In my roles as CEE Department Chair, and as a co-chair on the team that developed a long-range vision and plan for Sustainability at Stanford, I am writing to offer a first-hand update on the current status of the Sustainability long range plan (LRP). There are a number of rumors circulating, many of which are not accurate.
1) There is enthusiasm from the President and Provost's offices, as well as from the Stanford Board of Trustees, for seeing Stanford commit to a much grander, university-wide effort in sustainability, including interdisciplinary research, community outreach/engagement/service, and teaching (as was proposed in the Sustainability LRP).
Some of you might worry that "sustainability" will focus solely on nature, or will offer minimal room for some of the types of sustainability research done within CEE. Please be reassured that sustainability is envisioned in the broadest way, and includes a substantial emphasis on the critical need for engineering advances in order to move towards more sustainable and resilient urban design and infrastructure.
2) The structure being envisioned for this ambitious effort involves a new School which would focus on sustainability. The new school is thought of as a unifying structure which could potentially bring together most (if not all) of the faculty currently in School of Earth, in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, and in the ecology and evolution group within the Biology Department, creating a truly impactful new School focusing on sustainability. It is quite possible that other faculty would want to be part of this new school as well.
3) Functionally, this school would represent a complete reinvention and sizable expansion of the current School of Earth. I've seen this described in different ways, to different audiences, and perhaps some of you have as well. But the phrase "new school" seems most appropriate to me, because this reinvented school would include the development of a new vision and a new mission, and an opt-in process offered to each department and each faculty member.
--> So it is not accurate that CEE is merely being invited to "join" an existing school -- that language is an oversimplified (and thus easily misinterpreted) description of what is being explored.
4) It has not yet been decided whether the CEE Department will become part of this new school. It is the CEE faculty who will decide, period; this will not become a top-down decision.
The CEE faculty's decision is months away, as much work needs to be done first regarding pivotal details, important issues, and getting answers to many, many questions (as well as having CEE faculty engage in the development of a new vision and new mission for this new school). The CEE faculty may end up viewing this potential change as an exciting opportunity for our department's future, or as something we do not wish to be part of.
5) There would NOT be any changes in the locations of our department offices, labs, or centers, should the CEE faculty end up choosing to have CEE become part of this new school. Nor would there be any changes to the requirements for our degree programs, or to the names of the degrees granted to Stanford CEE students (e.g., M.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering).
6) Finally, it will be absolutely essential for CEE to retain its engineering identity, its department name, and its ABET-accredited B.S., in order for the CEE faculty to be willing to even consider the possibility of becoming part of this new school.
FYI, there are already examples of engineering departments outside of schools of engineering which offer ABET accredited degrees (e.g., the Chemical Engineering Department at U.C. Berkeley). And Stanford’s Energy Resources Engineering Department is currently already housed in the School of Earth, so CEE would not be facing a situation where we would be the only engineering department in this new school.