PRESIDENT'S TASK FORCE ON
DRAFT STATUS REPORT (April, 1996)
What Our Charge Was:
The first meeting of the President's Task Force on Environmental
Education (TFEE) took place on November 28, 1995. University
President McCormick charged the Task Force with answering the
- How can the UW best organize efforts to serve students and
faculty who wish to study and learn about the environment?
- How can the UW best organize and combine opportunities for
undergraduate education in environmental studies in a flexible
and interdisciplinary way?
- Are we offering appropriate training the graduate level? Are
there gaps which exist between departmental based programs, and
if so, how can they best be filled?
- How can we eliminate barriers to effective interdiciplinary
research and teaching and instead promote such relationships?
What combination of structures and policies would be optimal?
- How can the UW best produce an integrated effort in response
to national need, problems of the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific
rim and the planet on environmental issues?
In giving the Task Force its mission, he encouraged the TFEE to
think boldly and proceed creatively.
An Organizing Concept::
One of the first items with which the TFEE struggled was the definition
of Environmental Studies, and the development of a model which
represents the inclusiveness of this concept, as well as its complexity.
The TFEE early on reached consensus that Environmental Studies
consists of the interaction between humans and their natural environment.
The disciplinary perspectives bearing upon environmental studies
include the natural and life sciences, engineering, environmental
management studies, the social sciences, law and, art and the
humanities. This definition should be construed broadly and is
intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
The conceptual framework adopted by the Task Force was first proposed
by Professor John M. Wallace and has come to be affectionately
known to the TFEE as the "Wallace Wheel" (Figure 1).
What We Heard:
Since November, the Task Force has met weekly with the exception
of the Christmas vacation period. Several of the meetings have
been held to conduct internal discussions, while the remainder
were devoted to listening to, and questioning representatives
of, University units that have been or are presently involved
with interdisciplinary efforts throughout the University. In
addition the TFEE has received input from concerned groups off
campus and from representatives from environmental studies programs
at other academic institutions. (A list of the programs and people
with whom the TFEE met is appended to this report.)
Figure 1. A Conceptual Model for Viewing Environmental Education
at the University of Washington.
Based on the input from these individuals and groups, it is obvious
that there is a great deal of interest, engagement and commitment
to environmental education at all levels of the campus. There
are any number of examples of collaboration and educational activities
in this area. Many cross traditional academic boundaries in new
and creative ways. All of the presentations urged continuing
support and recognition of current efforts, as well as increased
efforts to foster new initiatives. Students who have provided
information to the Task Force have voiced a critical interest
in environmental education - some want to focus on it as majors
or as graduate students; others want to incorporate environmental
education as a significant part of their curriculum. All felt
environmental literacy is important in higher education.
The following points are a summary of the common elements and
concerns raised and advice given to the Task Force by various
- To avoid being marginalized when the competition for budgets
and political/jurisdictional disputes take place, the President
and the Provost of the University must declare an institutional
commitment to the environmental education program and that teaching
and research in environmental studies are central to the University's
mission. Because the integrity and health of interdisciplinary
cooperation necessary to the program depend on mutual respect,
the President and the Provost must solicit an assumption of responsibility
by the leadership of existing academic units to implement the
environmental education program. The key challenge is to achieve
cooperation and coordination among existing academic units without
being divisive and threatening to ongoing activities.
- Strong leadership and significant resources are required to
support and promote the interdisciplinary teaching and experience
envisioned for the environmental education program. Sufficient
infrastructure support must be provided for participating faculty
in regard to teaching assistants, research assistants, curriculum
development, classrooms, computer equipment, office space and
equipment, secretarial services, etc.
- Structural and behavioral impediments exist at the University
that inhibit the free flow of faculty and ideas across academic
boundaries and discourage interactive multi-disciplinary efforts.
Specific teaching and research are sanctioned by departments
that are the homes for disciplines represented through research,
academic journals and professional associations. According to
existing academic administrative systems, effort like the highly
interactive multi-disciplinary work considered for environmental
education, is outside these activities and only marginally supported.
These problems are sufficiently widespread to warrant a University
commitment to remove the obstacles and facilitate the relationships
contemplated for environmental education.
- The conduct of interdisciplinary teaching and research at the
University varies substantially in degree and support. A number
of centers and institutes constitute the administrative structures
for interdisciplinary activities. They function at a variety
of levels of administration and must compete for resources available
to traditional academic units. Interdisciplinary teaching and
research thrive in some academic units; albeit in others such
activities are repressed. A number of centers or institutes are
products of earlier multi-disciplinary efforts and have faculties
drawn from many traditional disciplines. Some, such as Health
Sciences, are interdisciplinary in nature; thus, faculty within
Health Sciences collaborate well in interdisciplinary activities.
However, the challenge still remains for such collaboration to
take place external to Health Sciences or similar interdisciplinary
subfields, as will be necessary for the environmental education
- Common problems reported by members of centers or institutes
were the lack of space, resources and/or recognition by home units
for participation in center or institute activities; as well as
a failure to recognize the value of interdisciplinary teaching
activities and adjust departmental responsibilities accordingly.
- A substantial amount of interdisciplinary teaching and research
is already focused on environmental issues in numerous departments,
but these efforts are often uncoordinated, episodic, and relatively
invisible. While a number of programs presently draw faculty
into campus-wide efforts and multi-disciplinary efforts in the
area of environmental science and policy, true multi-disciplinary
team instruction and continuous high faculty interaction is missing.
Much could be accomplished in environmental education by building
on these existing strengths through linking programs, augmenting
efforts that meet campus-wide goals, and publicizing successful
programs. There appears to be strong support for environmental
education from just about every academic or disciplinary corner
of the campus. There is great interest and potential among the
University faculty for the collaborative coursework necessary
to an multi-disciplinary environmental education program.
- The emphasis placed on the major elements of the University's
mission, that is teaching, research and service, varies substantially
form one academic unit to another. Careful attention must be
given to this emphasis, particularly as it affects team teaching
and interactive integrated activities within the environmental
- The University has an obligation to provide students with accurate
and explicit information about career opportunities, so that they
are able to make well-informed educational choices. The environmental
education program should allow students to obtain sufficient academic
depth and breadth to be well-positioned to obtain employment in
the environmental field, to the extent that such employment opportunities
The Issues That Emerged:
In listening to the various interests which have thus far provided
input to the Task Force, a series of issues has emerged which
the members are currently discussing and on which they need to
achieve resolution. These include the following.
- The University is a collection of many different cultures that
vary greatly, and the recognition of this diversity is critical
to encouraging, promoting, developing, and organizing an interdisciplinary
environmental education program. How can this best be accomplished?
- How can the University provide quality undergraduate and graduate
environmental education in a flexible, interdisciplinary way with
consideration given to opportunity costs?
- With regard to undergraduate education, is it better to design
a program based on a dual major/degree -- a discipline-based degree
from a traditional academic unit and an environmental education
degree, a disciplined major with a minor in Environmental Studies,
or a free-standing major in Environmental Studies?
- Again with regard to undergraduate education, how should an
environmental education program provide for the education of individuals
wishing to emphasize the physical-science, social-science or humanities
aspects of environmental studies? What are the key skills and
concepts that all of these students should experience in an environmental
- Is it possible for the University reach agreement among the
leadership of existing academic units as to the value of the interdisciplinary
teaching and research envisioned for the environmental education
program? If so, how can this be accomplished so as to develop
a sense of a shared responsibility for the program?
- What kind of administrative and governing structure(s) is(are)
appropriate and/or necessary for a flexible environmental education
program with responsibility for undergraduate and graduate education?
- How can the University avoid the perception that the environmental
education program is a threat to existing academic units considering
the disciplinary culture, bureaucratic turf behaviors of units,
and intense University-wide competition for limited resources,
both physical and intellectual?
- What can the University do to facilitate approaches and incentives
for participation in the interdisciplinary teaching and research
of the environmental education program?
- How can coordinated advice among existing environmental education
efforts be provided without being divisive, and how can the University
link the substantial strengths that currently exist in environmental
education in numerous academic units with the environmental education
- What needs to be done, if anything, with regard to the design
of a graduate program (Masters and Ph.D.) that embodies the teaching
and research objectives of the environmental education program?
- Many UW undergraduate students enter the University without
a clear idea of their academic major, or enter as transfer students,
in their junior year. How do we design an environmental education
program with sufficient flexibility to permit these students to
participate? What bridges and linkages need to be made with Washington
community colleges that will help both them and the UW better
meet the needs our transfer students with regard to environmental
The Themes for a Proposal:
The overall goal is to benefit the maximum number of students
and faculty interested in an environmental education that has
highly interactive and integrated physical science, social science,
and humanities dimensions as represented by the Wallace Wheel.
An integrated curriculum and community of faculty teams spanning
a number of subfields and academic units are under consideration
- building on the strength and breadth of existing University
skills and activities.
Further discussion of these issues saw following general themes
emerge. These may not be the only themes which need to be addressed,
nor has the Task Force necessarily reached a consensus on any
of these. Obviously more work needs to be done, within a very
short time, before a proposal can be presented to the President
with specific recommendations for the organization and conduct
of environmental education at the University of Washington.
- The environmental education program will be a community of
faculty and students (at both undergraduate and graduate levels)
with interests in environmental issues that transcend the confines
of the existing college/department structure and hence require
innovative approaches to education and research. The environmental
education program will seek to expose students to both the human
and the scientific dimensions of environmental issues. By linking
environmental change with human activities, impacts, and perceptions,
the environmental education curriculum will provide a broad contextual
framework for the many existing departmental offerings and degree
programs that touch upon various aspects of environmental issues.
- The environmental education program will cooperate with and
supplement, rather than compete with existing departmental and
interdisciplinary degree programs:
a) it will monitor departmental and former IES course offerings
that it considers to be vital to the health of the campus-wide
environmental studies curriculum (hereafter referred to as 'core
courses'), and fund additional faculty time and TA's, as needed,
to ensure that they are accessible to the students who wish to
enroll in them.
b) it will foster coordination between 'core course' offerings
in different academic units, with regard to course content, prerequisites,
c) it will foster the development of 'core courses' designed to
fill major gaps in the existing environmental studies curriculum,
and to provide synthesis of disciplinary knowledge and 'hands
on' experience (e.g., seminar courses focusing on specific environmental
issues, group projects requiring collaboration between natural
and social science majors, internships)
d) it will strive to increase the flexibility of departmental
curricula to accommodate the diverse needs of students desiring
training for environmentally related professions
e) it will foster and, should it prove necessary, materially facilitate
the establishment of new interdisciplinary degree programs in
environmental sciences, engineering, management or policy in response
to needs of students that cannot be met by existing programs.
If the environmental education program is to serve in this capacity,
it must have the ability to influence the allocation of resources
within the University. (NOT YET ADDRESSED)
- The environmental education program should address both undergraduate
and graduate environmental education on this campus - although
not necessarily in the same administrative unit.
a. Undergraduate environmental education options (involving both
BS and BA degrees) should be flexible enough to accommodate each
of the following pathways:
- an environmental studies major.
- an environmental studies major with departmental emphasis or
- departmental majors with an environmental studies emphasis or
- double degrees combining environmental studies with departmental
Initially, undergraduate degrees in the environmental education
program may have to be offered solely through existing undergraduate
degrees in colleges and schools at the University, since it is
unlikely that an appropriate organizational unit with degree granting
authority can be established quickly. (This could be administered
in a manner similar to the current CEP and/or Honors programs.)
However, the environmental education program will seek degree
granting authority at the earliest opportune moment.
Important elements in the environmental education undergraduate
curriculum should include team taught introductory core courses,
followed by capstone experiences in the senior year.
Controlling time-to-degree is essential. The number of years required
to receive a Bachelor's degree will not exceed four years. Student's
progress will be the responsibility of the environmental education
The environmental education program should also ensure that the
opportunity exists for all UW students to achieve "environmental
b. At the graduate level several routes will be built so that
differing student interests can be pursued. Building on existing
research strengths at the University, consideration will be given
to collaboration across existing academic units in investigations.
Student programs will be designed individually in consultation
with faculty committees from participating units. Graduate degree
options might include:
M.S. programs (NOT YET ADDRESSED)
an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree program designed to remedy
the deficiencies in Graduate School Memorandum 25 (NOT YET ADDRESSED)
- If the environmental education program is to succeed, the Administration
must create a system of incentives that ensures that departmental
faculty can participate freely without jeopardizing their own
career prospects or the health of their departments. The operating
budget of the environmental education program should be sufficient
to provide incentives for departments to support the use
of faculty time for curriculum development and teaching related
to the environmental education program core courses.
- The environmental education program may foster the hiring of
a limited number of faculty in interdisciplinary areas considered
vital to the understanding of environmental issues, but not necessarily
of high priority in terms of individual departmental recruitment.
It is envisioned that most of the faculty recruited in this manner
will have departmental affiliations, with the department serving
as lead academic unit. In view of (4), it is essential that such
positions not be perceived as counting against the department's
entitlement, either at the time of the recruitment or in the future.
In recruitment for which such an arrangement is not considered
feasible, the environmental education program would serve as
lead academic unit, subject to the restrictions outlined in (7).
- The environmental education program requires the leadership
and support of the President and the Provost of the University
to send the message that the University as whole is committed
to the program. As a matter of policy they need to accomplish
a. Affirm that the interdisciplinary teaching and research associated
with the environmental education program are considered legitimate
aspects of the University's academic agenda and should be treated
as such in faculty promotion and reward decisions;
b. in concert with the faculty, establish the administrative infrastructure
necessary to support and foster the environmental education program;
c. allocate sufficient resources to the environmental education
program to support its innovative interdisciplinary teaching and
research on a continuing basis: and,
d. encourage the academic leadership to provide a nurturing context
for the environmental education program and evaluate them on their
effectiveness in supporting and promoting the program.
The organization unit(s) must be highly visible, with leadership
capable of effectively representing environmental education issue
and concerns on this campus, and facilitating cooperation and
coordination of activities and program among the various schools,
colleges, departments and programs of the University).
- Safeguards will be needed to ensure that the environmental
education program does not evolve into a department-like entity.
The program leadership will need to establish and maintain a
collegial relationship with deans, directors and department chairs
throughout the campus. The number of academic faculty appointments
for which it serves as lead academic unit should be limited to
a small fraction of participating faculty , and these individuals
should not be allowed to have majority representation on the governing
- The environmental education program advising will encompass
the full spectrum of environmental course offerings at UW. It
will be conducted by professional staff. It will be tailored
to meet the needs of students in the environmental education degree
programs, as well as students in interdisciplinary, environmentally
related programs that are too small to have advising offices of
their own. It will also be available to the broader student community.
- The environmental education program will strive to make the
broad range of environmental expertise on this campus more visible
and accessible, not only to students, but to private citizens,
businesses and public agencies of this state.
- Since most of the teaching and research in environmental studies
will continue to be carried out within existing departmental units,
the space requirements for the environmental education program
will be modest. However, it is essential that it have centrally
located space sufficient to house its administrative and support
staff, an advising office, academic faculty devoting significant
effort to the environmental education program activities during
any particular quarter. Space should be adequate to provide a
'home base' for students who regard the environmental education
program as their primary academic unit.
Questions Ahead of Us:
Much work remains for the Task Force. The members have not heard
from everyone who might want to provide comments or recommendations.
Nor have they necessarily identified all of the central questions.
However, in order to move forward, and in order to comply with
their mandate to provide the President with their recommendations
by the end of Spring Quarter, the TFEE has identified the two
following broad areas which must be addressed during the next
a. What should be the general approach and the level of detail
which needs to be specified with regard to the administrative
structure(s) of the environmental education program?
b. How much physical space is required (classrooms, student activities
center, equipment, offices, etc.) and what criteria should be
used to identify and allocate this space?
c. What should be the program budget for physical and human resources?
d. What should be the roles and relationships with existing academic
units in respect to participating faculty, shared responsibilities
for program content and implementation?
e. How should essential environmental education advising and career
counseling of students be accomplished
a. What should be the general shape of the undergraduate degree
options with regard to Environmental education?
b. What should be the nature and content of the core undergraduate
interdisciplinary courses; as well as the course work, internships,
and projects for the final year of the program; options for the
second and third years of study, and, what is the proper level
of detail for the TFEE to try to impose on these matters?
c. What further definition of the graduate component of the program
(courses and research) is needed?
d. What is the need for general environmental courses that serve
the needs of non-majors?
An additional area which will need much discussion involves implementation.
That is, how should the UW move forward with the environmental
education program after the work of the Task Force is completed?
What Comes Next, or How Can I have my Say?
The Task Force invites any one concerned with the issue of environmental
education to comment on the work of the Task Force, and to provide
the Task Force members with constructive criticism or suggestions
regarding any of the above themes, problems, issues or other concerns.
Comments should be addressed to:
The President's Task Force
on Environmental Education
c/o Edward Miles, Chair
301 Gerberding Hall
Seattle, WA 98195-1237
FAX: (206) 685-3218
Who We Listened To: