Environmental Programs Steering Committee

October 28, 1999

253 Mechanical Engineering 4-5pm



Mary Derr
Kathy Ensor
Matthew Fraser
Paul Harcombe
Priscilla Huston (staff)
Walter Isle (chair)
Cameron Naficy
Donald Ostdiek
Dale Sawyer
Paul Harcombe
Ryan McMullan
Gordon Wittenberg
Bill Leeman (visiting from Santa Fe)

Not Present:

Gerald McKenny
Robin Sickles

Next Meeting Date and Time:

The next meeting will be on Thursday November 11, 1999 at 2:30pm. The location will be announced via email. It will be in B237 Abercrombie (the Chemical Engineering Conference Room on the second floor of Abercrombie on corridor furthest from the center of campus).


Materials Distributed:

  • Email from Sue Diegaard regarding Sandra Steingraber

    Draft Minutes from September 30, 1999


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

    Jerry McKenny is chair of the subcommittee that consists of Don Ostdiek, Kathy Ensor, Cameron Naficy, and Paul Harcombe. Although Jerry was not present, Paul reported that discussion has been going on and he is currently working on a draft. The subcommittee will meet soon to discuss it and will report to the steering committee on November 11th.


    2. Webpage update

    Priscilla Huston announced that Alan Thornhill has setup the Enviro page in a manner that should allow us to do future updates. Matt Fraser and Dale Sawyer will provide information on course lists. No one will be teaching Environmental History this year. All of the committee was asked to review the websites at both http://conbio.rice.edu/riceenvironmental/ and http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pjh/epsc and make suggestions.


    3. Biosphere 2 recruiting visit October 14, 1999

    The following students attended. Walter Isle indicated that he has received 2 applications for Earth Semester. Priscilla will send a reminder to the Environmental Club and also send a list of course substitutions to all the October 14th attendees. Don Ostdiek will send Priscilla a quote for a current student.


    4. Monthly Colloquia

    The first Environmental Faculty Colloquium (lunch and speaker) will be November 3rd in Duncan 3092. Matt Fraser will be the speaker. Sandwiches and drinks will be served.

    We would like to plan the second colloquium for December 1st. Gordon Wittenberg volunteered to contact Reeves Taylor (architect of the new nursing school at the medical center that has been designed to be to the environment. He is an outstanding Rice graduate who will also teach a course in environmental architecture this spring.)

    Another colloquium will tentatively be scheduled for mid to late January. Robin Sickles has agreed to be the speaker. Other potential colloquia speakers include Kathy Ensor on Ozone and Tom Williams (part-time coordinator of CSST and retired Environmental Officer from Shell.


    5. Fall Reception

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


    6. Speakers

    Several speakers were suggested:

    Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream, was recommended by Arthur Few and Sue Diegaard as a potential speaker March 1st. Walter Isle has asked Sue to pursue this opportunity and the steering committee agreed to provide $4000 for her fee.

    Food and Housing will be looking for a full time staff position as Recycling Coordinator next year. In preparation for this, we would like to invite Recycling Coordinators from other institutions to come meet with us.

    David Orr, architect of the Environmental Studies Building at Oberlin and author of Earth and Mind and Ecological Literacy is a good speaker who could return to Rice for a follow-up talk now that the building is completed and in use.


    7. Graduate Student member of the EPSC (not resolved)

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


    8. UNIV 303

    Don Ostdiek requested that we plan now for the UNIV 303 course this coming spring. Don has expects a proposal from someone who will work with him and the student teams in UNIV 303, especially on management plans. Other names suggested who might help were Tom Williams (CSST) and Jeff Andrews. Priscilla mentioned that Sam Davis and Kyriacos Zygourakis are teaching a Chemical Engineering course (CENG 301) where 30 students are involved in Houston air pollution projects. She will see that the faculty gets each other’s email addresses and that the students in CENG 301 are informed about UNIV 303. Don decided that UNIV 303 will meet on Wednesdays from 2-5pm. He will draft a course description. Walter Isle will see that the course is included in the pre-registration schedule.


    9. Semester Credit for Biosphere 2 and similar programs (not discussed this time)

    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.


    10. Bill Leeman is on sabbatical in Santa Fe but was in town this day and able to attend the Environmental Programs Steering Committee. He spoke briefly regarding a speaker series he has been enjoying in Santa Fe and about the environmental intellectualism that is apparent there. He has an idea for raising discussion at Rice and in Houston by focusing on the concept of the future population of the Houston area. This led to a discussion about a course on the Future of the Houston Area. The Continuing Studies course from last Spring was discussed and future courses of a similar nature were considered. There is hope that by involving faculty from multiple disciplines this can plant seeds, help evolve interest in research, and eventually lead to spin-off courses. Concerns were also raised about how many people do not know what to make of interdepartmental activities. It was pointed out that this is not only true of courses and research but also activities such as the steering committee. One faculty member indicated that a departmental chair did not consider the steering committee a contribution since it was cross-disciplinary. One suggestion was to get the president to recognize such contributions.



    Walter Isle reported briefly on his visit to Biosphere 2 for the dedication of the observatory. This was also an opportunity to touch base with what is going on now and to consider the future. There are about 20 students in the Universe semester this fall and about 80 students in the Earth Semester. One plan calls for expansion to a total of 300 students. There is a brand new student center and both George Rupp and Ed Bass seem enthusiastic. There is a major need for more faculty.

    Priscilla Huston reported on several activities of the Environmental Club. The committee asked her to send them information on how to be on the listserv so they can see these announcements directly.

    Information on the new nursing school building at the Texas Medical Center building can be found at http://www.uth.tmc.edu/ut_general/admin_fin/ss/pecom/nbs/nsbs.html.

    There are also other interesting links from this page.

    Priscilla offered to order hard copies of Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber for $5.95 from an online source; Walter Isle informed us that softback copies are now available in the bookstore (estimated cost is $14).