Brown to Establish Cross-disciplinary Environmental Institute

BROWN UNIVERSITY is launching a new institute to expand it cross-disciplinary approach to studying the environment. The new Institute for the Study of Environment and Society will house the long-standing Center for Environmental Studies and will add up to 11 faculty members to the university’s efforts to grow this area of academic inquiry.

By Patricia Daddona

PBN Staff Writer

Brown opts not to divest from coal, approves new strategic plan (Oct. 28, 2013)

PROVIDENCE – Brown University will launch a new Institute for the Study of Environment and Society, adding over the next several years up to 11 faculty who would serve as fellows, school officials said late Monday.

To be housed this fall in the Building for Environmental Research and Teaching – which is a $35 million renovation of the Hunter Laboratory at 85 Waterman St. – the institute will become home to the longstanding Center for Environmental Studies, which has been Brown’s hub of undergraduate teaching on the environment for more than 35 years, the university said.

The scope of research conducted through Brown’s Environmental Change Initiative, which has supported cross-disciplinary research in environmental studies since 1995, also will be expanded under the direction of Amanda Lynch, professor of geological sciences, who has been named the institute’s director.

The formation of the institute was part of Brown President Christina H. Paxson’s strategic plan, “Building on Distinction,” and will build on the university’s strengths across disciplines, she said.

“We face enormous environmental challenges, solutions to which demand a multifaceted approach,” said Paxson. “To make progress, we need new research in environmental science, as well as a better understanding of the economic, political and social factors that influence the adoption of best environmental practices.”

Four key questions will help shape exploration across four categories: natural systems; food and water; health and wellbeing; and equity and governance.

The questions concern understanding Earth’s natural systems in the face of rapid and pervasive global change; how to optimize food production and water distribution fairly and efficiently; how to support human wellbeing in the face of environmental and social vulnerability; and which governance and economic structures facilitate just and fair solutions to support vulnerable populations.

“These questions span scales from molecular to global and cross disciplines from climatology to political science to epidemiology,” said Lynch. “The goal of [the institute] is to draw on scholarship from across Brown’s campus to address these questions in a holistic way and to educate future leaders to address these critical challenges.”

The Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation approved the institute at its meeting Friday.