Campus News

Initiative on environmental issues begins to take shape

The Academy of the Environment, a new faculty initiative that brings together scientists and scholars from across campus to collaborate on interdisciplinary instruction, research and outreach on environmental issues, is beginning to take shape.

The academy is a mechanism for fostering partnerships and cooperative efforts among faculty in many disciplines who have at least one thing in common-expertise and skills related to environmental studies, says Mary Alice Smith, a leader of the effort to establish the academy.

“Many faculty members on campus do environmental research or teach about the environment, but they don’t know each other and don’t have a chance to collaborate,” says Smith, associate professor of environmental health science in the College of Public Health.

“The academy provides a mechanism for them to work together to develop education and training programs and provide information and resources to find solutions to the complex environmental issues facing society.”

Smith and Ian Hardin, Georgia Power Professor of textile science in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, are co-interim directors of the academy. They lead an executive committee that includes Mary Anne Akers, School of Environmental Design; Merryl Alber, School of Marine Programs; Peter Appel, School of Law; Ron Carroll, Institute of Ecology; David Newman, Warnell School of Forest Resources; Amy Rosemond, Institute of Ecology; Robert Shulstad, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and William Whitman, microbiology.

An academy Web site ( has been launched, and faculty are being recruited to join the academy. Pending official approval by University Council, the academy should be fully operational by next spring. The goal is to have a full-time director hired for next year.

Smith and Hardin describe the academy as an administrative mechanism similar to the Faculty of Engineering. They expect it will draw members from a variety of departments including some non-science units. Membership applications already have come from faculty in such units as ecology, forestry, soil science, marine science, engineering, and microbiology, as well as environmental design, anthropology and law.

Academy members will retain their academic appointment in their home department but will work together in the academy on initiatives for teaching, research and service related to environmental issues.

UGA will be one of only a few universities in the country with an academic organization that takes a coordinated interdisciplinary approach to environmental education and research, according to Smith.