Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 56.22
Liaison Olivia Wiebe
Submission Date Jan. 28, 2022

STARS v2.2

University of Idaho
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 4.00 Olivia Wiebe
Sustainability Coordinator
Sustainability Coordinator
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

The Presidential Work Group for Sustainability is conducting an audit of academic opportunities pertaining to sustainability. The audit of current offerings would result in recommendations for the early opportunities to market existing degrees and research focused on sustainability, as well as include recommendations for future focus areas in sustainability. The desired end result of this work would be an interdisciplinary sustainability certificate.

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

The Confluence Lab launched in March of 2019 to incubate and implement creative interdisciplinary research projects that bring together scholars in the arts, humanities, and sciences, along with community members, to engage environmental issues in the state of Idaho. The Lab’s central premise is that the tools of the humanities and arts—especially those related to storytelling, representation, emotions and communication—are important complements to scientific knowledge and can help develop holistic approaches to these issues. Beginning with a series of working lunches and a two-person office in the IRIC building, the Lab has grown to include a 113-member listserv and an active group of faculty, graduate students, postdocs, and interns housed in one of IRIC’s lab spaces. In its first three years, the Confluence Lab brought in over $700,000 of external grant funding, in addition to internal funding from UI, in support of eight projects. The two largest focus on fire in the American West and are funded by a National Science Foundation-Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant, and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “Just Futures Initiative.” Both projects work with communities and educators to invite and gather personal stories of fire. The NSF-AISL project aims to enhance informal science learning with attention to narrative and emotion. The Mellon Foundation project is one in a suite of justice-oriented projects under the umbrella of the Just Futures Institute, anchored at the University of Oregon. Confluence Lab members are working with regional communities to create a Pacific Northwest Climate Justice Atlas, which aims to elevate, amplify, and learn from the experiences of underrepresented communities in the Pacific Northwest as we collaborate toward more socially and environmentally just ways of living with more wildfire.

While these signature projects focus on wildland fire in the West, other Confluence Lab projects range widely in form and content. Among these are original music and rephotography centered in the Idaho wilderness, social science research on climate change skepticism in Idaho and the region, and a digital mapping project combining scientific research and personal interviews about caribou extinction. On campus, the Lab partners with the CDIL, Contexture, and the Sustainability Center. Off campus, Lab members collaborate with Idaho public libraries and the NASA-Earth to Sky network to host conversations about climate change in local communities. All of the Lab’s projects investigate conceptual and communication barriers that underlie debates about issues that are especially relevant to rural communities, such as public land use, wildland fire and fire management, and the causes and effects of climate change.

The University of Idaho awarded the Confluence Lab’s co-founders an Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Efforts in the spring of 2021. The Lab continues to provide researchers a vital meeting place on campus in which to share work while building bridges with colleagues and communities across the Pacific Northwest and nationally.

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The University of Idaho has integrated interdisciplinary work into its annual performance evaluation and tenure and promotion processes. Faculty-Staff Handbook (FSH) 1565, the university’s primary policy regarding faculty ranks and responsibilities, defines the term interdisciplinary as: “an activity that involves teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or field of research practice.” The policy then provides that interdisciplinary work may be considered in each of the primary faculty areas of responsibility (teaching and advising, scholarship and creative activity, outreach and engagement, and university service and leadership.

Pursuant to FSH 3050, Faculty Position Descriptions are directly tied to the areas of responsibility. Faculty participate in the drafting of position descriptions and are able to initiate revisions to reflect the work in which they are actually engaged. The annual performance evaluation process (FSH 3320) is tied to the areas of responsibility and the position description. The policy specifically provides for the participation of supervisors in interdisciplinary fields in which the faculty member is active.

Finally in the context of tenure and promotion, FSH 3520 (tenure) and 3560 (promotions) provide for the direct participation of colleagues, supervisors and peers in interdisciplinary fields in which the faculty member is active.

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

We provide research guides on a variety of topics that cover aspects of sustainability, including research in the environmental sciences and society/environment interface. We also explicitly maintain collection management policies to acquire or license journals, books, and other resources that cover sustainability-associated topics, with regular purchases annually. GIS software for the UI community is managed by the UI Library, including in support of students and faculty performing spatial analysis on sustainability-related topics. Librarians have taught information literacy sessions in support of sustainability research in at least 5 courses per semester, including some specifically on resources for performing life cycle assessments and studying carbon offset policies in local communities.

Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Library: Jeremy Kenyon, Interim Head General Library

Inter-, Trans- and Multi-Disciplinary Research: Elizabeth Barker Brandt, James E. Wilson Distinguished Professor and Policy Coordinator and Faculty Secretary

Confluence Lab: Jennifer Ladino, Faculty; English Department


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