Dear ESS Friends,
It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of Spring Quarter and summer is knocking on our door. We have been very busy here in ESS over these past months, and there are a number of exciting developments in ESS that I want to share with you:
For the past year, ESS has been undergoing Program Review. At the beginning of May, this process culminated in the visit of two external reviewers. One of our reviewers has been the president of the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, and the other has served as Faculty and Director of a Natural History Institute, and is the author of several books on field experiences. Before their visit, we buckled down and took an in-depth look at everything we offer - courses that emphasize critical thinking and analysis skills, research opportunities with ESS faculty in the field and lab, field experiences that take you from surveying to monitoring, and mentoring which guides our students through their undergraduate and professional careers. Our two reviewers had a packed two days on campus; they met with our faculty, students, alumni, chairs from affiliated departments, collaborators, and representatives of our Centers of Distinction, such as the Miller Center and the Food and Agribusiness Institute. They were impressed by our students, faculty, programs, and collaborators on campus and beyond. With the input of our external reviewers, our department plans to further strengthen our curriculum. We want to expand our signature experiences like Capstone and Baja, and broaden the impact of ESS in local communities as well as globally.
In April, Earth Day once again covered a whole week on campus. “Earth Week” showcases SCU’s commitment to sustainability. The Green Club, The Center for Sustainability, and ESS all organized several well attended events.
In addition, we have a very active ongoing seminar series for faculty and students. Take a look at this edition of EnviroNews to learn about what has been happening! In addition to our very dedicated, innovative, and passionate lecturers - Joanna Ahlum, Jonathan LaRiviere, and Ted Grudin, we are welcoming postdoctoral scholars to our department for collaborative research work with faculty. Lucy Diekmann and ESS alumna Annie Drevno have received fellowships from the USDA and the Food and Agribusiness Institute to work on questions of food access and urban agriculture with Leslie Gray. Postdoctoral fellow Lisa Kelley from UC Berkeley will be joining Chris Bacon, myself, and our collaborators Bill Sundstrom (Economics) and Ed Maurer (Civil Engineering) to work on a NSF-funded study of food and water security for smallholder coffee farmers in Nicaragua.
Our new faculty member, C.J. Gabbe, has been getting very actively involved in local sustainable urban planning surrounding Santa Clara and several of his students have attended planning sessions. Stephanie Hughes has once again led student groups in innovative projects on campus sustainability through her SLURP classes. Virginia Matzek took 16 students to Baja California over Spring Break for a complete immersion into its incredible plant and animal world. Leslie Gray, Chris Bacon, and I have been involved in the University’s Thriving Neighbors Initiative. The initiative builds connections between Santa Clara University and its nearby neighborhood, the Greater Washington Community of San Jose. These connections benefit both the Greater Washington residents and SCU students. Two weeks ago, all projects were highlighted via a thriving poster session on the Washington Elementary School campus, where community partners, faculty, and students had great discussions over tacos.
Spring is always about the seniors and their many accomplishments. Once again, we cannot believe that they are already graduating. Our students have done so many amazing things: from organizing student clubs like Green Club, Into the Wild, and the Food Recovery Network, to being Global Social Benefit fellows, to leading construction on the prize-winning Tiny House. There are several articles about our seniors and recent alumni in this EnviroNews issue - make sure you check out the great work they are doing. We just celebrated our seniors' accomplishments with a lovely Senior Send-off at the Forge Garden.
We are also saying good-bye to our lecturer Ted Grudin, who joined us this year from Berkeley to challenge our students in his critical thinking and writing courses, and Elia Kazemi, who has been our student office assistant for the past two years. Many thanks and best wishes to you both.
This March, a number of our alumni and their families supported ESS with a donation during the annual Day of Giving. We would like to thank you for your generosity! With your support, we can make a difference in so many ways. Your donations help ESS support students going into the field, try innovative programs, or fund additional equipment. If you missed the Day of Giving, but are interested in supporting us, please go here.
As I am coming to the end of my three-year term as chair of ESS, there will also be a change in the ESS leadership. I have been so honored to work with such a dynamic and passionate group of people and would like to thank the faculty, staff, students, affiliates, and University administration for their support and collaboration over the past three years. During this time, we have seen growth in our number of majors, have added new faculty in climate science and sustainable urban planning, have had four faculty promoted, have conducted program review, have been planning for the new Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation, and have expanded our course offerings. Michelle Marvier has been involved in STEM planning, and Virginia Matzek is contributing to an educational master plan. New courses we have recently offered are an Intermediate GIS Course, an upper division Climate Science lab course, a new lab version of our transformational Baja Course, a Climate Justice course sponsored by the Miller Center, and a new advanced writing course irresistibly themed ‘Writing for the Birds’ by John Farnsworth among them.
More new developments are planned. For example, through funding from the DeNardo Education and Research Foundation and the College of Arts and Sciences, we will be (co-)teaching special interdisciplinary sections of GIS and Capstone next year which will be focused on the intersections of Public Health Science and Environmental Studies and Sciences. In addition, six health mapping student scholars will be working with faculty in ESS and Public Health Science on projects focused on sustainable urban planning, health, and environmental justice.
I am very excited to let you know that Leslie Gray will be taking over the helm at the end of June. Leslie has been the chair of the Environmental Studies Institute before ESS became a department, and is an extremely accomplished researcher, teacher, and leader. Please help me in welcoming Leslie to her new role as Department Chair of Environmental Studies and Sciences as it is entering its next phase!
Very soon, the students will be tumbling out of their dorms and house shares. Many are planning internships or study abroad experiences. Four of our students will study food and water security in Nicaragua. For the professors, summer means time for field research, writing, and class overhaul or summer teaching. Whatever summer holds in store for you, I hope it will be productive and will contribute to making our world more just, humane, and sustainable.
With kind regards,
Environmental Studies and Sciences