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APRIL 2007

EFFORTS SHOW CAROLINA'S COMMITMENT TO ENVIRONMENT

With the creation of the UNC Institute for the Environment, launched last month, Carolina has taken environmental studies and research to a new level.

This new institute joins our individual departments and centers together in interdisciplinary research, education and public service, and creates new areas of study in response to some of our most pressing environmental challenges.

The Institute for the Environment will lead the university's world-renowned environmental community in developing solutions to critical challenges such as sustainable community design, natural resource allocation and global warming. In doing so, it educates future environmental leaders and engages with the people of North Carolina and the nation to address and solve these important issues.

Formed through the expansion of our existing Carolina Environmental Program, the institute was funded by a multiyear, $8 million commitment from UNC, as well as by $3 million in gifts from private donors.

A guiding principle for the institute is the conviction that a public university should serve society. "We intend for this institute to become the major resource to which the state will turn as it tries to solve problems associated with community design, energy and environment, health and environmental policy," said Douglas Crawford-Brown, head of the new institute.

Our undergraduate and graduate students participate in interdisciplinary, team-based Capstone Research Projects that are defined by environmental clients throughout the state, nation and world. One such project is the Virtual North Carolina program, which provides a statewide database and decision support tool for conservation and planning.

Through state field sites, institute members are working with communities to examine environmental issues of local concern. Each domestic site is guided by a community advisory board to ensure our students and faculty are focused on the most significant environmental challenges facing those communities.

The institute also provides technical assistance to community groups, offers K-12 teacher professional development and conducts policy research for nonprofit organizations and government agencies and sponsors undergraduate environmental internships.

Another key part of the institute's job -- in classrooms, in laboratories and through public service -- is to educate our students and prepare them for a marketplace driven by advances in knowledge and technology.

To help students decide on an environmental major or minor, the institute acts as a one-stop shop, guiding students toward the degree program on campus best suited to their interests.

Regardless of the choice of environmental major or minor, these students become part of a vibrant community of faculty and students spread across the campus and united by a common interest.

Undergraduate environmental majors including environmental science, environmental studies and environmental health science are administered through the institute in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public Health.

Other undergraduate majors in disciplines that provide core perspectives on the environmental field include environmental geology, earth systems, geography, public policy and international and area studies. Graduate degrees are focused on any of a number of areas of environmental study.

The institute will also continue the Carbon Reduction Program (CRed), which led UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill to adopt ambitious targets for reducing emissions of gases, such as carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming.

I would like to thank everyone who joined us on campus to celebrate the institute's opening. We were honored to host Rep. Lucy Allen of Louisburg, who gave the keynote speech.

Finally, I must also commend the School of Nursing and our Sustainability Office for recently achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The school's Carrington Hall addition was the first UNC project to register for LEED certification.

The Institute for the Environment and the Carrington Hall LEED certification support Carolina's strong commitment to addressing the serious environmental challenges that affect us today.

Every one of us is partially responsible for these challenges -- and every one of us must play a role in solving them.

 

 

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at jmoeser@unc.edu





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