Environmental Programs Steering Committee

September 30, 1999

253 Mechanical Engineering 2:30-3:30pm




Not Present:


Next Meeting date and time:

The meeting for October 14, 1999 has been cancelled. Subcommittees and other activities will meet on their own during the interim. The next meeting will be on Thursday October 28, 1999 at 4pm. The location will be announced via email.


Materials Distributed:


1. Proposal for a Center for the Study of the Environment

Walter Isle requested that a subcommittee be formed to look into writing a proposal for a Center for the Study of the Environment at Rice. He would like to have a proposal in the next couple of months so that the President and Provost can consider it for the ongoing budget. The Research Council has prepared some "guidelines" for centers and institutes that are be reviewed at this time. Walter will send copies to the committee once they have been approved. In the meantime, the EPSC will start formulating a proposal for such a center. It will go beyond the charge of the steering committee including not only areas such as curriculum, Biosphere 2 connections, but also areas such as research, faculty and departmental support, and integration of undergraduate curriculum with research. It could work well with a center for teaching and innovative curriculum. Gerald McKenny will chair the subcommittee that will consist of Don Ostdiek, Kathy Ensor, Cameron Naficy, and Paul Harcombe (not present).


2. Webpage update

Priscilla Huston provided a brief overview of the websites and key issues.

The internal Committee website is at http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pjh/epsc. It is not confidential but also not advertised. Suggestions are needed to make it more useful to the committee.

The public website is at http://conbio.rice.edu/riceenvironmental/ and needs to be updated. Somethings are fairly straightforward such as the Steering Committee list but others are much more difficult, affect students and faculty -- such as the list of current environmentally related course offerings, and may go beyond website design to university approach. Matt Fraser and Dale Sawyer agreed to work with Priscilla Huston to address the course list issue as well as the overall website work. Paul Harcombe will also be asked if he would like to be involved. Suggestions are needed to make this more useful to faculty and students -- both as an information source and a place to contribute information.


3. Biosphere 2 recruiting visit October 14, 1999

Dale Sawyer and Mary Derr agreed to work with Priscilla Huston to support this visit. Priscilla will contact Kendra Crook <kcrook@bio2.edu> regarding the visit. The committee hopes that we can arrange a general presentation as well as an opportunity for personal interviews with Kendra. Students who have attended Biosphere 2 will be a valuable resource. We need to act quickly since this visit is in two weeks. It is hard to estimate how many will attend. The Minor lounge might be a good place to meet.


4. Monthly Colloquia

The first Environmental Faculty Colloquium (lunch and speaker) will be scheduled on October 27th. Matt Fraser will be the speaker. Priscilla Huston will work with Matt and Kathy Ensor to arrange something similar to what CITI has done. It will be on a Wednesday and all Environmental Reading group participants will be invited as well as the full list of faculty involved in environmental interests.

Another colloquium will tentatively be scheduled for mid to late January. Robin Sickles has agreed to be the speaker.


5. Fall Reception

The committee has decided to focus on the Colloquia approach for now in lieu of a reception.


6. Speakers

The committee was asked to make suggestions and think about opportunities for working with departments and others in bringing speakers to campus.


7. Graduate Student member of the EPSC

The committee was asked to make suggestions for a senior graduate student who would contribute well as a member of the EPSC.


8. Update list of faculty with environmental interests

Priscilla Huston will direct committee members to the current list from the General Announcements and ask them to send her suggestions for additional people. This list may be asked about course offerings that they believe contribute well to environmental study for undergraduates at Rice, may be asked about additional faculty, and will be invited to the colloquia.

It was also suggested that we create a list of recent Ph.D. and Undergraduates who have graduated with Environmental double majors and/or taken environmental studies related jobs.


9. List of environmental courses

Please see discussion under Webpage above. It was agreed that we need to work now on a list for spring.


10. Little Thicket

Nancy Wilcox approached Elizabeth Long who has approached Priscilla Huston and several other folks on campus in an effort to make us aware of a potential environmental educational and research opportunity that exists currently in our community. Priscilla distributed materials, gave a brief overview, and offered to help organized visits to Little Thicket or make contacts. This may be a opportunity for faculty to involve students in a local environmental issue that can be observed over time. It encompasses a broad range of needs from flood plain management, to architecture, cost-benefit analysis, politics, ecology, etc. RSVP will volunteer at Little Thicket during their Outreach Day October 2nd. The Environmental Club has also been informed.


11. UNIV 303

Don Ostdiek requested that we plan now for the UNIV 303 course this coming spring. He and Paul Harcombe are the listed faculty but Paul will be on sabbatical. We need to think seriously about the costs required to support such a course both at the individual faculty and the departmental levels. How should the university support ongoing courses of this nature? Is there a grant opportunity here as well?


12. Semester Credit for Biosphere 2 and similar programs

Don Ostdiek suggested that the campus should have a program in place for recording on the transcript that the student completed a successful semester at programs such as Biosphere 2. This approach would assure the student that the Biosphere semester and courses will appear on his/her transcript. It would still be up to the individual departments to approve credit for specific requirements. Walter Isle will follow-up with the registrar's office.



Walter Isle will visit Biosphere 2 in mid- October.

Walter asked if anyone was interested in attending the Smart Growth Seminar at University of Houston.

Both Houston Chronicle and the Chronicle of Higher Education online reported this day that "an 18-year-old patient has died at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center shortly after receiving an infusion of genetically altered viruses in a gene-therapy experiment."

Japan was experiencing a severe nuclear disaster as we met. Robin Sickles has been doing research in this area with the Baker Institute.