School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) to launch July 1, 2017

Because the world’s wicked problems need the leaders and best

Forward-thinking. Ever-evolving. Forging new paths. This is the DNA of the University of Michigan and SNRE. And now more than ever, the world’s increasingly dynamic and complex sustainability challenges are calling upon these traits.

To that end, the University of Michigan is making significant, highly innovative changes to its environmental education and research programs. Building on more than a century of leadership in environmental science, management, policy, and design, it is opening a new school as of July 1, 2017, which will be called the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). Students who apply to the programs currently offered by the School of Natural Resource and Environment will be part of the inaugural class of the new school, where they will be able to help shape its destiny.

The new structure and name reflect the need for cutting-edge environment and sustainability programs in this era of unprecedented global transformation. Complex challenges have resulted from the interdependence of society and the environment: the climate crisis, the loss of keystone species, the degradation of lakes and streams, the need to feed a growing global population, and all too many more.

Led by SEAS, the Graham Institute, the Program in the Environment, and the Erb Institute, the university’s new approach will empower students and society to tackle vexing issues at the nexus of environment and society. It will invite large-scale participation and rally diverse teams. It will leverage and focus strengths spread across all 19 schools and colleges of the university. Its aim is to create a sustainable world through the power of collaboration.

SNRE has been a pioneering force in interdisciplinary studies for over 50 years, dismantling traditional academic silos, stimulating powerful partnerships, and sparking innovative, actionable ideas. As a result, SNRE students and scholars have produced a range of solutions that no single discipline could. Acting now to formalize avenues for collaboration across disciplinary and institutional boundaries will ensure that the progress already made becomes a permanent foundation for a new model of sustainability education and research.

With plans for the school’s transformation still in the early phases, three things are certain:

  • Natural science, social science, engineering, and design will remain central to its work
  • Collaboration and interdisciplinarity will become even stronger, encompassing the full strength of the university
  • Its engagement with real problems – already global in extent – will expand and deepen

The search for a permanent dean is underway and will be completed by next summer. It is likely that the size of the faculty will grow over the next few years, and it is possible that a new graduate degree program will be added. It will be exciting to watch the possibilities and contributions of the School for Environment and Sustainability unfold.

For the most updated information about changes to the school, visit the Key Issues site maintained by U-M’s Office of Public Affairs.