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The Paper

The Paper

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Environmental Knowledge Matters: Assessing Impacts of the Luce Foundation Initiative on Higher Education and Sustainability

Michael D. Kennedy, Timmons Roberts, Alissa Cordner and Adam Kotin
Brown University
January 19, 2012

Executive Summary

Research question: What are the environmental and educational impacts of foundation funding for institutions of higher education? How can foundation funding be both transformative and institutionally sustainable for universities, society, and the biophysical environment?

Background: Between 2000 and 2007, the Luce Foundation awarded $30 million dollars in grants to 77 American colleges, universities, and non-governmental organizations. The Luce Initiative in higher education identified four areas for support: interdisciplinary programs, international exchanges, participatory and empirical teaching, and training in environmental management. Here we focus specifically on schools awarded Luce grants.  Their programs varied significantly, from marine ecosystem education at a small liberal arts college to a portfolio program in sustainable design and development at a large state research university.

Methods: We draw upon funded programs’ self reports, other assessments, interviews with grantors and grantees, program websites, and a workshop we organized in late 2010 to reflect on the entire initiative (for more information and to view the grantee summaries, visit www.luceenvironment.org).

Impacts of Luce Foundation Funding:

Educational Impacts: Projects identified varied and significant learning impacts for students, including course development, new programs of study, broader curricular transformations, and support for student internships in the US and abroad. Several programs integrated environmental training into existing professional programs, such as business or law schools, or created new professional programs for environmental engineers and managers. Additionally, most programs had some level of experiential learning, and we identify three models of these: hands-on ecological research, student internships, and a consultancy model.

Research Impacts: Many programs combined learning and research to develop research capacity, train students in specific research skills, and form research partnerships. This research was often highly interdisciplinary, as were the environmental studies programs in which they were housed.

Environmental Impacts: The Luce Initiative was cutting-edge in its support for enhanced student training in environmental studies, campus sustainability, and the incorporation of environmental training into existing professional programs. Sustainability was supported through on-campus projects and local, concrete environmental action, but also through more long-term training programs that brought sustainability thinking into various kinds of professional work.

Public Impacts: The Luce Initiative demonstrated a number of ways in which universities can simultaneously pursue environmental sustainability and public engagement. Programs affected numerous publics, including students, staff and faculty at the institution; residents, stakeholders, and organizations in the immediate local community; policy-makers, non-profit organizations, and industry working in relevant environmental fields; and global publics. In particular, the Initiative demonstrated that an international focus can bring local experts into dialogue with one another to consider the diversity and complexity of global environmental issues. Numerous programs utilized exchanges of scholars between US-based institutions of higher education and schools, organizations, or governments in other countries that led not only to improvements in research and teaching but changes in environmental policies and practices as well.

Digital Extensions: The use of advanced digital technology for learning, research, and outreach has become increasingly commonplace in higher education, and Luce-funded programs incorporated digital technology in numerous ways. Schools used technology for networking, collaboration, and information sharing, and some developed on-line training programs. Others utilized technology in research, including spatial mapping software programs and ecological sampling techniques. Some recipient university personnel in fact believe that Luce support inspired digital advances years before they would have otherwise taken place.

Lessons Learned:

Impacts are multidimensional. Impacts of environmental and educational initiatives vary across institutional and geographic scales, time, and the publics most affected. Therefore foundation funding should recognize the importance of multiple impacts, ranging from on-campus sustainability practices, to training the next generation of environmental managers.

Measuring impact is difficult. Impacts may be easier to see at smaller institutions, and when funding supports the creation of new programs. It is particularly difficult to identify the indirect and future impacts of foundation funding initiatives. However, the fact that impacts distant in space or time may be difficult to measure does not diminish their importance, because programs have significant spillover effects that defy simple quantification.

Interdisciplinarity is necessary for environmental studies training and sustainability practices. The Luce Initiative was designed in part to enhance interdisciplinarity. Because of the inherently cross-disciplinary nature of contemporary environmental problems, foundation funding for environmental sustainability should support interdisciplinary collaboration. What is less clear, however, is what kinds of interdisciplinary engagements need external support, and which ones proceed through the institutional logics of environmental learning and practice, and how the keys to fostering successful interdisciplinarity are changing over time.

Internationalism, by contrast, does not happen so easily among environmental programs. In fact internationalism, more than any other focus of the Luce initiative, was most vulnerable to elimination or serious reductions once the grant concluded. At the same time, much more work needs to be done to explain how international work is important for environmental learning, and how environmental engagements are important for the international mission of US higher education.


What enables foundations to move institutions of higher education to incorporate environmental issues more fully into their mission and practices? How can these partnerships develop so that funded initiatives are both transformative and institutionally sustainable for their own organizations? Finally, under what conditions do these developments produce benefits for society and the biophysical environment?

These questions lay beneath the Henry Luce Foundation’s 2000-2007 initiative to spark change in how U.S. institutions of higher education and non-governmental organizations engage the environment.  The Foundation awarded 77 grants totaling $30 million dollars to 35 American colleges and universities and 32 non-governmental organizations  (http://www.hluce.org/environment.aspx).  This makes the Luce environment initiative one of the largest of its type in the history of U.S. higher education.

We seek to capture impacts of the Luce program not only in often-discussed and more easily measured ways, but also in terms of more intangible and longer-term changes.  In what follows, we briefly describe the initiative, and then put it into a larger context of both environmental knowledge in American higher education and of the contributions foundations make to public goods.  We wish to clarify how one might think about the diverse impacts of foundation work in extending environmental knowledge, and with that effort, to create the “discursive fodder” that might extend best practices in how to make environmental knowledge matter more within higher education and its spheres of influence.  We also reflect on how foundations might incorporate this methodology in other such assessments.

In part 1, we begin our review with a focus on the scholarly side of how environmental knowledge matters — starting with a discussion of learning impacts, with particular attention to curricular transformations, environmental management and experiential learning, followed by some discussion of how a school’s research capacities were influenced.  That, in turn, leads directly into a discussion of interdisciplinarity–a scholarly practice dedicated to innovation in teaching and research, but with many variations in what is attempted and how it is conducted. From there, we turn to one of the most critical areas of work in interdisciplinarity with real world consequence–sustainability. In particular we consider how sustainability is pursued within the university setting and beyond into local public spaces. With space in mind, we then turn to the initiative’s fourth emphasis on internationalism, which is where we can most clearly mark the challenge of recognizing impact and sustainability in philanthropic work.

We find that there seems to be a relatively consistent sense of how environmental learning connects with other professional competencies under the heading of environmental management, with relatively coherent bodies of expertise and mission being relatively replicable.  Experiential learning does not enjoy such codification, but does have a relatively complementary set of sensibilities in practice.  Interdisciplinarity, especially through sustainability’s expression, is even more variable and contested, but its localized organizational structure channels these efforts in remarkably productive ways.  Internationalism, however, remains contested without that organizational support.

Luce support varied widely in terms of how it mattered.  In some cases, Luce support reinforced or extended an already well-supported program; in other instances, it was the principal funding base for projects that initiated something entirely new.  Direct impacts are often most noticeable through the creation of new programs, and we observed that the projects initiated with Luce funds tended to yield a more noticeable direct impact on a given school’s environmental and sustainable identity, including elevated visibility.  Where Luce support extended an already-existing program, the investment was not really in innovation itself, but instead served as a vote of confidence to support an already innovative leader and their program. It is thus tempting to assign the greatest ‘value’, comparatively, to those grants that yielded an entirely new and innovative initiative at a school. To do so, however, is to discount the tremendous added value that the Luce funds brought to a select few already-existing programs, even if many such programs spun the grant money into less visible results.

There are numerous ways to conceive of the impact of foundation funding on a university’s educational goals and ecological footprint. In our analysis of Luce-funded programs, we find that the impacts of foundation funding vary along multiple metrics, including scale, time, and the affected publics. The question of which impacts matter is a significant one, and informs the metrics one uses to evaluate a program’s success. For example, if one is interested in on-campus, directly measurable impacts, one will find a certain type of program to be more consequential.  In that instance, one might expect grant reports to contain specific evidence of how faculty develop their capacities to engage the environment, and how communities so dedicated are developed on campus and across them.  If one is interested in changing the way sustainability is practiced in one’s city, state or around the world, one would conclude that another type of program has a greater impact. In that case, one might expect reports to emphasize different kinds of capacity building, ones that directly measure academic engagement with different publics. Each of these has different temporalities, foci, and qualities of impact.  With different kinds of reporting, both mid-stream and final assessments can help shape academic trajectories in how environmental knowledge matters.  Sometimes assessments must go beyond, however, the bilateral relationship between philanthropies and their direct partners.

In some cases, Luce programs responded to clear demand and need by those with additional resources beyond the foundation and the university.  The program at UC Santa Cruz, for example, met real market need with its programs placing students in more than 500 internships, including work in integrated pest management.  Berkeley’s Engineering and Business for Sustainability program inspired product ideas such as sustainable underwear and sustainable surfboards, inventing novel market niches.  Some institutions establishing new programs of study can find new clients willing and able to pay for this learning (e.g. Duke’s distance learning for professionals program and Stanford’s interdisciplinary graduate programs).  On the other hand, some of these programs might have enthusiastic partners with relatively few of their own resources, such as Brown’s WISE program with developing country academics and policymakers, and Berkeley’s collaboration with international scholars.  In this contrast, impacts are incomparable given the different resources of initiative partners, which in turn suggests an important methodological point.

It suggests that methodological comparison is critical for understanding the impacts of the Luce initiative across institutions.  As such, we draw upon grantees’ self reports, other assessments, interviews with grantors and grantees, program websites and a workshop we organized in late 2010 to reflect on the entire initiative, whose grantees provided quick and effective summaries of the individual projects (www.luceenvironment.org See also http://www.watsoninstitute.org/news_detail.cfm?id=1483).

While relying on programs’ self-reports and public presentations limits our data to schools’ public performances of what they accomplished with foundation funding, we believe this is a useful set of information for examining questions about ecological and educational impacts for two reasons. First, self-reports are the documents that funders themselves rely heavily upon to evaluate the impacts of the programs that they fund. Second, self-reports are likely to identify a broad range of impacts in an effort to communicate the effectiveness of the grant and the efficient use of philanthropic money. By supplementing these self-reports with presentations by university officials and academics to their peer institutions, we are able to also identify impacts seen as noteworthy from an academic, not just a philanthropic, perspective.

Our broader goal is to identify the variety of ways in which philanthropic investments in environmental knowledge matters in higher education, and with this, to identify new ways in which environmental higher education and philanthropic organizations themselves might partner even more effectively to extend their value and impacts.  We begin with a brief history of the initiative.


The Luce Environmental Initiative

Although the Luce Foundation had taken some prior interest in particular environmental issues, H. Christopher (Kit) Luce took the lead in developing this initiative at the Foundation while serving as Director of the Program for Public Policy and the Environment between 2000 and 2007.  During 1999-2000, Mr. Luce consulted some leading visionary figures in the field about what were the critical and under-attended issues, asking each person for two more names to consult.  According to his account, when he ceased getting new names, he figured he had the list of leaders in the field.

Mr. Luce did not have environmental expertise himself when he started, but through this method of consultation and snowball technique of finding expertise, he acquired substantial insight and built a diverse team of experts to advise him. For the higher education group, these included David Orr of Oberlin, Richard Wetzler of Brown, Pamela Matson of Stanford, Reid Lifset of Yale, David Campbell of Grinnell and William Chameides of Duke.2

The team settled on four areas for cultivation within environmental studies in higher education: interdisciplinary programs, international exchanges, participatory and empirical teaching, and training in environmental management.3 Drawing upon their advice, Mr. Luce wrote to 60 colleges and universities inviting them to submit a three page précis.

The schools ultimately chosen in this initiative varied considerably.  They included:

Five large state and private research universities: University of Texas Austin, UC Berkeley (with 2 projects), Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, and University of Washington;

The Ivy League Plus: Harvard (with 2 substantively different projects), Yale (with 2 substantively different projects), Columbia, Stanford, Duke, Dartmouth and Brown; Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Bucknell, and Washington University-St. Louis are rather like some of the Ivies in identity and disposition if not in the same athletic league;

Three leading polytechnic-founded organizations: Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rochester Institute of Technology; and

Liberal arts schools: Bard, Bowdoin, Carleton, Dickinson, Middlebury, Puget Sound, Williams, Grinnell, Oberlin, Wooster, Allegheny and two very small colleges within that set:  College of the Atlantic and Northland College.

This variety of schools, mapped roughly by the relative sizes of their endowments and their relative focus on research versus teaching, is represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Grant Recipients by Intensity of Research Focus and Size of Private Endowment.

*Font size of school name approximates student population (undergrad & graduate)
*Endowment size is per capita (by total students, regardless of which school/department within the institution received Luce funds)
*Placement on Research-Intensive vs. Learning-Intensive axis is very rough and was approximated by the authors, with feedback from  some school and program representatives

Given the variety of recipients, the character of the grant and its place within the university varied considerably, despite this being a single-foundation program. In the larger research universities, the initiative was typically located within an institute, center or program, with effects focused on those already attached to the university’s sub-unit. In the smaller schools, the grant’s impact tended to be more systemic, with a greater variety of faculty and students affected across more units.

This easy generalization, however, found critical exceptions.  For example, relatively large and research-intensive Carnegie Mellon developed an initiative to improve environmental literacy for all its undergraduate students, while relatively small and learning-intensive Bard managed its program through a well-established Center that moved a new research program based on international collaborations. That, however, shows how the project’s conception mattered – smaller learning-intensive schools could design projects with institutionally concentrated research/learning focus, while large schools could design projects that would change the learning culture of an entire university.

As we elaborate below, most projects identified some kind of learning impact for students — course development, new programs of study (majors, MA, PhD), and broader curricular transformations.  Internships were also widely identified as a worthwhile learning outcome, especially as they linked environmental knowledge to policymaking and business practice.  These are fundamental impacts of the Luce program that should be at the center of any effort to assess consequence.

Identifying new research capacities or outcomes was often cited as an accomplishment as well, but these were typically articulated with other goals–such as providing policy advice to officials and student learning.  The distinction between research and training diminished when Luce programs were tied tightly with doctoral training.  When research results were more “pure”, they were typically associated with the funds’ use to hire a post-doctoral scholar. Research capacities were also enhanced by creating new linkages across the campus or across the world, or by extending the value of the global digital commons.

Environmental studies has always been dedicated directly to practice, and many schools discussed how their work enhanced their own university’s capacity to improve its sustainability, sometimes including its impact on and understanding of its most immediate biophysical environment.  There was a profound differentiation of programs in terms of their ambition on directly creating public goods outside their universities.

In addition to the grants it offered, the foundation required regular evaluations from all participants, and engaged an outside consultant for an additional assessment of the projects’ results. These evaluations took account of the foundation’s original criteria: whether new projects were created, whether they could be sustained beyond the Luce funding, whether the contribution had a measurable and distinct impact, and whether the foundation was pioneering a new kind of initiative.

While positive accomplishments were noted in all the Luce projects in improving the condition of the natural environment and by creating stronger environmental education, there were differences in how transformative a change the Luce funding had created, and how sustainable some Luce programs were past the end of funding.  Grants to smaller colleges often showed significant impacts, sometimes giving far greater visibility to environmental studies initiatives within the institution, and these schools often reached participants across the faculty.  One concern was about the durability of international programs, because of the high costs and difficulty in building and maintaining connections abroad.  Frequently the Luce Foundation heard that there was literally no alternative funder for the kind of projects colleges were able to launch.

The Luce Initiative in the Context of Greening at U.S. Universities

When the Luce Foundation undertook this initiative in 1999, environmental programs around the country had been through twenty years of ups and downs in student and faculty interest.  A new wave in interest was just starting to build, and some huge efforts were soon to be undertaken–such as the opening of Oberlin’s Lewis Environmental Center in 2000, the creation of greening initiatives like the rotating green loan fund at Harvard in 2001, a major Office of Sustainability at Yale in 2005 (reporting directly to the university’s President), and the creation of an entire School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, founded in 2007.  Each of the Luce initiative grantees could probably give a similarly impressive example when their impact was considered in the context of their institutions.

Simply put, it could be argued that the Luce program lifted the early-2000s wave of university-level sustainability and environmental studies. This shows the importance of a major foundation’s willingness to place a substantial investment in the sector.

This period also saw the rise of scorecards and national rankings of universities on their environmental curricula and greening initiatives, and admissions officers and administrations increasingly took note.  The pioneer was the Sustainable Endowments Initiative, which ranked schools on nine criteria in its College Sustainability Report Card (http://www.greenreportcard.org/compare).4  The SEI “grades” sent shock waves (of variable size) through low “green GPA” schools, especially as the Princeton Review incorporated environmental criteria and Sierra magazine (widely read among college-age demographic groups) began ranking universities.

In some cases, Luce funding laid the foundation for many of the initiatives these grades assess.  For example, Oberlin, Brown, Dickinson, and Yale all received an A on the 2011 Green Report Card, and it is clear that Luce funding provided significant support for these schools’ green agendas. Not all of the institutions of higher learning receiving Luce funding are evaluated in the 2011 SEI gradecard, but many of them are, and not surprisingly, two dozen of them rank among the top in the U.S. Out of the 25 Luce-funded schools featured in the 2011 Green Report Card, all but 2 received a score of B or higher.  These types of green evaluations (however imperfect their methodologies may be) encourage schools to invest in measures of sustainability.  The green gradecards worked both with the carrot–a desire to move up in the ratings and gain positive, national publicity–and the stick–the fear of losing environmentally-conscious applicants who care about the sustainability of their schools.
5  Some in the environmental studies field in fact argue that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (AASHE STARS) is becoming the evaluation tool of choice given that it is not only more comprehensive and more precise than its predecessors, but also now widely adopted (https://stars.aashe.org).  One-third of the institutions of higher education that received the Luce award are reporting results using this system as of December 2011.

Today there are numerous environmental rankings, and the components measured, environmental metrics prioritized, and the quality of data collection and analysis vary widely. It is therefore no surprise that the place of schools in the different environmental rankings varies as well.  Even though the College of the Atlantic only had a B on its report card, for example, the Princeton Review put that school along with Dickinson, Harvard College and University of Washington at the very top of their list in the green honor roll (http://www.princetonreview.com/green-honor-roll.aspx).

This all goes to show, however, that the relationship between higher education and environmental knowledge is shifting—our own research has shown that many students now report having incorporated environmental measures into their decisions on where to go to school.  And that leads to the larger story of this assessment: the tangible and intangible impacts of receiving a Luce environment grant in the early 2000s.

Foundations and Public Goods

American foundations have many functions, but some observers argue that one of their most basic has been to ameliorate some of the worst aspects of the human condition (Prewitt, 2006).  While sometimes foundations undertake efforts in order to make up for market or state failures, foundations often seek to leverage existing resources and move their recipients and their social and natural environments in positive directions.  But as Prewitt (2006) writes, “there is no metric of foundation impact; there is not even a theory of social change that might point to a measurement strategy” (36).

Prewitt rightly critiques traditional analyses of foundation impacts for being too reliant on internal criteria for their evaluation; we agree that systematically investigating failed or inefficient lines of foundation work (there are many) and then comparing those to successful efforts would be a great step forward.  A more ambitious research design would take broad areas in which foundations have been active, and measure the net foundation contribution while controlling for the other forces from government, the market, and civil society organizations that were also active (Prewitt, 2006:39). As social scientists, we acknowledge that holding these factors constant while varying foundation support would be ideal experimental conditions.  We also acknowledge the difficulty of such an effort.

However there is another analytical approach that might be taken with existing data at hand, as this project suggests.  While we are not able to compare foundation contributions net of other influences, and while we cannot move beyond self-reports and assessments of impact in the recipients’ own terms, we can use comparative methods to clarify forms and degrees of impact.  By juxtaposing apparent impacts undertaken by all grant recipients along a number of dimensions, with various ambitions and time horizons in mind, we can figure how impacts can be compared and accumulated within and across institutional contexts more effectively.  This differs from what is typically done.

Assessments of the impacts of funding usually rely on self-reports to foundations that tend to explain, on their own terms, why something is good and productive.  These reports rarely try to examine, critically, the independent impact of foundation funding, and rather tend to treat the funding and all other institutional contributions as interactive factors producing good outcomes.  Nor do they typically consider impacts beyond the institution receiving the grant itself.  However, as this review suggests, sometimes the greatest impacts accompanying environmental learning can be missed because they are extra-institutional and indirect. This is particularly the case when the impacts of university initiatives extend beyond university walls, to involve direct engagement with local, disciplinary, and even international communities. We argue that, though they may prioritize and highlight direct and measurable impacts, these reports often contain evidence of intangible and non-local impacts that can be identified through a thorough and critical analysis.

Beyond the analytical point, we wish this paper to become part of the “discursive fodder” through which the diffusion of ideas and best practices takes place.  Lounsbury and Strang (2009) use this approach to explain how “success stories” were used to distribute the idea of social entrepreneurship by philanthropists and others hoping to develop its logic and associated practices. In this, the relationship between foundation and recipient is not one of patron and client as much as partners sharing organizing frames seeking innovation in the address of common concerns. In this particular project, grant recipients frequently emphasized the importance of Mr. Luce’s engagement with the project through his interactions and visits to campus.

This notion of partnership might be found even when substantial resources are poured into relatively poor environments (Swidler, 2009).  The relative power of foundations and universities varies with the resources of each and consequently with the character of the relationship produced through grants. However, we take as a starting point that grant recipients have considerable power to shape foundation initiatives, and thus, in our comparison among recipients, we consider variable effects of their own work.

This variation is not only a consequence of the relative powers of actors and their relationships. It sometimes depends on the fertility of concepts and practices themselves.  There is more room for creativity when key terms invite redefinition and adaptation across environments.6  As we look across the key concepts of the Luce initiative (sustainability, interdisciplinarity, internationalization), we can see important variation in their very definitions, and variable impacts of how they are conceived.  As we argue, sustainability has been the most productive, interdisciplinarity the most commonsensical, and internationalism the least replicable and least sustainable.

In sum, the Luce Foundation faced a higher education system in environmental knowledge production that was re-evaluating its accomplishments after the initial waves of interest and was looking for new directions. As with other foundation efforts, Luce sought points of leverage to make a difference, but it is only in retrospect that we can suggest some best practices and greatest consequences of those choices.

Learning Impacts

Every project among these Luce programs identifies the ways in which learning changed as a result of the Luce-granted initiative.  Some created new curricular programs, some brought new courses through support of post-doctoral fellows, some allowed international elements or field elements to be boldly strengthened.  Some created new research opportunities for students, better funding for summer internships or research.  We discuss examples of the vastly different pathways Luce programs took to enrich the environmental education of American university students.

Curricular Transformations

Carnegie Mellon’s environmental literacy program might have been, across all learning experiences, the most demonstrably consequential.  Integrating environmental learning across the whole student body, this university now has embedded a Luce priority into the very heart of the undergraduate experience.  This kind of initiative is extremely unusual, especially at a larger research university.  Indeed, if one attended to structure alone, this is not surprising given that Carnegie Mellon is one of the few universities to have an environmentalist as president. And with Indira Nair as its lead actor concurrently serving as Vice Provost for Education, the university had a powerful team leading transformation from the very top, even as it built on an already extensive environmental research agenda across many of the university’s departments.  The ability of higher administration to institutionalize bold change varies, of course, with the decision-making structure and broader culture of universities.  Carnegie Mellon’s university structure, its disposition toward engaging the environment, and the support of its top personnel led to one of the most consequential transformations in environmental learning we have seen. But other important changes can happen with just an individual faculty member finding an effective strategy for institutional change.

The University of Puget Sound is in the process of making sustainability central to its higher education mission, but not because its president mandated it. Instead, Daniel Sherman, its faculty leader with an appointment made possible with Luce support, devised strategies by which he invited faculty colleagues from across the university, in a variety of disciplines, to work with him in figuring out how sustainability might come to the heart of their various disciplinary/departmental research and teaching cultures.  The results are impressive, contributing not only in the formation of a Sound Policy Institute (http://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/sound-policy-institute) but also to sustainability, as a “big idea”, becoming a core part of the Puget Sound curriculum (Sherman, 2008; 2010).  And sometimes single courses can have a big, mobilizing impact.  For example, at Williams College, a course on renewable energy and sustainability took the campus as its laboratory to ask how the college itself was addressing sustainability, which drove wider changes.

Not only big ideas, but the biophysical environment itself can transform a curriculum if approached appropriately. Bucknell’s Susquehanna River Initiative structured a major institutional transformation around a specific environmental asset — in this case the river that runs beside the campus. While the granted project officially consisted of new and revised courses, expanded research and community partnerships and outreach, affiliated faculty claim transformations beyond these, noting that “Bucknell has turned to face the river.” In addition, momentum from the Luce project is credited with having “created the Bucknell Environmental Center to a large degree.”  Northland realized something similar; its Superior Connections project not only created a new integrated curriculum around the Lake Superior watershed (http://www.northland.edu/assets/files/Academics/superiorconnections/7_Feature_pg19.pdf), but its model inspired the creation of other integrated curricula for the liberal arts around “natural” and “growing” connections.

Of course there are more examples we could cite, for in the end, every institution of higher learning described the major impact the Luce foundation support made for environmental knowledge among their undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Looking across all these examples, we might consider various kinds of indices enabling more systematic comparison, such as:

  • the number/percentage of students affected,
  • the depth and profundity of their learning experiences,
  • the embeddedness of environmental concerns and particular programs, associated with them in different parts of the university,
  • the impact on faculty and how research and teaching address environmental issues,
  • the impact of the project on the external and internal visibility of the institution’s environmental initiatives (e.g. through press),
  • the public benefits derived from the program’s work and research,
  • the number and strength of local and international partnerships with NGOs, local governments, etc., or
  • the extent to which students’ career choices are affected.
  • We can also look to various structures and powers of agents that facilitate or impede the adoption of curricular innovation, such as disciplinary departments holding tenure-granting power or budgetary heft.  Systematic assessment of grants, enabled by more systematic expectations in reporting requirements, might create a major step forward in figuring how to identify the impact of philanthropy in higher education.

    But even with a rigorous format of reporting and analysis, systematic assessments of philanthropic initiatives’ learning impacts is daunting, given the very diversity of recipients and learning environments and objectives represented in this initiative.  Luce’s 2006 external consultant was right to say that the size of an institution is important, but we also find that the leadership exerted by an institution’s top administrators, and the skill of individual faculty in exploiting opportunities for change in their institutions, also shape how environmental knowledge comes to matter.

    Professional training for environmental management

    While we can identify all sorts of changes in curricula in relation to the Luce initiative, one of the most distinctive reflects one of the initiative’s priorities: environmental management. The Luce initiatives’ founders identified environmental management as one of the field’s greatest areas needing attention. Ironically, while this is a clear need with substantial change apparent in environmental education, there has not been much critical discussion in this vein outside of particular disciplines, such as engineering (see e.g., Ben-Zvi-Assaraf & Ayal 2010; Tansel 2008). The funded programs integrated environmental education and hands-on sustainability work into other professional school training, such as business or engineering. Results were impressive, leading many different schools to create substantial cohorts of experts graduating with admirable combinations of expertise.

    Several schools created advanced environmental programs that fit well within existing professional schools and programs.  UC Santa Cruz’s Interdisciplinary Training in Environmental Management Program not only supported student internships and appropriate curriculum, but brought graduating seniors interested in environmental policy on field trips to major manufacturing facilities in California and the Midwest.  Johns Hopkins University created the ‘Energy, Resources and Environment’ Masters program within the School of Advanced International Studies. In addition to completing coursework, these students work on projects for clients, which provides them with training opportunities and connects them to well-renowned environmental organizations and agencies around the world. Stanford University developed and launched a new Ph.D. program in ‘Environment and Resources’, and developed a dual-Masters of Science program with Stanford Professional Schools. This program has been highly successful, with zero attrition reported for doctoral students. Duke University went a step beyond, creating an advanced degree program to launch a first-of-its-kind online Environmental Leadership professional degree program for working professionals, including full development of courses, a complex online community, and on-campus activities. This demonstrates that universities can develop new programs that not only build on their institutional strengths, but also push the envelope by developing innovative teaching methods and making this type of post-graduate training more accessible.  These are major and enduring impacts of the Luce funding.

    Other schools developed programs that integrated environmental education into business or engineering education. Columbia sought to develop a new advanced degree in ‘Environmental Science and Business’ to incorporate sustainability education into business school training. Providing MBAs with environmental experience can presumably assist in sustainability work after they receive their degrees. Two other schools – Rochester Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley – developed new programs that integrated sustainability into engineering training. RIT developed the first Ph.D. focusing on sustainable production systems, and an accompanying Masters program in sustainable systems, offering an opportunity to utilize the massive technological expertise and resources of the university to work toward sustainable production systems. And the Berkeley Engineering and Business schools developed a multidisciplinary certificate program that trains students in designing and managing sustainable systems and products (http://sustainable-engineering.berkeley.edu/).  From its engagement with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation to develop housing that is both environmentally and socially sustainable (http://innovations.coe.berkeley.edu/vol2-issue9-oct08/design) to an initiative to develop a surfboard market that takes into account the product’s full lifecycle (http://innovations.coe.berkeley.edu/vol4-issue8-oct10/tobias_schultz), Berkeley has clearly created a supportive intellectual environment for innovation in sustainability (http://vimeo.com/35283830).

    We highlight two important facets of the work these schools have done to develop new programs. First, these programs are all interdisciplinary and strive to integrate sustainable thinking into fields that have not traditionally focused on the environment. For example, the Berkeley program noted that training engineers in sustainability is important because these professionals need to be trained to evaluate environmental externalities and by-products. Second, and perhaps the greatest impact of these programs is in the future careers of their graduates–an impact that is difficult to measure and quantify in the short term. Several schools explicitly mentioned this impact in their reports. To again reference the Berkeley program, their 2008 report stated, “The goal of the program is to produce a cadre of influential program solvers who can have a lasting beneficial impact on the environment.”

    Thus it is clear that while short term benefits of this type of philanthropic intervention can be measured in courses developed, students recruited, and graduates successfully employed, the full benefits of these advance training programs will only be felt years later, as alumni use their interdisciplinary training to bring sustainability to the organizations, agencies, and professions in which they work. But we also introduce a caveat, noting that other schools have developed similar programs without foundation funding. For example, the University of Michigan founded the Erb Institute in 1996 with a private donation, “specially designed to equip executives, managers, and environmentalists with the skills and knowledge necessary to create environmentally and economically sustainable organizations.” Its MBA/MS degree is specifically designed to realize that very combination of skills (http://erb.umich.edu/education-programs/mbams).  While Luce funding was not necessary for developing this kind of initiative in the broader field of higher education, the origin of the Michigan initiative in private philanthropy does indicate that external stimuli are often necessary for leading transformations of the programmatic foundations of higher education.

    Experiential Learning

    Not all schools dramatically transformed their curricula or developed new programs. Many expanded upon existing programs to incorporate greater levels of experiential education, another area prioritized by the Luce initiative. In forms ranging from experiential education to community-based research and service learning, hands-on education continues to be a growing area of education research and practice in the environmental field. We begin with an overview of the discourse on experiential learning in higher education environmental contexts to illustrate the breadth of applications for this concept.

    From their UK context, Barnes and Phillips (2000) argue that “higher education partnerships” with local environmental entities can significantly “add value” in numerous economic, organizational, and personal ways. They highlight the importance of these relationships in crafting useful research as well as instilling sustainability principles in all functions of a university. Allen-Gil et al (2005) at Ithaca College give a similar viewpoint but instead focus on “how to develop” such collaborations, citing their own efforts to create “ancillary activities” along with structured courses on sustainability in conjunction with partners at a nearby intentional community.

    In contrast to this organizational focus, Keen and Baldwin (2004) use alumni/ae interviews from a program at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania (a Luce-funded school) to posit the importance of community- and service-based learning in students’ personal development and communication skills. Rao et al.’s (2004) work on Community-Based Participatory Research in farmworker environmental health shows that community-based work on environmental issues has potential to draw students in from a wide variety of disciplines. It also demonstrates the possibility of multiple approaches to community-based research projects, which can be tailored to the needs and strengths of individual students for maximum personal, educational, and community benefit.

    Brundiers et al. (2010) evaluate whether or not “real-world learning opportunities” can develop key competencies in sustainability, referencing programs at Arizona State University. They outline the specific benefits of these “real-world” experiences as part of and in conjunction with structured curriculum-based learning. In a report with broad-reaching implications, Australians Alvarez and Rogers (2006) refigure their own ideas of sustainability by taking students “out there”—into the field—for project-based learning. They argue that the only way to address the complex, indefinable nature of ‘sustainability’ is to shift from an “investigative to an interpretative approach,” concluding that  “in this learning experience sustainability becomes a complex set of discourses and practices that interweave through and over people’s lives rather than a check list of appropriate practices.” As we note below, the Luce-funded activities echoed this sentiment to varying degrees. Domask (2007) similarly evaluates experiential learning programs by evaluating how they fit with established, “traditional” educational goals in sustainability. He argues that experiential learning in sustainability not only prepares students for the ‘real world’; it also empowers them personally in unique and beneficial ways.

    Most Luce-funded projects had some element of experiential learning (those with no experiential learning component were focused instead on faculty-student research collaboration, curriculum development, or on-campus sustainability initiatives). We identify three models of experiential learning that were common in Luce-funded programs: hands-on ecological research, student internships, and a consultancy model.

    A first model of experiential learning was through hands-on research on environmental issues and ecological research questions in outdoor research environments. Interestingly, several programs incorporated water-based research into their curriculum. Dickinson College used Luce funding to develop “Integrated Watershed-Based Field Semesters”, in which classroom instruction was supplemented by intensive immersion and fieldwork in watershed environments in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Louisiana. At Northland College, students spent a month traveling around the Lake Superior watershed at the end of a year of ecology coursework. After Luce-funded changes were implemented at College of the Atlantic, hundreds of students have spent time on research vessels or at research sites on islands. Indeed, as students suggested, one might even rename the school to the College on the Atlantic, for it is hard to imagine, after their experience, how learning could be hands-off (http://vimeo.com/35283732).

    A second common form of experiential learning was for students to participate in internships with environmental organizations, often internationally. Luce funding provided stipends and travel expenses for students to complete these internships. Bard College sent students on a “Learning Across Borders” program to complete internships in Oaxaca and other developing countries. Tufts University awarded 54 summer internships to students working with organizations on issues ranging from rural electrification to corporate social responsibility. In these internships, students were usually hosted at an off-campus (and frequently international) organization or agency.

    The third model was a consultancy model, which usually involved forming partnerships or client-provider relationships with organizations, agencies, or locations outside of the university. Under this model, Luce funding supported a class, training program, or coursework sequence in which students at the US university were trained to answer ‘real world’ questions (though potentially hypothetical, as with MIT’s Terrascope project in which cohorts of students tackle immense problems like water security) and provide useful consulting to a partner who could be in the university’s city or on the other side of the world. For example, the Johns Hopkins SAIS program established a course in which teams of students developed projects proposed for them by environmental organizations. Students worked on projects throughout the academic year, and travelled to domestic and international sites to meet with their clients to present their results. As another example, Bucknell University used Luce funding to integrate teaching, research and outreach around research projects with institutions outside the university, providing real-world experience for students and restoration assistance for organizations. Although there is potentially some overlap between the consultancy and the internship models, the consultancy programs tended to remain institutionally located at the universities rather than the organizations being advised; students often completed the consultancy as part of or alongside of coursework; and the consultancy was usually geared toward addressing or advising one specific issue or problem, while internships were more geared toward a broader organizational scope.

    These three models of experiential learning provide different types of training for students, and offer different benefits for organizations, non-university communities, and the environment. The hands-on research model may be what is most typically thought of as experiential learning: students combine classroom instruction with real-world research to, often literally, ‘get their hands dirty.’ This type of experiential learning can provide a great educational benefit for students, but the broader reach of this type of experiential learning may be more limited (beyond potential contributions to research, which may be substantial – College of the Atlantic celebrated that students had contributed to nearly thirty research papers since the grant’s inception). The second model, of funding student internships with environmental organizations around the country or the world, provides potentially life-changing experiences for college students by allowing them to travel and work directly with organizations. The benefit of this model to the host organizations, however, depends on numerous factors outside of foundation funding, including connections between the sending university and the host countries and organizations/agencies; training and support provided to students prior to and during the internship; and requirements and characteristics of the internships. The consultancy model is subject to many of these same potential limitations, since the success of the research project is impacted by factors such as communication with the client agency/organization and their expectations and level of preparation for collaboration with universities–but if carefully designed, this model can utilize the diverse skill sets of university students (especially students in professional graduate programs) and their faculty, to meet concrete, identified environmental needs.

    Innovation is key to experiential learning programs. Some of the most hands-on programs came out of small schools like the College of the Atlantic or Dickinson.  Capturing these transformative learning experiences is one powerful means for extending student interest in such learning, and institutional commitments to providing it (as we suggest here in our treatment of the College of the Atlantic: http://vimeo.com/35283732). Foundation funding is thus critical; it can allow a school to expand existing programs to make them more experiential, and more affordable. For example, at Washington University in St. Louis, a program in the law school, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic, used Luce funding for students to travel to areas where they were conducting pro bono legal consulting and research, thus layering extended experiential learning onto an existing program.

    Additionally, experiential learning requires strong connections with communities, which can be the university’s hometown or communities around the globe connected by networks of researchers, research topics, and alumni. For example, the University of Puget Sound cultivated partnerships with the local community, and also drew on a professor’s research connections in Africa. Innovation in experiential learning is not, however, limited to the liberal arts colleges.  Indeed, MIT’s Terrascope project moved first-year undergraduates to think across disciplines and engage with some of the most important problems facing the biophysical environment. Its location within a large, established research university afforded some possibilities not feasible for smaller liberal arts colleges, such as a larger pool of faculty, laboratory resources, and the ability to draw an audience of experts to critique final projects.

    Some programs, however, did little of what is traditionally considered to be experiential education. For example, Carleton College’s program focused on training and conducting research using advanced spatial mapping techniques. Although the program did not directly involve local community partners, it used local data to answer research questions that were critically important for the Twin Cities, while providing valuable training for students.

    As this case illustrates, learning impacts were often tied directly to research training.  While developing research skills was not directly identified as a goal of the Luce Foundation in this program, given its centrality in the mission and prestige of knowledge institutions, its relative place in this program deserves to be addressed.

    Broader Impacts

    Research Impacts

    Although each of the grant recipients clearly identified impacts on learning in their reports, emphasizing impacts on research was less common.  In part this is because the grants were themselves not so focused on research, and much larger grants for environmental research from the National Science Foundation and other agencies are more likely to encourage that trajectory.

    Nevertheless, environmental learning and research are often combined. Especially in the projects that emphasize the biophysical part of environmental learning, original research became critical to the Luce Foundation’s impact. In Bowdoin’s Merrymeeting Bay project, for example, “experiential learning” was virtually synonymous with student-led research projects. Impacts were most emphasized in the form of research partnerships with local entities, which yielded reports and established monitoring programs to facilitate ecological recovery near the college. Similarly, at other schools like Bucknell, the expansion or establishment of locally-based ecological research projects was considered a key product of the grant. Research impacts were, again, often identified in tandem with curricular changes that were credited with making learning more “experiential”.

    In some initiatives, research projects were more divorced from curricular development but still managed to have an impact upon the institution and its biophysical and social environments. At Dartmouth, the Luce funding provided support for four Post-Doctoral research fellows, whose presence was considered integral to the eventual “re-tooling” of the college’s environmental programs. The fellows’ individual research projects were subsumed into the school’s environmental initiatives as a whole, and credited with sparking faculty growth and development “in ways that had not been happening previously.” In this way, research impacts were felt not just for their benefits to the public, community, or environment, but for their benefits to the school’s institutionalization of sustainability; hands-on implementation of the initiative’s goals through research guided overall progress towards a more environmentally-oriented college.

    The impact of Luce funding should be assessed not only in terms of its immediate and explicit impact, but also in terms of how it was part of a multiplier, serving as an inspiration and spur to action rather than just a single project to complete. For example, these grants inspired new research collaborations, either within the university (across departments) or between institutions (often internationally). In some instances, these new research collaborations were explicitly built into the funded project, whereas in other cases these collaborations begun in Luce stimulated new research projects beyond Luce altogether.

    In the case of Bard College’s project in Oaxaca, Mexico, the former was true. This initiative set students up with Fellowships and Internships for exchange between Bard and Oaxaca’s INSO, bolstering individuals’ work with a structured Faculty & Curriculum Exchange component to the project. This design successfully “opened up a research pipeline between Annandale and Oaxaca” and brought a much-appreciated new international focus to the work being done at Bard (for elaboration, see http://vimeo.com/35283830). In a case of more insular collaboration-building, the Carnegie Mellon initiative created capacity and the impetus for a “Faculty Learning Community” on-campus through which faculty members from diverse paths “automatically started exchanging material” on themes of environmental literacy and have continued to do so.

    In what was framed by its P.I. as a case of odd bedfellows coming together, Yale’s program on Biophilic Design, while largely curriculum- and internship-based, required research collaboration between the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the School of Architecture. Multiple research products, in addition to a new course and Master’s program, resulted from the melding of these two very different school “cultures” (according to Principal Investigator Steve Kellert), including an award-winning book (Kellert, Heller and Mador, 2008) and several studies on restorative environmental design in urban communities. Further solidifying this collaboration was the hiring of an Assistant Professor with joint appointments in both professional schools, an act accomplished outside the scope of the grant but for which the Luce initiative was a “highly instrumental” piece of the puzzle.

    Interdisciplinarity’s Visibility

    The Luce Foundation project was, in part, designed to enhance interdisciplinarity. Some schools received their funding with that dimension leading: Bowdoin, Carleton, Carnegie Mellon, Middlebury, MIT, RIT, Stanford, UT Austin, UC Berkeley’s Engineering, Williams and Yale’s Biophilic Design project. But nearly all of the projects supported through the Luce initiative were interdisciplinary. After all, environmental education is itself typically considered as an intrinsically interdisciplinary enterprise (Wright, 2002).

    Indeed, when we consider the learning impacts described above, we note that they are typically given an interdisciplinary accent when it is not defined with an experiential one, whether in cross-listing courses, as at Carleton, or in enhancing PhD student education by providing training in communication and data management, as at UC Santa Barbara. But interdisciplinarity varies considerably by range and modality, with some environmental studies programs reaching across humanities, social, natural and physical sciences.  Intuitively, we can appreciate that the interdisciplinary stretch is far greater between biology and English than between biology and chemistry or English and Religion, even though all the preceding conjunctions can claim the interdisciplinary label. It is important, therefore, to appreciate variations in range across fields of study which can, at the least, cross objects of research, methods for their study, and/or driving philosophies. With those very different crossings, each range produces a different modality.

    For example, one way to build interdisciplinary scope is to apply one theoretical perspective to issues considered by many fields.  An example would be rational choice theory, which can be applied to any range of objects (like love, employment or environmental protective action), and will tend to produce real coherence and cumulation for those who share the orientation (but not always appreciation by those with expertise in the subject matter).  Area studies interdisciplinarity can embrace what is constructed as a single object by identifying a world region, but given very different methodologies, from literary studies to Geographic Information Systems, coherence is loose, based on common linguistic, cultural or historical references and contests. It is less typical that contrasting epistemologies join, but that can happen when a transcending passion animates, as often is the case when environmental studies mobilize students drawing both on, say, Walt Whitman and Paul Ehrlich.  This range happened often among the Luce recipients, especially at smaller schools, exemplified by Allegheny’s Mill Run Initiative bringing the literary arts and sciences together in Meadville’s arts community (http://watershed.allegheny.edu) or in the embrace the College of the Atlantic’s work in the Bay of Fundy offered to the complete array of arts and sciences (http://vimeo.com/35283732).

    The consolidation of interdisciplinarity typically occurs, however, around modalities resonant with the assembly’s lead knowledge culture and the broader knowledge environment with which the assemblage is articulated. Within a university environment, power for an interdisciplinary assemblage is typically realized by becoming a school, complete with one’s own dean, degree, and income stream. By definition schools, as opposed to departments or disciplines, are multidisciplinary.

    Many universities continue to organize environmental studies learning in separate units, often originating in biology, ecology and earth sciences, especially in studies for the PhD.  Columbia, for example, offers a PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences, but it is seeking to expand existing cooperative programs with its School of International and Public Affairs and School of Engineering and Applied Science, along with the Earth Institute, “an umbrella construct whose chief mission is to facilitate interactions among the numerous University centers and departments that share an interest in sustainability and the wise stewardship for the planet’ (www.eesc.columbia.edu/programs).  More than half of the Luce initiatives were located in such interdisciplinary programs with just such a vision, if not with similar capacities as the Earth Institute.

    A substantial number of universities have developed full schools of environmental studies, offering degrees from the BS to the PhD.  The University of Washington’s College of the Environment is among the newest. Typically growing out of geologic, forestry or marine studies, such schools usually assemble scholars from ecological, biophysical and geological sciences with social sciences. Management, often in conjunction with business schools, has become increasingly important.

    Although a wide range of disciplines is typically present in such schools, they do work in relatively structured fashions.  For example, if one considers several leading environmental studies programs7, deans comes from biology (Yale), ecology and evolution (Stanford, Michigan), and policy-infused economics (Duke and Berkeley), indicating the critical articulation of science and policy in their professional definition. The dean of the University of Washington’s new College of the Environment has a degree in forest resources.  The director of Stanford’s University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) is a professor of population and resources studies, biology, even while the program is run out of the Earth Sciences school.  That program, however, is defined by its interdisciplinarity — offering a PhD in Environment and Resources and for students in business, law, and medicine a joint MS in Environment and Resources. For students, that breadth is assured by having at least two faculty members from different disciplines involved in advising. E-IPER’s executive committee is composed of faculty from biology, civil and environmental engineering, the business school’s operations, information, and technology, and the law school.  Its interdisciplinarity has become financially sustainable and organizationally embedded in Stanford, but it would not have been there at all without the Luce Foundation’s support for the initial vision of its founders.

    Professional school definitions of interdisciplinarity shaped the projects so awarded in the Luce initiative.  For example, at Johns Hopkins, the primary beneficiaries were second year MA students in the Energy, Resources, and Environment Program. At Duke, most of the participants were associated with environmental policy and economics, and all were professionals seeking to enhance their work in industry, the government, or academia. The Stanford Earth Sciences programs offered joint degrees between the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources and other professional schools within the University. UC Berkeley’s Engineering and Business for Sustainability program was open to students from across the university, reaching students far beyond the Engineering department. And although Washington University’s program is housed in the Law School, only half of the participants were law students; the other half were studying business, medicine, environmental studies, or engineering.

    Not all work on the environment takes place within schools of environmental studies, of course.  For example, the University of Wisconsin at Madison is well known for its environmental studies, but is organized through interdisciplinary institutes including the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment and the Nelson Institute, both of which are directed by historians and each of which has a wider range of disciplines involved than most professional schools.  Such interdisciplinary institutes, one might say, conduct environmental studies with a liberal arts, rather than professional, accent.

    Scholars in other schools too take up environmental issues, even independent of such interdisciplinary efforts in environmental schools or liberal arts.  Most notably, scholars in architecture, law and engineering take up environmentally charged work with programs or institutes weighted toward their own professional expertise. Looking across the initiatives supported within Luce, we can see this very variation.

    In some circumstances, Luce support reinforced an already existing interdisciplinarity evident in a department, center, institute, or school.  These include Bard’s Center for Environmental Studies, Bucknell’s Environmental Center, Dartmouth’s Environmental Studies Program, Dickinson’s Department of Environmental Studies, Middlebury’s Program in Environmental Studies, Stanford’s E-IPER, University of Texas’s Center for Sustainable Development, Tufts’ Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, Berkeley’s Engineering multidisciplinary certificate program, University of Washington’s Environmental Management Program, William’s Center for Environmental Studies, Harvard’s China project, and UC Santa Cruz’s interdisciplinary training in Environmental Management Program.

    In other circumstances, Luce helped diversify an already disciplined program. For example, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University in St. Louis is based in and run by the law program, but it brought in students from very different backgrounds and supported an engineering and science fellow who helped extend interdisciplinary breath. UC Santa Barbara developed projects that worked on bringing social variables into water quality research.

    In still other circumstances, the grant itself helped to produce that particular interdisciplinary combination, as in Bowdoin’s Environmental Studies program project on the ecology and environmental history of Merrymeeting Bay, Brown University’s Watson International Scholars of the Environment Program, Berkeley’s Green Governance program, and MIT’s Terrascope program.  Puget Sound’s Environmental Policy and Decision Making Program did not exist as such before the Luce Foundation awarded the grant, and the Sound Policy Institute further institutionalized that commitment.

    Finally, Carnegie Mellon brought its existing interdisciplinarity to bear on greening with its focus on environmental literacy.  While departments already worked together in a number of different dimensions, the grant helped bring focus around specific themes of sustainability and environmental education.  In other cases, like Allegheny, the College of the Atlantic, or Northland, the project brought scholars from many fields together in a common project on relatively new terms. In Northland’s case, the range was substantial, from Biology and Geoscience to Religious Studies, English, Art, Native American Studies, Sociology and Mathematics.  Of course each university and its program played to its strengths; the Rochester Institute of Technology mobilized faculty from 6 of 8 colleges in its work within the technological scope of the university.

    Luce also facilitated new partnerships between already existing units, exemplified by Yale’s partnership between architecture and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and suggested by the potentials at Columbia between the business school with environmental studies and public policy.

    Interdisciplinarity, however, is rarely practiced for its own sake; it is typically developed in order to address a particular kind of problem, within the worlds of scholarship or beyond.  If we were to consider these various expressions of interdisciplinarity in terms of their address alongside the spread of their disciplinary reach, we can find intriguing differences, and perhaps a better way to recognize interdisciplinarity’s diversity.

    The most common address for interdisciplinarity is, not surprisingly, the most immediate public for scholarly work: students (Kennedy 2011).  As discussed above, student learning in interdisciplinary and experiential forms is among the most prolific expressions of this commitment. This interdisciplinary commitment also can go beyond those immediate publics.  Especially for those in the world of design — from engineering to architecture – interdisciplinarity can be found in products.

    For example, Stephen Kellert of Yale University is one of the world’s leading advocates of Biophilic Design, and has taken his work into the heart of Yale University’s own built environment (http://environment.yale.edu/topics/4184).  Additionally significant, however, is the way in which his interdisciplinary range is exceptional.  He works with a wide range of scholars, from psychology to health, in figuring how to make buildings more attuned to life.  His breadth is considerable, and his influence longstanding not only in the scholarship he influences and the joint degrees he has helped to develop between environmental and architectural studies, but in the very built environment he helps to produce.

    Interdisciplinary work is evident in other products associated with the Luce initiative.  In particular, one might consider the Berkeley Engineering & Business for Sustainability program’s student projects around sustainable surfing (http://sustainablesurfcoalition.org), sustainable housing (http://cares.berkeley.edu), and sustainable underwear (http://www.wearpact.com).  These products are made much more sustainable, themselves, by embedding their work into the university’s first officially-sanctioned Certificate program, and later a new Master’s program in Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Climate that sprang from the work being done through the Luce project.

    The University of Texas Center for Sustainable Design is unusual among these centers, however, for its commitment to “better understand[ing] the connections between environment, economic prosperity and social justice” (http://www.soa.utexas.edu/csd/about).  Indeed, its commitment to developing sustainable housing in partnership with people with less power and privilege marks this initiative as relatively unusual, not only for its focus, but also its relative success in spinning off the Public Interest Design project (http://www.soa.utexas.edu/csd/PID ).  The Washington University in St. Louis Law Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic also had a social justice element with its public engagement. Here, faculty with backgrounds in law, sciences, and engineering work alongside students in the law, arts, and sciences and medical and business schools to “[give] a voice to those who may not otherwise be heard on matters of public health and environmental justice.”

    Of course interdisciplinarity is often a hallmark of professional learning, but professional schools are themselves quite variable in their efforts at public engagements. Schools of social work and public health typically engage publics of lesser means than schools of engineering, medicine and business, while schools of environment, law, and others vary depending on the particular specialties that are dominant. This variation is also apparent in the Luce initiatives.

    While Kellert’s project linking the School of Forestry with Architecture at Yale may have taken place without Luce support, association with such a prominent program at Yale reinforced the public recognition of the Luce initiative. But it was not just an opportunity to be affiliated with Yale’s prestige.  Not only does Kellert’s edited collection on the subject assemble leading scholars and practitioners in the movement; it also expresses how those who design and pay for the built environment could reflect biophilic design’s principles, including Swiss Re’s London Headquarters and Harare’s Eastgate office building.  Not all such biophilic designs have prominent sponsors of course, as Munich’s Isarauen kindergarten or New Housing in the South Bronx suggest, but the cross-strata movement in reconnecting the built environment to nature does offer terrific promise in making environmental knowledge matter.  And it matters more broadly across the Luce initiative: Oberlin’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College is a building celebrated in this mode of work. Middlebury’s Atwater Commons figures in the collection and Oberlin’s David Orr contributes to the volume (Kellert et al, 2008).  The project’s film extends impact into new media (http://www.biophilicdesign.net).

    Additional engagement of other work at Yale has also been important.  For example, support for Chinese scholars in industrial ecology took off, influencing prominent American firms like Bechtel to add sustainability components to their petrochemical facilities in China. In this way, Luce funding strengthened partnerships between Yale and Chinese universities, and contributed to enhancing the value of sustainability in manufacturing among prominent Chinese scholars and state officials.  Yale approached their work by “training the trainers” – by translating a leading journal in the field into Chinese, publishing Chinese scholars in that journal, providing subsidized subscriptions to Chinese institutions of higher education, and offering workshops on industrial ecology for Chinese executives.  This was a highly unusual approach but one that turned out to be extremely far-sighted, given the internal-orientation of Chinese policy-making, and the massive stakes in China’s booming environmental impact.

    Luce funding functioned with similar partnerships in California, where the UC Santa Cruz project brought over 300 interns into a number of manufacturing sites trying to reduce environmental impact. While this was certainly transformative for students, it also augmented ties between the university and major initiatives in the management of natural resources, integrated pest management, and environmental policy implementation. Finally, a partnership between New York State and the Rochester Institute of Technology (http://www.nysp2i.rit.edu) to reduce the environmental footprint of businesses is now established by law and funded by the state (see N.Y. ENV. LAW § 28-0112).

    These examples were most useful in demonstrating not only to publics but also to clients and authorities with resources that universities can be useful contributors to extending environmentally responsible practices. The fact that they are interdisciplinary does not matter to the real world, but the fact that knowledge transforms the real world can inspire donors and other powerful agents to move further university transformations.  Here, then, we need to think about how interdisciplinarity and visibility among the powerful matter.


    One of the most critical areas for this interdisciplinary work takes place in the realm of sustainability. ‘Sustainability’ as a central institutional goal for higher education has become one of the major themes not only of programs devoted to the environment but of the whole of universities themselves. Of course, there are varying definitions of ‘sustainability,’ most notably in the context of ‘sustainable development,’ which have led to prolonged discussions at all levels (e.g. Lele 1991).  The most commonly used definition, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland/World Commission on Environment and Development 1987) was important in shifting thinking away from the zero-sum conceptualization that growth needed to be controlled or stopped to protect the environment.

    As the following analysis shows, sustainability in institutes of higher education can take on many forms and is difficult to objectively define or pin down. Therefore the efficacy of the Luce grant in creating sustainability (in its many definitions) is exceedingly hard to determine. Instead we seek to highlight the diverse ways in which grant recipients conceptualized ‘sustainability’ at their respective institutions, as well as the impacts those conceptualizations yielded in practice.

    The work of Daniel Sherman, a Luce-Funded Professor at University of Puget Sound, has been particularly helpful in articulating the issues and frames at play when discussing and defining sustainability in context of the Luce Environment grants. Sherman (2008) argues that ‘sustainability’ as a term has almost exclusively been implemented as a series of “prescribed practices” rather than as a process of critically examining the world as it is lived in and experienced by people. In particular, he notes that the vast majority of students and faculty at Puget Sound associate the word ‘sustainability’ with actions like recycling and purchasing decisions. While he is quick to note that even this kind of awareness of sustainability is definitely a good thing, Sherman does not believe higher education does sustainability due diligence through such an approach. He calls instead for schools to take on sustainability across disciplines, embedding it into the school-wide curricula as a “pedagogical big idea”, thereby generating a broad range of diverse insights rather than following the current prescriptive approach.

    We note that, if seen broadly, the Luce Environment Initiative succeeded in implementing this latter approach to sustainability in higher education. Part of this success came from the diverse disciplinary approaches through which ‘sustainability’ as an idea was tackled, a credit to the Luce Foundation’s dedication to interdisciplinarity. However, the ways in which sustainability as a big idea was carried out pedagogically varied widely, with differing results. Sometimes this merely involved an in-depth course-based interrogation of those “prescriptive practices” that Sherman highlights, whereas in other cases an extensive conversation arose across campus through faculty involvement and research to pick apart ideas of sustainability and implement them in different ways. Colleagues have observed, in these discussions, that promoting these types of conversations can have long-term impact on faculty teaching and research, and ultimately on an institution’s mission. To know more confidently, with better research, whether that is true, and how that is done, could be one of the important outcomes of more systematic assessments of philanthropy/academic partnerships.  Our goal in this section is to articulate the ways in which Luce programs that used the idea of ‘sustainability’ as a jumping-off point actually implemented it in practice, and to point to possible reasons for the variations in their approach and relative success.

    Assessments of how to introduce ‘sustainability’ into higher education have been undertaken with terrific frequency since before the turn of the century.  A fairly extensive collection of research and writing on the subject of sustainability in higher education illuminates some of the key questions surrounding this ubiquitous, somewhat co-opted term. The International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education (IJSHE), a scholarly publication tackling many of the issues discussed in this paper, embodies this line of research by explicitly combining issues of international sustainable development with work in environmental education (i.e. curriculum) and the implementation of physical sustainability at colleges and universities (e.g. sustainable on-campus resource management). In IJSHE and other publications, much is made of the various conditions making innovation for sustainability in curricula, research, and institutional goals possible.

    Take, for example, IJSHE vol. 6 issue 3, a special issue on engineering education in sustainable development. Broadly, the research in this issue takes the stance that “Sustainable development is not a technological problem as such but a societal challenge that needs the contribution of engineers. Engineers must learn to be susceptible to non-technical issues, and must be able to deal with social issues” (From the issue’s guest editors: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1510034&show=html ). Engineering for sustainability is here the application of the traditional engineering tools of the trade to the “societal challenge” of sustainable development. So is engineering itself becoming ‘sustainable’? Is sustainable development being engineered? Because these projects are embedded within academic institutions, the interplay between established disciplines and the ‘new idea’ of sustainable development is a focus of work in this regard – Fenner et al.’s (2005) article Embedding Sustainable Development at Cambridge University Engineering Department details a “new pedagogy” and “Lessons are drawn about managing a change process within a large academic department, so that concepts of sustainable development can be effectively introduced across all areas of the engineering curriculum.”

    The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Luce-funded PhD in Sustainability program allows students to explore issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, while remaining rooted in Engineering as a core discipline. Its focus is on sustainable systems, and students engage with “methodologies such as life cycle assessment, environmental risk and impact assessment, design for the environment, pollution prevention, closed loop supply chain management, and product life assessment” (website: http://www.rit.edu/gis/academics/ph.d-sustainability). Because of its comprehensive and cross-disciplinary scope, this ostensibly engineering-based program bills itself as a PhD in “Sustainability”–as opposed to “Sustainable Engineering”.  This is because the program trains its students to implement sustainability at a broader scale than just in engineering practices. As a result, students gain insights well beyond those taken up by most traditional engineering programs.

    The University of California-Berkeley Engineering and Business for Sustainability program is jointly run by the Business School and the Engineering School.  There, very concrete projects produced by students affiliated with the program run the gamut from sustainable surfboards (discussed above) to a sustainable housing project (http://vimeo.com/35283830). As discussed above, University of Texas-Austin’s sustainable housing project “Alley Flats” brought sustainable design efforts from the classroom to the community.  Sustainability figures very differently across the programs and their universities, from these engineering efforts to address broader societal issues to efforts focused on using the university itself as a laboratory to learn about the complexities of moving away from wasteful systems of energy and materials use.

    These kinds of “Greening the campus” efforts allow very hands-on experience to students, in an arena where their unconventional ideas might be given some attention and their impact directly observed in their daily lives, sometimes on a time-scale meaningful for them—in weeks, semesters or academic years at the longest.  Williams College began a program that uses on-site buildings to explore energy & resource sustainability and the use of renewable energy.  They also held weekly faculty meetings to discuss sustainability on-campus and how it was being taken up in the curriculum.  The Williams reports for Luce described effects almost exclusively within the college’s own publics–building upon its longstanding commitment to sustainability and its pre-existing drive in that direction, as one of the oldest Environmental Studies departments in the country.  The University of Puget Sound extended into working with environmental initiatives in the community and had a “policy and decision-making” overall theme, but it incorporated on-campus sustainability into the curriculum and employed a Sustainability Tracking and Rating System to monitor efforts in terms of their ecological sustainability.

    As this makes clear, we need not only to figure out how different actors have introduced sustainability and other environmental issues into higher education, but also the various institutional conditions that make this more and less feasible. What makes a sustainable campus, and how does external funding make these greening efforts more feasible?  Is foundation funding following these broader institutional changes, or leading?  And how do we differentiate planning from implementation? For example, there is a sharp difference between drafting a sustainability implementation plan as a class activity versus instances in which bold sustainability measures were actually physically implemented on campus during the grant period, achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or constructing sustainable buildings.

    How does the idea of sustainability relate to differing levels of change, from the wish to have an environmental project at one’s university, to a desire for larger system change?  Discerning the core impetus for a major institution’s actions towards sustainability is complex. Was it a charismatic leader (e.g. David Orr at Oberlin’s sustainable Joseph Lewis Center over a decade ago – see Design on the Edge: The Making of a High Performance Building (2006)) or institutional roots in environmentalism and sustainability (e.g. Northland College – “the Environmental Liberal Arts College”)? Or perhaps it is the product of external social movements, which have led to students and faculty working together towards pressuring administrators to make commitments such as over 700 college presidents signing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org).  As described above, the rise of environment in national college rankings moved administrators to see environmental curricular elements as relatively easier elements to change to change than carbon reductions, and such curricular changes potentially created many other positive outcomes including satisfying multiple constituencies. There is the crucial impact also of many student movements and initiatives which flourished during this period and inspired many schools to “go green.”  Concretely, we observed quite a difference in the apparent origin of Luce environment projects between Williams, where there was a complex long-standing history of initiatives, and Puget Sound, where there was one quite active individual pushing for change.

    Finally, there is a fundamental cultural difference at different universities in their level of comfort with different directions and means of social change.  Some colleges and their environmental program faculty and students see reform as coming from social movements or state action, while others might be seen as more “business-friendly,” accustomed to working with individual firms or inclined towards educational efforts seeking to modify individual student or staff behaviors.  The concept of sustainability was at least initially successful in breaking the international deadlock between very different positions on this issue and whether economic growth could be sustainable.   Foundation funding such as that of the Luce foundation has likewise played an important role in shifting the discourse on environmental change in the United States (Brulle 2000).  For example, at RIT, work performed under the Luce grant was fundamental in helping to establish the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (http://www.rit.edu/gis/academics/ph.d-sustainability) with a PhD that seeks to shape the economy to ecological constraints: “The Ph.D. program focuses on sustainable production systems — systems that create goods and services using processes that are: non-polluting; conserving of energy and natural resources; economically viable; and safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers.”  This approach to “sustainability” is a clear impact of Luce funding.

    Public Impacts

    Understanding how higher education engages publics has become an increasingly important part of the literature on higher education per se (Rhoten and Calhoun 2011), but the ways in which environmental initiatives affect universities’ public engagements have not. This Luce initiative has, however, demonstrated a number of ways in which these public engagements can work.

    First, the most important public for any university is its most immediate public – its own students and faculty (Kennedy 2011).  Perhaps more than any other grant recipient, Williams College took that notion to heart and mobilized university publics to transform the college’s infrastructure – in its entirety – into a more sustainable project, whether by encouraging students foci in a single course, or through a website so dedicated (sustainability.williams.edu).  That is of course most possible when an institution is relatively small and self contained.  And when communities are relatively small, some outreach, especially if distinctive, can go a long way. At Bowdoin, for example, Professor John Lichter’s senior seminar on the ecology and environmental history of Merrymeeting Bay brought eight hunters to class to help students recognize what has happened to waterfowl on Merrymeeting Bay, and in the process, diminished barriers that town and gown only begin to capture when a college’s partners may not be so urban and middle class in reference.

    Bucknell’s Susquehanna Initiative developed extensive partnerships with local organizations, especially to provide better information to them in the pursuit of appropriate policy initiatives, including a real time data feed on their website (http://www.bucknell.edu/x3592.xml). They also extended their partnerships to other organizations working on the Marcellus Shale project.  But just as significant, the Luce initiative helped to build more meaningful ties between the university and the community by working with the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies
    (SRHCES) (http://www.srhces.org/Pages/default.aspx), Susquehanna Economic Development Authority of Governments, (http://www.seda-cog.org/Pages/Home.aspx), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/), and watershed associations of various creeks and streams in the area, among others.

    Likewise, Dickinson engaged local organizations and agencies to develop greater watershed consciousness; indeed, one of the goals of their project as stated in reports to Luce was to “expand the boundaries of the college by undertaking useful research to benefit watershed communities”.   Allegheny’s work was similar in how it linked improvements in the biophysical environment directly to the city itself with its Mill Run initiative, using the stream-way as a “geographic thread to string together environmental initiatives” in nearby Meadville (http://watershed.allegheny.edu) through the college’s Center for Economic and Environmental Development. More generally, Allegheny understood its Luce grant to carry a spirit that invited students to understand “how they fit into the fabric of their surrounding communities” (Allegheny Report June 2005).

    The University of Puget Sound’s Luce Program was primarily about civic engagement, especially bringing students into collaboration with policy makers and publics, from developing a model program on environmental education for secondary school students to a management program for green spaces and how to manage invasive species, and to collaborate on developing waste audits for both the university and its community.  Local environmental issues can become local economic matters too.  UC Santa Barbara’s work on rebuilding collapsed fisheries addresses, among other things, rates of recovery for marine fisheries, which of course has implications for any local fishing industry.  For example, they asked which economic factors best predicted managers’ abilities to develop aggressive rebuilding plans?

    These engagements of non-governmental organizations and local publics more broadly were not only evident in universities with proximate natural areas.  Even in major urban centers, environmental initiatives can have important impacts on town/gown relations. Carleton’s initiative to map traffic usage developed new analytical and policy tools to guide city planners in making the city more livable in a number of ways. The University of Washington developed keystone projects that brought community partners directly into collaboration with the university, by working, for example, with the Washington Restaurant Association to develop metrics for sustainable energy practices, or with Seattle City Light to move UW into leadership on renewable energy issues.

    Universities and colleges are drawn to their most proximate publics, and to more general publics, but sometimes they undertake specific initiatives to engage groups more specifically disadvantaged (Kennedy 2011). UC Berkeley’s sustainability project partnered with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation to build sustainable housing that was cutting edge in human-centered design (http://vimeo.com/33198168).  At Washington University in St. Louis, faculty and students at the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic worked together with citizens on matters connecting public health and environmental justice.

    The University of Texas at Austin, moved by its architectural school, sought to make more sustainable housing for particular parts of the Austin landscape who could not afford such work. Its Alley Flat Initiative was exemplary in a number of ways, most notably for its attention to class. Students were directly funded by Luce, but many more students took courses as part of Portfolio Program with a design competition supporting the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. Working in consultation with this organization, students implemented outreach and designed housing for neighborhood residents. The design component was only a portion of the purpose, however; the initiative’s grant report notes that throughout, the program has maintained a “focus on the broader urban consequences of our research.”  But it was also typical for its interdisciplinary emphasis.  That typicality is itself worthy of more substantial reflection, especially in contrast to internationalism.

    Internationalism’s Visibility

    One of the conclusions drawn in the earlier review of the Luce Program was that internationalism in environmental education is much harder to sustain than those environmental programs embedded in local contexts.  That review also described the deeper level of understanding and different nature of partnership that can be built with local community groups and agencies.  There are at least two different and linked reasons leading to these conclusions.

    As the local public discussion above illustrates, local environmentalism in higher education is reinforced by the local political economy of higher education. To the extent that institutions of higher education are supported by or depend on proximate philanthropists, political authorities, and publics, the investment of expertise and scholarship in local and national public goods makes sense.  Internationalism typically does not have that advantage; in addition, it also incorporates a wide range of approaches that have very different orientations to different places.

    Environmental studies bears a complex relationship to what has been called “contextual expertise” (Kennedy and Weiner, 2003).  On the one hand, there are some environmental scholars, notably climate scientists but also others, who take a genuinely global view to problems.  But especially for those environmental scholars who believe in experiential learning, environmental learning must be “contextual” (Robottom and Kyburz-Graber 2000: 264). In these circumstances, many environmental schools wind up treating context as their immediate biophysical environment. But they need not.

    Internationalism can generate interest in bringing local experts into dialogue with one another, to consider, for instance, the “diversity and complexity” of global sustainability issues (Savalyeva and McKenna 2010: 61).  This means, then, that internationalism is not only about recognizing the interconnectedness of environmental change, but about incorporating the challenge of difference in viewpoints on how to address them. This, in turn, produces a need for “new modes of learning in a global environment” (Anderberg et al. 2009: 370).  Indeed, there are some new master’s degree programs that emphasize this internationalism, arguing that sustainability professionals need to be well versed in how sustainability issues vary across the world (Buchan et al 2007).  While there is substantial variation in internationalism’s expression around environmental studies, it is also useful to consider its place in contrast to other kinds of interdisciplinary work.

    Because the Luce program emphasized four different dimensions of environmental engagement, of which internationalism was only one, it should not be surprising that a significant number of schools do not mention learning from beyond the USA much at all.  These include: Bowdoin, Allegheny, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Dickinson, Northland, RIT, Stanford, UT Austin, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, Washington University St. Louis, and Wooster.  However, it is useful to note that interdisciplinarity was one emphasis of the Luce initiative, but every project mentioned some kind of interdisciplinary work.  From this, one can appreciate the difference between both forms of knowledge elaboration — while the value of interdisciplinarity can be taken as a given in environmental studies, internationalism’s value is not obvious.  For it to develop a more robust presence, internationalism’s value needs to be elaborated. While we might consider those primarily local projects that highlighted an international reference (Carleton, College of the Atlantic, and Puget Sound), it is perhaps best to consider what those explicitly international projects did with their support.

    Some schools emphasized the creation of internationally-oriented courses, as Jonathan Isham, Jr. did in his report for Luce describing his own class on 21st century global challenges at Middlebury. Also at Middlebury, global environmental studies developed important partnerships with the Monterey Institute for International Studies as well as schools in China and Japan, making Asia a focal point.  Tufts emphasized its own strategic partnerships to include Winrock International, an international nonprofit dedicated to innovative approaches in agriculture and environmental protection among other issue.

    One of the premises of the Watson Institute Scholars of the Environment (WISE) program at Brown University was precisely to assemble scholars from diverse world regions across the global South in order to enhance this kind of learning.  Over nine (2001-2009) years, 66 scholar-practitioners from 41 countries came to Brown for one term to take classes, acquire new kinds of expertise, and develop new networks of collaboration that would enable them to approach a major problem in a new ways, for example the development of new protocols for regulating genetically modified fish in Uganda. Here and in other instances, internationalism and localism fused, as local expertise combined with local expertise from other circumstances in order to develop new and appropriate approaches to environmental policy and practice across contexts (http://www.watsoninstitute.org/ge/watson_scholars).  They also brought their learning home, not only as individuals, but through workshops on a variety of subjects, from matters of participatory environmental governance in Nigeria to watershed protection in China (http://www.watsoninstitute.org/ge/watson_scholars/Workshops.cfm)

    The UC Berkeley Luce Green Governance project (2001-2006) created an international research and policy network focused on the governance challenges associated with land, water, forests and energy.  The project had three country-specific locations – Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria – in which a research institution was linked to the central hub of Berkeley.  Each year would focus on one substantive theme – the fifth year held a final policy conference – in which an academic researcher and a policy-practitioner from each of the three countries would spend a 3 month residence at Berkeley culminating in a workshop open to the faculty, students and policy communities.  Working papers by the practitioner-policy fellow and by the academic appeared on the theme at the end of each yearlong theme.  These papers have been brought together and are about to appear in a special issue of the journal Development and Change. The research and policy linked key conceptual and policy questions across the diverse national experiences contributing to larger debates over green governance.

    The Yale project on industrial ecology focused on several international outcomes: directed toward translations of journals and subscriptions and conferences were dedicated toward extending the reach of industrial ecology in China. Harvard’s work in China and Tufts’ work in the Netherlands are relatively similar in that they offered their own expertise to enhance industrial ecology and environmental governance respectively.

    In most of the other projects, internationalism was mainly focused on increasing the presence of scholars and students from abroad in the educational program itself, or sending university-based students on research projects or internships abroad, exemplified by Johns Hopkins project.  These endeavors assume, as many internationalizing missions of universities do, that increasing the diversity of student origins and range of student experiences organically increase the internationalism of programs.

    Of course there are many ways to be international. In sociology, that range extends from using data sets from other countries to using other nations’ cultures to shape not only those data’s interpretations, or even to use the cultural logics of distant civilizations to shape the ways in which we even envision space and time (Kennedy and Centeno 2007). Environmental studies logics are slightly different, but the challenge of moving beyond ethnocentrism might also be articulated in these terms too (Argyrou 2005).

    Area studies typically celebrate a superior understanding of particular places, while more global and comparative studies emphasize their generalizing or systemic expertise.  This opposition, however, misses the mutual learning that can transpire.  Kennedy (2000) for example notes that increasing the endurance and depth of collaboration between US and Chinese psychologists at the University of Michigan wound up de-parochializing the US assumptions about processes of cognition.  One might presume the same to take place in the Yale and Harvard China projects funded by the Luce foundation, but we can see it most explicitly in the Bard Oaxaca project.  Bard faculty and students brought back from Mexico a concept of “slow water” that helped them to reconceptualize issues of erosion and watershed management in their own region.

    While these are compelling results, they do not in and of themselves define how they are more important, say, than the learning that can take place by comparing watershed experiences in the Susquehanna and Mississippi regions, as Dickinson explored. This is, of course, not a peculiar problem for environmental studies, but the importance of international work needs to be developed more extensively, especially given that it is not widely assumed to be a value in and of itself, as is interdisciplinarity.

    First, one needs to identify a way to recognize the value of internationalism in ways that interdisciplinarity is likewise valued.  In most contexts, interdisciplinarity is valued because (a) problems are not defined by disciplinary lenses, and (b) disciplines are recognized to have been constructed at a particular moment in history with different problems animating scholarly work.  Environmental schools, centers, and institutes have been constructed with that motivation, but the challenge of the international has not.

    That links to a second issue.  Most universities define their internationalism with certain disciplines privileged in the articulation, with political science often leading, sometimes in opposition to more humanistically-defined disciplines like history, anthropology, or language studies, and often in complete disregard for the sciences.  Environmentalism enters obliquely, and sometimes not at all in many international studies programs. Indeed, the story of internationalism and environmentalism at Brown University is illustrative.

    For a significant stretch of time, one of four core areas of the endowed Watson Institute for International Studies was the “global environment,” but its programmatic status was ended because, it was argued, environmental studies was better undertaken elsewhere in the university. However, because that environmental mission was articulated primarily in local terms, the internationalism/environmental fusion at Brown was lost.  New possibilities of joining up are being explored currently, by conceiving of environmentalism in terms of a broader notion of human security with all the assets, and liabilities, such a notion involves for engaging the environment (http://www.watsoninstitute.org/news_detail.cfm?id=1582).

    It is not only a matter of external stimuli, however.  Universities must also rethink how the environment figures in their international mission.  Indeed, much as universities have worked very hard to figure their public responsibilities at a local and national level, such work on an environmental and global level might have particularly promising outcomes.

    Those who emphasize the importance of proximate publics are typically in better stead given the visibility and indirect benefits of local environmental engagements.  As we indicated above, they have additional benefits for demonstrating to local communities and authorities the decency of universities contributing to public goods.  But when those public goods are distant, that additional value is harder to see.  And that is why we need to be more sophisticated about how we think about impacts, and how we communicate them.  Engaging digital capacities more directly can help address that priority.

    Digital Extensions

    The use of advanced digital technology and digital extensions for learning, research, and outreach has of course become increasingly commonplace in higher education. While some of our interlocutors believe that Luce funding moved the wider and more thorough embrace of digital technologies years before they might have otherwise, digital elements in Luce-supported programs were not as extensive and broad as we initially expected.  Of course, this is partially because the use of such technology was not central to the call for proposals. But over the course of the Luce initiative’s life, we did see broader use of transformations in information and communication technology’s capacities.

    The most innovative uses of digital technologies in these projects were not for analysis per se, but for networking, collaboration, and information sharing. Given the international and interdisciplinary foci of the Luce project as a whole, we found these uses of digital technology among the most consequential in carrying out the initiative’s stated mission. Previous authors have discussed digital tools as a way to enhance student learning experiences on environmental issues (e.g., Yanarella et al. 2000; Perdan et al. 2000), sometimes emphasizing their unique collaborative, participatory capabilities (e.g. Ray 2009). With our diverse array of programs to consider, most of which include digital extensions only as a minor component of a much larger project, we can discuss some of the trend and standout uses of technology for projects in this field. On the whole, we observe that environmental field’s interdisciplinary and global qualities informed–and perhaps inspired–the use of digital technologies to a large degree.

    Many schools used digital technologies to share learning more broadly.  Bowdoin, for example, used its project website to explain its research and disseminate information to its public (http://academic.bowoin.edu/merrymeeting-bay).  Williams is especially engaged in this, treating digital capacities not only as a tool for dissemination, but interactive learning, notably in encouraging students and others to compare systems for energy efficiency (http://sustainability.williams.edu/files/2010/08/ruth_pv_2007.pdf).  Perhaps the most significant web-based product to emerge from Luce funding came from Columbia University. With its project “Economic Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation,” P.I. Geoffrey Heal and his colleagues developed close to two-dozen case studies (as of the 2007 report) that were researched by graduate students and written by professional casewriters. Case studies were developed to “serve as a backbone” for future courses on related subjects (http://cees.columbia.edu/programs/epic). Their grant promised that these case studies would become available for other academic units to use these “living, breathing learning tools” in a searchable online library format, thereby providing a set of unique and easily-accessible resources on the topic of economic incentives for conservation.

    The Luce project at Tufts University resulted in the creation of EcoLinkUp, “an online tool for students, faculty and staff…for the purpose of connecting people who have common interests, facilitating collaboration on environmental research proposals and courses, and providing students with a virtual sense of an ‘environmental home’ at the university.” In contrast to Columbia’s case study library website, the Tufts project sought to spur additional research across the university through guided networking, demonstrating the value of digital extensions beyond information-sharing and into the realm of collaborative development (https://wikis.uit.tufts.edu/confluence/display/UITKnowledgebase/EcoLinkUp)

    Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment is notable for having developed a web-based distance learning degree-granting program for mid-career professionals. In this instance, digital extensions were the foundation of the project and utterly essential to its design and success. It allowed the school to cater to a unique–and vital–niche of potential students seeking further education: the working professional. Webcams and other interactive web technologies were used extensively in the courses, which were almost entirely conducted via the world wide web.

    Other schools developed websites and used blogs to both facilitate classroom or research project work (e.g. Dickinson, Carnegie Mellon). For example, Bucknell encouraged its students during their “Semester on the Susquehanna” to maintain a blog of their experiences (http://ots.blogs.bucknell.edu/).  In other circumstances, universities focused on publishing project information and research for public view (e.g. UC Berkeley Engineering, Brown University). Especially for projects with a strong community engagement component, this type of web-based sharing and development became an asset, even if many of these websites were not maintained continuously and have now become outdated.

    Perhaps less novel than the creation of information-sharing and network-based collaborative web portals was the use of Luce funds to support using digital tools in research and learning. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was undoubtedly the single most utilized piece of advanced technology among grantee projects. Several schools cited the Luce funds as helping to create capacity for students’ GIS learning skills, either as separate courses or as an integral component of a project’s research Schools with highly-technical projects to begin with (e.g. Rochester Institute of Technology and Carleton College) obviously relied very heavily on advanced technology in both developing related classes and carrying out their research.

    Conclusion: Impact and Levels of Institutional Support

    We began this assessment with two core questions.  First, we asked what are the environmental and educational impacts of foundation funding for institutions of higher education? Second, how can foundation funding be both transformative and sustainable for universities, society, and the biophysical environment?  To answer these questions, we drew comparatively upon funded programs’ self reports, other assessments, interviews with grantors and grantees, and a workshop we organized at Brown University in late 2010 to reflect on the entire initiative (for more information, visit www.luceenvironment.org).

    While the founders of this initiative allocated resources to support interdisciplinarity, practice or experiential learning, international approaches and management, when considering the impacts of this funding and the university resources it motivated, we find it useful to consider transformations of higher education in terms that cut across these arenas.  Most of the grants reported terrific impacts on modes of learning and were embedded in various expressions of interdisciplinarity.  International engagements were much less common and immediate and explicit impacts on the biophysical environment surprisingly rare in mention.  Although impacts on local publics were not identified in requests for proposals, nor were they located on any explicit list of criteria for evaluations, several have been identified and might be considered one of the unintended positive consequences of this broader initiative.  To summarize, the impacts of these Luce Foundation investments in environment in American academia and the wider world are vast and complex.  Together, these projects constitute a pathbreaking and bold experiment in education and action.  But in order to build further, we should become more specific, analytical, and anticipatory.  We can begin with thinking about how hard it is to assess impact.

    Impacts can occur at different times and at different geographic or institutional scales, and the greatest impacts may not be those that are easily measurable or immediately recognizeable. Nevertheless, we can conclude that the Luce Foundation created impacts at several levels in different ways. It:

    ●   supported many innovative environmental programs that would not have been taken up otherwise;

    ●  provided strategic leverage enabling new directions and greater momentum for existing programs;

    ●   advanced a few programs that might have otherwise taken place, but their mutual association enhanced the broader impact and reputation of both donor and recipient;

    ●   facilitated transformative change at the university level, where seed funding supported efforts that were institutionalized later;

    ●  stimulated change at the community level, where universities connected in new ways to their local community;

    ●  augmented international work that would not have occurred otherwise, with impacts across the world and around campus; and finally

    ●  generated new interest at the Luce Foundation for developing environmental initiatives in relation to its other priorities, such as in East Asia.

    Each of these impacts has its exemplars, and no particular university initiative managed each transformation equally well.  Because there was such diversity in grant recipients, institutions were variably disposed and different in their capabilities for introducing certain kinds of changes. However, because most environmental initiatives within universities seek to extend experiential learning and interdisciplinarity in the address of environmental issues, and because most universities at least recognize the value of internationalism and environmental management in their work, the opportunity to learn from one another provided in this last phase of the Luce initiative augments how environmental knowledge matters in the broader field.  And it raises several questions as work in philanthropy, higher education and the environment moves forward.

    With environmental learning so much more firmly embedded in higher education over a decade following the start of the Luce Foundation’s initiative, philanthropies can now consider which of the above impacts are most important to emphasize in future funding. It is relatively easy to focus on learning outcomes, and more challenging to address impacts on the biophysical environment, on local publics, and even more on global publics or environment. Combinations are possible, especially those that emphasize experiential learning. But as one moves beyond change within institutions, developing metrics for and expectations of environmental and public impacts become more important.  Indeed, one might even imagine whether the work of Carnegie Mellon in measuring environmental literacy could be extended beyond the university as such to consider how the public itself can change.  Or one might consider how what Williams manages on campus can become something cities themselves manage.

    At the same time, environmental innovation is only successful when it is firmly rooted in the local institutional culture, enabling innovation along paths that resonate with broader programmatic or university purposes.  This articulation can be realized by leadership from the top, or by particularly innovative faculty practices. But that makes only more clear the importance of thinking less about the “independent” impact of support beyond a university, and more its “interactive” impact, and how that varies across arenas of environmental knowledge within and across institutions and their social and biophysical environments.

    The magnitude of immediate impact is easier to see in smaller institutions, where external funding and other philanthropic gifts are less voluminous, and thus any gift is more obviously transformative. Indeed, here, while there may have already been, for instance, the foundations of interdisciplinarity in place, Luce Foundation gifts clearly extended capacities dramatically.   One might point to the ways in which Luce enabled Bowdoin students to integrate research on Merrymeeting Bay, how Northland students could recognize “Superior connections” as they traveled the lake, how Dickinson students could find commonalities in different watersheds from the Chesapeake to the Mississippi, and how the College of the Atlantic could undertake their exceptional experiential learning projects.  The College of the Atlantic is the smallest organization receiving this award, and beyond its particular niche, might not be so well known as the Stanfords or Dukes of the higher education world.  But the school’s particular approach to learning is quite exceptional and, as the conclusion of our November 2010 assembly indicated, quite inspiring for others from larger institutions.

    If we think about the field as a whole, one might argue that transforming graduate and undergraduate education in the leading research universities of the world is the best way to bring sustainability and environmental management into the heart of the academy and environmental professional fields.  Luce Foundation support in such settings might arguably have the greatest eventual impact, especially as students wind up teaching future teachers and environmental professionals. While every graduate and professional school has magnified their environmental knowledge effects in their mission, the most dramatic examples of impact are likely found in the establishment of whole new institutes – the Rochester Institute of Technology’s program perhaps illustrates this dramatic success most.

    Although these comparisons across projects, schools, and concepts is important, in the end they are even more consequential in combination than what any individual unit produces alone.  Especially when considered more actively in association with one another, their impact may grow even more.

    First, although the terrific advances in experiential learning are having ripple effects within schools, are there networks or programs that can take these lessons beyond the institutions that inspired them? In particular, might we think about projects that could not only discuss how engagements of watersheds, for example, inspire more responsible local environmental action, but also create opportunities for cross-contextual global engagements, on the one hand, and on the other, dramatic enhancements of the public mission of higher education?

    Second, can we take the work in sustainability as an exemplar of interdisciplinary work, and consider more proactive ways to extend its commitments across institutions of higher education beyond the ratings methods now dominant? In what ways can we elevate the value of sustainable products, buildings, management curricula, and internships by relying on this initiative’s exemplars and networks?  To some extent, learning already takes place across existing networks, but the Luce project is distinctive both for funding a terrific diversity of initiatives, and for facilitating the face-to-face meeting on which this paper builds (www.luceenvironment.org), at which new networks were created.  More than one respondent to this paper in fact wished that there were more gatherings of the sort at Brown University earlier on in the course of the grant.8

    Third, can we articulate the relative failures of the initiative itself? Clearly every project has been consequential in different ways, but where has the grant’s inspiration been least sustainable and consequential? One might argue that this rests in internationalism itself, given the ways in which it has become a relative specialty, rather than dominant theme, of environmental programs, leading several institutions, at the time of the grant’s conclusion, to end or significantly diminish, the activities Luce supported.  It’s too easy to say that there are no funds; one might engage much more substantially the ways in which internationalism and environmentalism (whether from each of their interdisciplinary homes or through a new fusion on the model of how the Luce Foundation has inspired the engagement of religion and internationalism) might be found.

    Finally, in combination with the global attention focused on international negotiations about climate change alongside the more local efforts to “green” universities and cities, how might we rethink the place of environmentalism itself?  In particular, sustainability has come to be central in some universities’ curricula; are there lessons from those very local experiences for larger local, national, and global public spheres? Local and successful efforts–such as those borne or supported by the Luce environment program—may make broader efforts more imaginable.

    These concluding issues can, however, only be posed as a consequence of the ways in which the Luce Initiative moved ahead the ways that environmental knowledge matters.  We leave to others the task of carrying forward its value in words and in deeds.


    Participating Institutions:
    Allegheny College*

    Bard College
    Bowdoin College
    Brown University
    Bucknell University
    Carleton College
    Carnegie Mellon University
    College of the Atlantic
    Columbia University *
    Dartmouth College *
    Dickinson College
    Duke University Nicholas School
    Grinnell College *
    Harvard University (2) *
    Johns Hopkins University
    Middlebury College
    Northland College
    Oberlin College
    Rochester Institute of Technology
    Stanford University
    Tufts University
    University of California – Berkeley (2)
    University of California – Santa Barbara
    University of California – Santa Cruz
    University of Puget Sound
    University of Washington
    University of Texas – Austin
    University of Vermont Law School
    Washington University in St. Louis
    Williams College
    Wooster College *
    Yale University

    * Did not present at Brown University-hosted peer conference on the Luce environment initiative.


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    1. We are grateful to the Luce Foundation, its partners among universities in the Foundation’s environmental initiative, and especially those who attended our 2010 conference on the environment and higher education (www.luceenvironment.org). We add special thanks to John Mazza and Lindsay Richardson for their exceptional media talents evident in this larger project. Lindsay especially engaged this project, most evident in the films that accompany this work. We also have special appreciation for those who read and commented on a previous version of this paper, including Richard Wetzler, John Lichter, Laura Sadovnikoff, Bill Moomaw, Beth Martin, Kevin Laverty, Dan Sherman, Helen Doyle, David Foreman, Alan Brew, Liz Carlisle, Michael Heiman, Michael Watts, Deb Gallagher, Steve Kellert, Eban Goodstein, Steven Moore, Indira Nair and Toby Volkman. Of course all represented here are the responsibilities of the authors alone.

    2. The Foundation conducted similar work among non-governmental organizations. His advisors for the NGO side of the initiative included Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, Ken Knoblock of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Rebecca Goldburg of Environmental Defense. This NGO focus is not the subject of this paper, although a similar review on that project might be quite useful.

    3. Its NGO side also had four foci: large scale global systems, science driven public policy, sustainable development and biodiversity and natural resource management.

    4. The 2011 categories were Administration, Climate Change & Energy, Food & Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Transportation, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement.

    5. Marginson and Ordorika (2011) discuss how rankings are related to hegemonies in higher education and research on a global scale. Espeland and Sauder (2009 and 2007) and Sauder and Espeland (2009) discuss rankings within the US and its effects more generally.

    6. This was certainly the case in the partnership among foundations and others in the creative struggle around “truth and reconciliation” work. One analyst in fact argues that one of the sources of reconciliation’s proliferation across the global South was its “contested meanings and multivocal character and the struggle to define and delimit its scope and substance” (van Antwerpen 2009:125).

    7. Figuring the leading schools is difficult, for, in contrast to most professional schools, there is no nationwide ranking system for environmental studies graduate programs

    8. Here is one example of the diffusions of best practices that comes from such gatherings After attending the November 2010 Luce Workshop, Puget Sound’s Daniel Sherman built on the model of “weekend intensive courses” that Indira Nair supported at Carnegie Mellon. He based his on environmental policy and decision making in local watersheds, with Friday afternoon and evening on panel discussions of local stakeholders sharing their experiences and familiarity with environmental issues in the watershed, Saturday at the top of the watershed, learning natural history and visiting impact sites with stakeholders (dams, large agricultural development, forestry lands), and Sunday on the estuaries (looking at restoration, suburban sprawl and industrial development). He reports these “mini-courses” to have been the best teaching experiences of his life–and based on the feedback of his students too.