Environmental Programs Steering Committee

May 6, 1999

2014 Duncan 9:15-11am


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

Not Present:

  • Joyce Almaguer
  • Bill Leeman
  • Gordon Wittenberg
  • Mark Wiesner


1. Next Meeting date

The students from UNIV 303, Paul Harcombe and Don Ostdiek's class, will join our next meeting on May 13th. Given the size of the group, we will meet in 133B Anderson Biology Lab. Walter Isle will invite the Environmental Reading Group to join us.

2. Committee next year

Matt Fraser will replace Mark Wiesner. Dale Sawyer will replace Bill Leeman. Robin Sickles and Gerald McKenny will be additions bringing representatives from Humanities and Social Sciences to two each. Although Arthur Few will be on leave next year, he will not be replaced. A graduate student and an undergraduate student will be named as well. Walter Isle will consult with Alex Bain about an undergraduate representative and will look into a graduate student. Diane ?, who was on the strategic planning committee may still be available.

3. Student Initiatives

Paul Harcombe will suggest to Alex Bain, president of the Environmental Club, that the Environmental Club students might make some recommendations for recycling or other environmental benefits to the Student Association. And together the students might be able to recommend use of the $32,000 that has accumlulated in the SA funds to make some good things happen on campus, perhaps with matching funds from Malcolm Gillis. This could create a handshake rather than a confrontation between the students and the administration.

4. Planning for the future

Space Physics and Geology are discussing a possible joint appointment in planetary geology.

Judith Brown is considering requesting an enhancement position in Environmental History.

Bob Stein has left the Environemental Economics position open for now.

The committee discussed the pros and cons of taking interest in departmental hires. One of the concerns is that some departments may react negatively to too high visibility outside the department. On the other hand, the EPSC can be a big help in selling Rice to potential faculty with an environmental interest who want to know there is a broad community of interest here. The EPSC focus is providing that larger cohesive group that can help make things happen from better curricula for undergraduates, to grants and other potentially collaborative projects.

An Environemental Statistics course has been written up but not sent to the Dean as yet. It is not clear that the Dean wants to see more curriculum in a department that is already strong in teaching. This course could potentially be taught in the spring. Mark Wiesner was not available for the discussion today.

The committee discussed the need for campus-wide support for teaching and Walter Isle reminded them that there may be an opportunity to establish something like the "Center for Teaching" that the ad hoc Curriculum Committee had discussed. It could initially be built around the Freshman Seminars, innovative and interdisciplinary courses. It could be a good time for us to speak up.

The committee also discussed whether this is a good time to think about a Center for the Environment at Rice. The question of how centers fit into the structure and funding at Rice versus a steering committee, institute, etc. was discussed. In the past centers and institutes have been focused on research and EPSC wishes to have a combined focus on teaching and research. We discussed the CSST (Center for study of Science and Technology) as having a teaching focus as well. Other centers and institutes mentioned were ESE, CSC, CITI, and CTTL. Research Council and Jordan Konisky may be revising criteria for centers. Questions arose such as: are centers long term? do they come and go? Models in the Humanities appear to be long term but in Engineering they are more dependent on research funding. Including the word "study" in the name of a center might imply it has curricula as well as research concerns.

The steering committee will work on making a proposal to David Auston, David Minter, and Malcolm Gillis that could be implemented over the next year.

We talked about seeking external funding from places such as the Robert Wood Johnson or Pugh Foundations to start a center. There was some debate about whether or not this should be primary or secondary.

The committee discussed strategies for getting Andy Whitford back and how to retain and interest new faculty in general. We thought about inviting him back to visit and give talks. We want to be "friends" with the departments as well as the faculty with interests in environmental programs. We need to open the dialog. Rick Wilson is an example of someone who is back from Washington.

Monthly lunch colloquiums might help with this outreach. A newsletter could also be helpful, maybe online. The committee also talked about more presence in the Rice News, Sallyport, Thresher, etc. and discussed the website and campus calendar systems.

We have funding for the first Environmental Intern through September 15th. Bill Leeman and Paul Harcombe have been talking about ways to fund another position for next year. They are still exploring with F&E and F&H. They believe they can make an economic pitch for the Earth Tub and more Recycling and move to 50-50 funding next year. Dean Currie is likely to support this as long as it does not cost him more money. On the other hand, the environmental programs wants to cultivate the sense that Rice/We are environmentally concerned, not just financially. This next step can probably do both. The Earth Tub operating costs can probably be recovered quickly but equipment may have a longer pay back.

Invite David Orr back next semester to talk about the Oberlin Project-- Greening the Campus. Arrange for him to meet and talk with building planners, etc.

5. Biosphere 2 Tuition Problem

Priscilla Huston presented a draft table she has worked up with anticipated figures from Columbia (for Biosphere 2) and Rice for next year. Although Columbia has still not announced its tuition for next year and some of the figures are estimates, this could give students a better idea of what to expect. Walter Isle and Priscilla Huston will be meeting with the students who are at Biosphere 2 this semester and those who plan to attend next fall on Monday, May 10th. They will share the draft with them and ask for their suggestions.

6. Announcements

Space Physics 203 "Atmospheric Science" will be offered next year by Post Doc Trevor Garner while Athur Few is on sabbatical.