May 1, 2013: Provost Recommends Two New Schools/Colleges

I pledged to let the campus know, before the end of the semester, my thoughts on how we should move forward based on the discussions led by the Environment and Sustainability Visioning Committee and the various faculty groups that have been involved in conversations about such areas as information, journalism, media, and communication. I am writing now to share my ideas on how we can move forward in exciting ways.

The past few years have been difficult ones for universities, particularly public universities such as ours. While individually our faculty have continued to do extraordinary work, it has been tough as an institution to move in innovative directions. Now, however, I believe we can make some bold changes as a campus that will advance us towards our Flagship 2030 goals as well as the vision I have set for Academic Affairs.

I am pleased to announce that, with the support of the Chancellor, in consultation with the deans, and after three years of faculty effort, we will take the first steps needed to propose to the Board of Regents two new schools or colleges at the University of Colorado Boulder. It has been fifty years since CU created a new school or college, more than ninety if we exclude architecture, so this is an exciting time with opportunities for reinventing the education we offer our students and for providing opportunities for fresh research, scholarship, and creative work.

I will be proposing that we create both a school or college devoted to the study of the sustainable environment and a school or college focused on media, communication, and information. We have engaged in lengthy formal conversations about these possible new entities, and our informal conversations have gone on even longer. Now is the time to act to make it clear that the University of Colorado Boulder will lead the way forward in two of the most important areas of higher education and research, areas that will enable us to contribute to solving major problems facing our state, the nation, and the world.

While some have seen our internal conversations as focused on past problems, I want to make it clear that I am proposing these new schools/colleges to create future opportunities for our students and faculty. The advances in scientific research on the environment and sustainability, the challenge of climate change, the need for research-based environmental policy decisions, and the dream of creating a sustainable and indeed beautiful built environmentall call out for us to marshal our considerable strengths in these areas. Likewise, the changes in the means and modes of communication and information exchange have transformed almost everything we do, from the ways in which we communicate with one another; to the techniques we use to gather data; to the tools we use in creating media, messages, and art. This communication and media revolution also demands a response from us as a leading research university. By creating these schools/colleges, we would put ourselves at the forefront of research and education.

Let me first say a bit more about a school/college dedicated to education and research about creating a sustainable environment. Bringing together environmental science, environmental policy, and work on the built environment and drawing on the assets found in institutes such as CIRES, INSTAAR, and RASEI, this proposed school/college could focus our truly first-rate work on the environment and sustainability. We are second to none in these areas, and this new college would enable us to strengthen that work, to extend its interdisciplinary reach, and to highlight our achievements. This school/college would be distinct from efforts at other universities in its broad interdisciplinary mission, bringing together the best of environmental science, our expertise in policy that stretches from the social sciences to law and business, and the planning and creative work done by architects, urban planners, and designers.

Our Environment and Sustainability Visioning Committee, chaired by Professor Sharon Collinge, has recommended this move, stating that “A new college would enhance our stature by increasing the visibility of our academic strengths, create new opportunities for interdisciplinary education, improve student recruitment, retention, and career opportunities, and provide a compelling case for new donor support.” The environmental and sustainability external review team that visited campus in February agreed with this assessment, arguing that “The University is poised to elevate its regional, national and international stature in these areas by mobilizing knowledge and skills from across campus to create a highly visibly flagship program in Environment and Sustainability. Such action would benefit not only the programs in Environmental Studies (ENVS) and Environmental Design (ENVD), but all parts of campus including academic, research and operational programs.”

While we would continue our current efforts, for example, by maintaining our degree programs in environmental design and environmental studies, this new school/college would enable us to make a mark in new fields. It would enable us, for example, to explore how to mitigate the impacts of human population growth and consumption patterns. We could bring together interdisciplinary scholars to explore how to design the built environment to be equitable, economically viable, and environmentally sensitive. Our students would work with the best researchers in the world to help understand how we might mitigate and adapt to climate change. This new college would allow us to contribute to the solution of local problems, as we understand our place in the arid West, and to the resolution of global issues such as climate change. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the potential there is in bringing together our extraordinary faculty in these areas, to harness our collective brain power to advance knowledge, to solve problems, and to create a better environment in which to live. This new college would allow us to reinvent key areas of education, open up new opportunities for interdisciplinary research and scholarly work, and contribute to the solution of pressing social, scientific, and cultural problems.

The same is true of the second college I propose we establish. A new school/college devoted to media, communication, and information would unite faculty members working across campus in these fields while opening up new areas of education and scholarly work. This school/college would prepare students to enter careers in which expression and interactionand the methods and technologies that enable those activitiesare the animating core. As in the case with the environment and sustainability, we have considerable strengths in these areas, from the powerful work our internationally renowned faculty do in communication to our nationally recognized program in environmental journalism, from our innovations in human-centered computing to our tradition of experimental filmmaking.

For the past three years, two major faculty task forces, about fourteen faculty discussion groups, a series of open forums, a dozen curriculum innovation teams, an Arts and Sciences group working on a proposal for a School of the Arts, and a distinguished seven-member external review committee have sought to re-envision our efforts in areas touched by advances in communication, media, and information. This new school/college would be committed to experimentation and innovative approaches to gathering, organizing, presenting, and engaging with information and ideas across the widest possible range of the means of human communication. We would bring together scholars, artists, and researchers who understand everything from the technology that lies behind the means of communication to the artistic use of those means.

As the Information, Communication, Media, and Technology Task Force, chaired by theater professor Merrill Lessley, put it, “CU Boulder will be globally known for modulating the future in information, communication, media and technology. That is, CU Boulder will be a motivating force and respected voice in the ongoing digital revolution engendered by the intersections of information, communication, media and the arts with technology.” To achieve that goal, the committee (and subsequent groups) have urged us to create a new college and dedicate an institute to these areas of research and creative work. As the external reviewers put it, “the University of Colorado Boulder will be able to exert a renewed leadership in these fields, based on the many interdisciplinary connections that will be supported and promoted by such a structure.”

On the advice of our external reviewers, and based on the larger proposal offered by the Information, Communication, Journalism, Media, and Technology Task Force, chaired by Professor Andrew Calabrese, I will recommend that this new college support education and scholarly and creative work in communication, media studies, film and media production, information studies, journalism, advertising and design, and intermedia and emerging arts. Among other innovations, the proposed school/college would offer degrees in a new department of information studies, and it would be a key partner in developing what we envision to be an exciting, campus-wide design curriculum.

This new school/college would provide an education for our students and opportunities for our faculty not found in similar units at other universities. This new school/college would help reinvent education for students within the school/college and beyond by linking a traditional arts and sciences education with a focus on creativity, media fluency, design thinking, and project-based, collaborative work. It would bring together creators of film and media, scholars of media and communication, and innovators in information and design.

Various committees have pointed to exciting new work we could do in such a new school/college, including human-centered computing, digital archiving, preservation, and curation, design studies, experimental and emerging arts, narrative for emergent media, and documentary filmmaking. Documentary filmmaking, for example, could take advantage of the fact that the Boulder-Denver area is home to a thriving community of documentary film makers and production companies. Faculty members from film studies to journalism and anthropology to various areas in the sciences are interested in the power of documentary to convey knowledge across a range of platforms. Bringing our faculty members together and linking with community partners, we could become the university where one learns to harness the aesthetic, narrative, and instructional power of documentaries.

We also have real opportunities to stake out areas of excellence in information studies, drawing on our work in human-centered computing, for example, to understand and to use social media more effectively. Faculty members from the humanities, the libraries, and beyond have put forward bold new ideas about how we archive, preserve, and curate the vast amounts of data now available to us. I was deeply impressed and truly inspired by the curricular and program ideas faculty groups proposed in these areas this past fall, and their work suggests the innovative directions in which we could take our teaching and our scholarly and creative work.

I am setting forth an ambitious goal today, and it will take collective work to reach that goal; it is time we turn from discussing where we are headed to taking the necessary steps to get there. For each school/college, I will in the next few weeks form an implementation committee made up of faculty members from the core units identified with these new structures, along with interested colleagues from other units. Faculty members on the implementation committees will begin immediately to design the governance structure of their respective school/college; to flesh out courses, curricula, and degree plans; to chart the budgetary model for the unit; and to spur scholarly work. I am also directing the Dean of the Graduate School to form a task force to explore how best to integrate the work of the institutes with these new schools/colleges. As you will have noted in the various internal and external reports, CIRES, INSTAAR, and RASEI would be important to our work on sustainability and the environment. Similarly, ATLAS could be central to work in communication, media, information, and design.

I want to make it clear that, in my mind, these schools/colleges would be made of multiple departments pursuing their own disciplinary strengths but also brought together to find new interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary paths. These schools/colleges would provide us with opportunities to rethink how we teach, how we organize ourselves as a scholarly community, and how we do our work. I urge the faculty to adopt the recommendations made by several committees to keep these schools/colleges porous, open to faculty and students across the campus and to the communities we serve. As these proposed schools/colleges are shaped by the work of the faculty, they will come to define themselves by the core curriculum that their students would share, by the disciplinary and interdisciplinary work that could prosper in this new environment, and by the flexible, empowering structures they create to build community.

I am aware that not everyone who does work in these areas would find a home in these new schools/colleges. Work on the environment, for example, would continue elsewhere as would examinations of media; but these two new schools/colleges would provide key initiatives for the campus that would enable us to bring our resources to bear in an efficient and effective way. I also recognize that there are many important matters, such as personnel decisions, that would have to be handled in a sensitive way during this building process. I will be issuing guidelines to ensure the protection of affected faculty, students, and staff during this time of change. Rest assured that our first priority is to protect you and your work. Thus, for example, all students currently enrolled in degree programs would be able to complete those degree programs exactly as they planned. Again, during the transition, all faculty members under personnel reviews would have those reviews conducted in their current units even though they might find new academic homes in the future.

These new schools/colleges would allow us better to serve current students and to attract new students. These schools/colleges would offer degree programs much in demand by students nationwide, both because these are intellectually stimulating fields of inquiry and because there are jobs in those sectors of the economy dealing with the environment, sustainability, renewable energy, media, information design, and communication. We should create these schools/colleges because they would provide us with ways to advance knowledge and improve education. They could also play an important role in securing the economic well-being of the campus by drawing new students to the campus, providing new support for research and creative work, and attracting new donors excited about the visions and opportunities these schools/colleges would represent.

While the road to this decision has been too long for some, it has been essential that our faculty be extensively involved in the deliberation process. Both processes centered around faculty committees that consulted widely and reported to the entire campus. Both involved inviting scholarly and academic leaders from around the country to consult with constituencies on the best way forward. While any process has flaws, I am pleased that our conversations have been so open and transparent. I want to thank the literally hundreds of faculty members who have been involved on committees, in discussion groups, and in open conversations, live and online. In particular, I want to thank Merrill Lessley, who chaired the ICMT Exploratory Committee; Andrew Calabrese, who chaired the ICJMT Steering Committee; Helmut Muller-Sievers and Bob Craig, who organized conversations in the social sciences and the humanities and arts around these issues last summer; Michele Jackson, who conducted an online discussion group; and Sharon Collinge, who chaired the ESVC Committee. These faculty leaders have made possible the exciting mission we embark on today.

As we move into a new century, we need to continue to develop new opportunities for our students and our faculty. I look forward to working with students, the faculty, the staff, our supporters in the community, and the Board of Regents in realizing these transformative initiatives. With the Regents’ approval, I look forward to opening the doors of these two new schools/colleges in 2015. Thank you very much for your past efforts and for the work we will do together in the coming months to turn our vision into reality.

November 14, 2012

Provost Russell Moore today announced the charge and membership of a visioning committee to consider future opportunities for synergies and collaboration between University of Colorado Boulder environment and sustainability research and academic programs. Sharon Collinge, director of environmental studies and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will chair the Environment and Sustainability Visioning Committee, or ESVC.

In addition to Collinge, the committee consists of many other highly-qualified members of the university community. See Committee Members.

"I've asked the committee to investigate the best practices and structures that exist in the study of the environment and sustainability at leading universities and assess what new programs and opportunities might be available to the Boulder campus," Moore said. "I'd like the committee to consider how those new opportunities might influence the stature of CU-Boulder in these areas, and how the proposed new programs will benefit undergraduate and graduate students in the near, intermediate and distant future."

The committee will conduct an inventory of the types of environmental and sustainability research and teaching programs that exist in all units across the CU-Boulder campus; identify emerging issues in environmental and sustainability research that the campus is well positioned to address through existing programs and the development of new programs; provide a high-level assessment of cross-disciplinary and cross-academic unit synergies that are currently captured and ones that are missed; and provide an assessment of what new scholarly and teaching opportunities might be realized through collaborations between existing programs and the investment in new programs.

Faculty, staff and student stakeholders, as well as interested external constituents, will be consulted during the visioning process, Moore said.

The committee will present Moore with a preliminary report by the end of January 2013, and a final report and set of recommendations by no later than the end of March 2013.