Craig Kapitan, News Service (650) 724-5708;
Faculty Senate approves new environmental degree program
Stanford's new Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (IPER) will begin admitting graduate students next September, thanks to approval last week by the Faculty Senate.
The program, which will be sponsored by the School of Earth Sciences and headed by geological and environmental sciences Professor Robert Dunbar, is part of the Environmental Initiative an effort launched earlier this month to bring the broad resources of the faculty to bear on the environment and raise the university's visibility as a world leader in environmental research and education.
"We know that there's a demand for this, that there are potential students out there who are looking for this kind of program," said Pamela Matson, director of the Earth Systems Program, who helped present the proposal for the new program. "And we also think that there are lots of opportunities for [students] when they leave here to help address the much more complex environmental issues that we're facing now."
Designed as a doctoral program, IPER also will offer a joint master's degree to students already enrolled in the law, business and medical schools.
No more than five students are expected to be added to the program each year, with enrollment eventually topping off at 25 or 30 students. Already, nearly two dozen students have gotten wind of the program and inquired about it, Matson estimated.
"We think that we will have a good set of applicants this year," she said. "But at the same time, we're not going to take anything but the best applicants. So if we end up admitting two new students and somebody who's already here on campus, I think we'd all be very satisfied with that for next year."
So far, more than 40 faculty members have volunteered to participate in IPER and more than 70 existing courses have been singled out as candidates for the curriculum. Those courses include "World Food Economy," "Toxic Harms," "Conservation Biology," "Groundwater Pollution and Oil Spills" and "Energy-Efficient Building Design."
Although IPER was given an enthusiastic reception by most senators, program promoters were asked whether admitting more students would be a good idea, given the restrictions on growth mandated by the 10-year General Use Permit with Santa Clara County.
"The real limitation here is faculty time and involvement," Matson responded. "I know that I'm not just going to add more students on top of what I already do. What will happen in my case is that I will take probably one less student in my department and one more student here. So it'll be a wash."
Once instituted, IPER will compete with similarly motivated programs at the University of California, University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, Harvard, Columbia and Duke.
For some senators, the competition couldn't come soon enough.
"We've lost some of the best students, I think, simply because there was no community and there was no real compelling way to make it work for these students at Stanford," said Jeffrey Koseff, civil and environmental engineering. "[IPER] really adds something unique to the Stanford offering in the environment. And it's something that I think is critically necessary."
By Craig Kapitan