Colorado State University Announces New School of Global Environmental Sustainability

Colorado State University on Tuesday unveiled plans for the state’s first School of Global Environmental Sustainability to streamline the university’s internationally recognized environmental research and to prepare students for the growing "green" workforce.

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability is an umbrella organization that encompasses all environmental education and research at the university.

World-leading environmental researcher Diana Wall will serve as founding director of the school. Over the next year, Wall will form advisory committees to help create curriculum and programs for the school, which could start offering new courses as early as 2010.

"As a national leader in addressing the global challenges related to sustainability, Colorado State University is taking the next logical step: Using a campus-wide approach to help solve these challenges through environmental research and educational opportunities," said Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State University. "Under Dr. Wall’s leadership, the school will ensure that students leave CSU with the creative, critical-thinking skills needed to solve the globe’s greatest environmental problems and successfully contribute to the emerging green workforce."

Penley announced the school Tuesday at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce along with business leaders from the Denver Metro Economic Development Corp. and other economic development officials and researchers.

The school will act as a clearinghouse for the hundreds of university faculty in all eight colleges already studying the environment in areas such as atmospheric science, environmental politics, wind engineering, agricultural economics, green building, wildlife biology, ecotourism, forestry, ecology, sustainable entrepreneurship and public policy. Students will have the opportunity to complement their majors with environmental courses, which will help prepare them to solve increasingly complex global environmental challenges.

Demand is building for such well-rounded workers: Studies suggest the renewable energy job market nationwide could create 40 million new jobs by the year 2030. At the state level, Gov. Bill Ritter’s Colorado Climate Action Plan calls for integrating sustainability material into classes beginning at the K-12 level so students have the academic and technical skills needed by employers.

Wall will create advisory committees that include faculty and leaders from such areas as business, environmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations to develop courses that help meet the needs of the New Energy Economy.

"CSU is currently producing some of the most groundbreaking environmental and energy research in the world," Gov. Ritter said. "And as a partner in the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, CSU is a crucial part of our New Energy Economy. This new School of Global Environmental Sustainability comes at a perfect time and will ensure that Colorado is able to provide New Energy Economy companies with the best green-collar workforce on the globe."

"As a proud Colorado State alumni, I have seen first-hand the world-class education our institution offers at the undergraduate and graduate studies level," said U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard. "I am confident the creation of the new School of Global Environmental Sustainability will maintain our proud tradition of excellence and prepare students to help the world meet the global environmental challenges. I offer my congratulations to the CSU community and I look forward to the many accomplishments I know will result in this new effort."

"This new school builds on CSU’s long history as a world leader in education and research on issues that affect our land, water, and energy supplies," said U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.  "The university’s new programs will help train the next generation of researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and big thinkers who will help propel the clean energy revolution that is already underway. The school will help us find answers to some of the most pressing questions facing our society and our world, from how we preserve a sustainable water supply in the West to how we become better stewards of our shared resources. I look forward to another great chapter in CSU’s proud tradition."

In 2007, Penley and Tony Frank, provost and senior executive vice president, recognized the workforce demand and appointed a task force to examine CSU’s leadership in environmental sustainability. Frank agreed with the task force recommendation to create a school and appointed Wall as founding director.

"The environment is not an issue restricted to a particular discipline – it’s a global issue," said Frank, who served on the blue-ribbon Climate Action Panel, a statewide committee charged with recommending ways to reduce Colorado’s contribution and vulnerability to climate change. "Industry leaders – from the oil and gas industry to conservation organizations – have told us they need workers with backgrounds in broad disciplines. That’s a place where this school can make a difference. We want to train students to think beyond their discipline."

At Colorado State, environmental classes and research concern every college – from Liberal Arts to Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Examples include changes in climate and land use; public policy; biodiversity loss; human, plant and animal disease; crops and global food economies; and water conservation.

As founding director, Wall, a professor in the Department of Biology and senior research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, will look at closing curriculum gaps so that every department on campus offers some type of environmental course or experience for students.

Wall’s research explores how soil biodiversity contributes to healthy, productive soils. She has completed 18 research seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how soil food webs and ecosystem processes respond to global change.

"Environmental problems are expansive and require expertise in all disciplines to ensure that sustainable solutions are developed and implemented," Wall said. "CSU faculty members are leading scholars in environmental research and will provide the education needed for our students to be environmental leaders around the world."

The school will include some of the same faculty members who participate in the Clean Energy Supercluster. But while the Supercluster aims to more quickly commercialize new technology, the school will focus on research and education and broadening the student experience with global environmental science.