The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: School of Earth and Environmental Science

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Connor Mendenhall on 19 October 2008

Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart! With their powers combined, several science departments want to “focus the UA’s already-formidable strengths” in environmental research by creating “a campus-wide school devoted to earth and environmental science.”

The paper, written by representatives from Atmospheric Sciences, Geosciences, Tree-Ring Research and the Mass Spectrometer lab, suggests teaming up their departments with Hydrology and Geography to form the “core” of a new school focused on “climate, water, energy, sustainability and environmental sciences.”

Surrounding the core, the paper suggests creating the mantle “a campus-wide Earth and Environment Consortium” to coordinate other departments that focus on “natural, managed and engineered environments.”

The biggest benefit of the new school? Cashing in on the coming ecopocalypse: The paper proposes that the school “would immediately raise the national and international profile of the UA,” “would put us in a far better position to compete for funding for the coming major initiatives in climate research,” and “could be a unique opportunity for UA to make a ‘splash'” (by constructing a new building to house the school). Beyond attracting attention and money, the authors note that a centralized department simplifies interdisciplinary research and makes it easier to hire professors with dual specialties. 

On fiscal benefits, the plan is rather vague. According to the paper, “it is impossible to assign dollar values at this preliminary stage,” but the authors foresee savings from “running joint colloquium series,” “pool[ing] faculty teaching responsibilities,” and sharing “teaching support resources” (read: scantrons and copy machines). They also hope to attract more funding from private donors and, um, “the Legislature.” Finally, they make it clear that there’s one saving strategy that’s right out: “staff layoffs are neither possible nor contemplated.”

The paper does not propose a name for the new school, mentioning that it is still “to be determined.” My humble suggestion: “College of Planeteering.”

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