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Crossing Interdisciplinary Boundaries with New Courses

Courtesy of Dan Tuttle.

New courses crop up frequently at Stanford. Get a couple of students and faculty discussing their work over coffee and you may come away with the draft of a new course syllabus. And much to the benefit of students, at Stanford new courses can quickly go from a nascent idea to a listing in the Bulletin. E-IPER students and faculty have been remarkably active in developing and teaching new courses this year, from a new Earth Systems core course, Human Society and Environmental Change, led by Roz Naylor (EESS), Zephyr Frank (History), and Rodrigo Pizarro (PhD 4th) to a new seminar on Agricultural Systems in Emerging Economies led by Rachael Garrett (PhD 3rd) and Florian Weidinger (Joint MBA-MS 2nd) with faculty director Peter Vitousek (Biology). The latter emerged from discussions in the Joint MS land use and agriculture advising group and was catalyzed by students from the Graduate School of Business. Another Spring seminar organized by E-IPER, Global Water: Challenges and Opportunities, was motivated by the interests of Joint MS students from the law and business schools.

Building on her extensive experience with the d.school, Marilyn Cornelius (PhD 4th) is co-teaching a class, Collaborating with the Future: Launching Large Scale Sustainable Transformations, with Banny Banerjee (Mechanical Engineering/Design) and Baba Shiv (Business). The course introduces a new framework and process to design, develop, and launch initiatives that simultaneously improve environmental, economic, and social sustainability, as well as transform relevant institutional systems. Thirty students have formed nine teams to work on real-world projects with organizations including Nike Foundation, Sodimac (Chile), Trillium Foundation (Canada), and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Austin Becker (PhD 3rd), collaborating with Meg Caldwell (Law), Lida Teneva (Environmental Earth System Science), and other members of The Coastal Society created a new winter course, Our Coastal Society: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Ocean/Coastal Themes. To explore marine science and policy for the Pacific Coast, the seminar featured guest speakers from a diverse array of institutions and perspectives, including Stanford, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Surfrider Foundation, Oceana, Environmental Defense Fund, and Ocean Champions. Topics covered fisheries management, marine spatial planning, legislative advances such as the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), climate change threats to our coast, and the importance of the US west coast in the context of Pacific Ocean ecosystem health.

Austin Becker also co-taught a seminar and studio project course, Climate Change Adaptation in the Coastal Built Environment which included experts from the US Army Corps of Engineers, ARUP ARCADIS engineering firms, Great Lakes Dredging Company, Ports America, and others.

Rachelle Gould (PhD 4th) co-taught a new course, The Environment in Context: Race, Ethnicity, and Environmental Conceptions, which delved into environmental justice issues. For Salina Gray, a 3rd year student pursuing the Joint MS with her PhD in the School of Education, this interdisciplinary course fit perfectly with her research objectives. β€œIn this course we explored the dynamic relationship between race and the environment and its implications on the environmental justice movement – these are issues at the foundation of my dissertation and the course really helped validate and excite me about my research,” Salina wrote.

Look for these and other new courses next year!