this is an exciting educational model while also potentially benefiting the campus. Conceivably the student could report to the committee.



For the time being the Provost has designated Priscilla Huston's office as our space. We will work toward evolving a better concept of what we need and how it might be located on our campus. We discussed ideas ranging from a group of offices in the library or another building to building demonstration space(s) on campus. We mentioned proximity to other efforts.



We will look for seminars and other activities that we can jointly sponsor with others both on and off our campus.

We talked some about community outreach and the opportunity not only to do things at Rice but also beyond our boundaries, including the city. We talked about how the various efforts from courses and seminars to internships and even space can be used to get others involved on campus, especially non Science and Engineering faculty, administrators, staff and students. We mentioned setting up a demonstration facility on campus and began to envision possible scenarios. We talked about Houston and vicinity as a wonderful laboratory. Other faculty involvement that we might encourage: Pat Reiff who has been involved not just at Rice but also in community outreach with NASA and the Museum of Natural Science. Jim Blackburn and Earth System Science Education were also mentioned.



We plan to have bi-weekly meetings in the fall and to get underway quickly with the Orion Society Event being our first public event. Over the summer, we will not meet regularly but Walter, Priscilla, and Paul will work individually and together to focus on much of what we discussed:

  • Websites
  • O-week and General Announcements
  • Speaker series
  • Space
  • Students -- job opportunities and involvement
  • Understanding what others are doing