Environment Round Table

PDAD&C #18, 2006-07


From: Vivek Goel, Vice-President and Provost
Date: September 28, 2006
RE: Round Table for the Environment at UofT

The University of Toronto has a large number of interdisciplinary initiatives addressing the environment ranging from academic and co-curricular programs to institutional activities. One of the objectives of the Stepping UP academic plan is that we should build on present strengths in environmental studies at the University. The Stepping UP – Synthesis, identified the environment as a major theme emerging from the consultations and Divisional plans. During consultations it was observed that we should more effectively highlight existing and emerging strengths and ensure that the resources we place into initiatives on the environment achieve the greatest scholarly and educational impact.

The stewardship of the environment remains one of society’s most significant challenges.  At the same time, the underlying scientific questions and policy issues have been identified as academic priorities across the University by scholars from across the disciplines.  It is an area that students are interested in studying, and seeing the University demonstrate a commitment to in all of its activities. Furthermore, environmental studies are broadly interdisciplinary, and represent a unique frontier of knowledge that will lead to discovery and innovation. The Faculty of Arts and Science and School of Graduate Studies have created the Centre for Environment to bring together undergraduate teaching and graduate research under a single entity within these two divisions. This development provides a more effective framework to advance environment initiatives with other divisions.

In 2005, the proposal for the establishment of the Centre for Environment
[http://www.environment.utoronto.ca] recommended the creation of “a university-wide Provostial Environmental Council to advise on and monitor the best way to further advance collaboration and integration of environmental initiatives across the university. This council would facilitate communication across the Faculties, as well as provide a forum for Decanal and Provostial feedback on matters of interdivisional environmental teaching and research.”

I have had informal discussions with a number of faculty and administrators who expressed interest in further coordination of environment activities and initiatives on our three campuses, as a first step, to bring wider attention to the variety of programming across the University of Toronto'.

As the next stage in furthering this Stepping UP objective, I am writing now to call for nominations of individuals to serve on a new body, the University of Toronto Round Table for the Environment.

The general mandate of the Round Table for the Environment at UofT is to provide an opportunity for communication and coordination of our activities in this area. The objective is to increase the visibility in the community, to provide advice about the structures and strategies to support collaborations among academic programs and research activities in the environment, to attract funding for them and to create dynamic and important partnerships with other organizations.

The Environment Round Table will comprise academic leaders in studies of environment, administrative representatives from the various programs involved in environment, and student representative(s) from among teaching and research activities related to the environment.

The proposed terms of reference for the Round Table for the Environment are to:

  • Facilitate collaboration and synergy among the programs and other academic units related to the environment at UofT;
  • Facilitate interactions between faculty and students interested in environmental studies and activities on campus;
  • Provide a forum for communication on a range of topics relevant to environment programming, on common concerns and opportunities, and on University-wide issues;
  • Promote and facilitate interdisciplinary education and research across the academic divisions and the three campuses, including the development and delivery of interdisciplinary education initiatives, optimizing educational resources and expertise, and supporting collaborations among environment faculty;
  • Recommend strategies to strengthen the U of T's environment profile, and raise awareness in the surrounding community of the depth and breadth of the U of T's activity in the area of environmental studies; 
  • Advise the President and Vice-Presidents on issues affecting education and research related to environmental studies; and
  • Identify funding opportunities.

The Round Table for the Environment will be broadly representative and is expected to consist of 10-12 members and will begin meeting during the course of this academic year. It is envisioned that there will be a series of events at the University over the course of the 2006-07 academic year, in order to heighten awareness regarding environmental studies at the University and solicit input to the Round Table from the broader community. The work of the Council will be administratively supported by the Director, Policy and Planning, in the Office of the Provost.

Please send your suggestions for Round Table membership by October 11 to Helen Lasthiotakis, h.lasthiotakis@utoronto.ca , 416.946.0501.