Mellon Foundation Supports Wesleyan’s College of the Environment

Wesleyan’s College of the Environment seeks to develop informed citizens who can discuss environmental issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

An $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support Wesleyan’s College of the Environment (COE) for the next four years.

Wesleyan’s faculty and administration approved the COE in 2009 to graduate students who have engaged with critical environmental issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives; who are sensitive to how those issues are connected to social and political concerns; who can interpret scientific information correctly; and who can communicate conclusions effectively and honestly.

The Mellon Foundation grant will support funding for post-doctoral teaching fellows, visiting COE fellows, new faculty modules, undergraduate research and a new Collaborative Research Initiative internship.

“The COE’s innovative combination of advanced research and undergraduate learning promises to be a model for how liberal arts education can make meaningful contributions to the pressing environmental challenges facing this country and the world,” says Barry Chernoff, chair of the Environmental Studies Program, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, director of the College of the Environment and professor of biology.

COE undergraduates will gather with Mellon-supported faculty fellows and post-doctoral fellows in a COE think tank to explore a particular environmental issue of critical importance. The inaugural think tank, approved for the 2010-2011 academic year, includes Gary Yohe, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, professor of environmental studies; Gina Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; and Dana Royer, assistant professor of environmental studies, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Together they have selected the theme: “Vulnerability of social, economic and natural systems to multiple sources of external stress.”

“The aims of the think tank are to generate a deeper understanding of the issue from a variety of perspectives and produce scholarly works that will influence national/international thinking and action,” Chernoff explains.

The grant also will support a new Collaborative Research Initiative internship that will place students in research positions with governmental agencies, non-governmental or academic organizations around the world. This program will provide promising students with life-changing experiences and give them career-building contacts useful as they deal with environmental issues long into the future.

The Mellon Foundation grant will support Wesleyan faculty to develop modules from their research expertise for the Collaborative Research Initiative. The use of modules will help to develop a curriculum with tools relevant to a spectrum of environmental studies disciplines. The modules will be developed into web-based tools by the post-doctoral fellows. These faculty will help to mentor students in the sophomore/junior colloquium, guiding them in the completion of their semester-long research projects.

More information on the COE is online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/coe/about.html.