Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 67.15
Liaison Andrea Trimble
Submission Date March 4, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Virginia
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Jonah Fogel
Program Manager
Environmental Resilience Institute
"---" 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 University has a number of programs to support student research of all forms, including sustainability research.

The Environmental Resilience Institute trains and educates the environmental leaders of tomorrow, ensuring they have the skills and tools they need to solve complex challenges now and in the future. We do this through research fellowships for students and postdoctoral fellows; summer internships and job-shadowing with alumni mentors in industry, nonprofits and government agencies; and enhancing curriculum with cross-school “big idea” seminars. ERI develops professional development programming to support interdisciplinary readiness, with themes including: Team Science, Community Engagement, and Design Thinking.

The Environmental Resilience Institute offers graduate fellowships that advance resilience and sustainability research. The ERI Graduate Fellows program helps foster a community of students engaged in the science, politics, economics, culture, and ethics of environmental change. Graduate students at the M.S. and Ph.D. level are eligible for selection as a fellow if they are engaged in a cross-disciplinary research project and are advised by faculty members from two different disciplines. Students from all schools are eligible. Preference will be given to projects that include an undergraduate researcher. The ERI emphasizes work in the following areas but welcomes applications from any thematic perspective:

COASTAL RESILIENCE – The ERI is spearheading cutting-edge approaches to protect coastal communities from sea-level rise and storms, as well as technology and design solutions that make coastal cities resilient to flooding.

WATER FUTURES – We examine issues related to water sustainability in the face of climate change, from water quality to greening of cities to social equity.

CLIMATE RESTORATION – The ERI explores how to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - key to meeting global climate goals - through land use practices, new technologies, ecosystem restoration, and economic and policy solutions.

The ERI Summer Internship Program is an opportunity for undergraduate, Masters, and PhD students to explore career opportunities and receive professional guidance.  Students are matched with a host organization of the students’ choice. The program runs for 10 weeks from June to August during the summer. Career fields in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and industry are represented.

The Environmental Extern Program is a job-shadow mentoring program designed to expose students to career opportunities and guidance. Students are matched with Workplace Mentors of the students’ choice. Workplace Mentors help students learn about career options, areas of study, and offer professional insights. The program runs for the entire extended upcoming J-Term. All career fields are represented from performing arts to technology.

The UVA Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) encourages students to get involved in research. The Center administers the Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards and maintains a database of research opportunities both at UVA and elsewhere. The Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards provide funding for students to pursue independent research projects over the summer. While the up-to $4,000 grants can be used to pursue projects of any topic, in the past years several grants have been awarded to students pursuing sustainability-related research projects. Recent recipients researched such topics as 3D printing organic material, the effect of climate change on germination, and cost effective approaches to improving low income housing assistance.

Since 2019, the Sustainability Teaching & Research Subcommittee at UVA has awarded over 20 Sustainability Internship grants through the University Career Services Parents Fund Internship Grants program. These $3000 grants enable 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year UVA undergraduate students to cover some expenses while taking unpaid, sustainability‐focused summer internships. Many of these internships provide research experience at government agencies, NGOs, and non-profits across the world.

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:

Research Development and Grounds as an Engagement Tool Grants from the Sustainability Teaching & Research Subcommittee have provided seed funding to begin or continue sustainability‐related research. Since 2016‐2017 the T&R Subcommittee has awarded 48 grants totaling over $300,000 across a range of including adaptive control of stormwater systems, consumer demand with environmental impact labeling, data‐driven sustainability decision making, bee hotels as conservation tools, studies of native wildflowers, the impact of natural environments on children’s emotions, vehicle idling reduction policies, air pollution inequalities, women’s sense of belonging in STEM, local business sustainability, oyster reef resilience, efficiency‐enhancing window film, man‐made floating wetlands, energy storage devices, and ecosystem carbon fluxes. Results have been shared in two pan‐university research symposia.

The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) supports collaborative research and training at the intersection of environmental change and human well-being. Seed funding programs facilitate the interdisciplinary connections needed to form sustainable research and multi-sector collaborations that serve the public good. By actively building a team culture we help surface novel research frameworks, theories, models, and applications. Seed funding includes:

The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) supports Collaboration Labs (CoLabs) - CoLab funding provides seed money for research collaborations to connect faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students working together on problems related to the institute’s mission. We support teams at various stages of development; prior collaboration is not required, and the creation of new partnerships is encouraged. CoLabs have access to the Institute’s communication and outreach efforts to translate research findings to stakeholder groups and decision makers. Co-production between researchers and stakeholders is encouraged to make findings actionable and impactful.

The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) supports Rapid Response grants are a key component of the institute’s mission. When events like the Covid-19 pandemic happen, its important for the research community to respond quickly. Time-sensitive sustainability research is better able to collect ephemeral data, easily lost as time goes on. The Environmental Resilience Institute enables researchers to be nimble by offering Rapid Response grants up to $15,000. They provide funds to help faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students work on issues related to the institute’s mission.

The Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) supports Faculty Fellows of the Environmental Resilience Institute receive support for allocating a portion of their effort to leading the development of a new focus area in the Institute. Faculty Fellows focus on issues across all disciplines, at the intersection of conservation and management, climate change, health and well-being.

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 Commission on the Future of the University, a group charged with proposing strategic directions for the University for the next decade, highlighted the important of interdisciplinary collaboration in the Commission's 2008 report:

"Significant and consistent collaboration and interaction across all ten schools of the University are critical to fostering a shared vision, common goals, innovative programs, and bold initiatives. Meaningful collaboration and interaction can differentiate the University in important ways and build a foundation for other strategies to achieve differentiation." UVA now has four pan-university institutes that promote transdisciplinary research.

The Vice President for Research offers multiple programs to organize and promote interdisciplinary research efforts, including theOpenGrounds initiative. OpenGrounds is a unique combination of interdisciplinary programming, challenges, research fellowships, and a network of physical spaces distributed across Grounds to promote ad hoc collaboration. A new program, 3Cavliers, is being launched to seed interdisciplinary research projects.

Tenure and promotion processes are typically initiated at the School and Departmental Levels. The following are selected excerpts from School-level Promotion and Tenure policies that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary research:

Promotion and Tenure Policy School of Engineering and Applied Science - Revised May 12, 2011:
"Cross-disciplinary research is encouraged and is recognized as a valuable complement and enhancement of the candidate's strength and depth in a central area of expertise."

Collaborative or joint research among the faculty, both within and across disciplines, is encouraged. Collaboration often enhances the quality and relevance of research.
School of Medicine - Criteria for Collaboration:

The NIH roadmap for patient-oriented research endorsed team science and established the expectation of expertise for interdisciplinary investigation and collaboration. The national academies have suggested that the evaluation of outcomes of interdisciplinary research and teaching will focus less on the usual number of publications and more on the impact of these publications. A successful interdisciplinary program will affect multiple disciplines and the connections among these fields.

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

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

The University Library provides a full ranges of services to support sustainability research and learning. For instance, the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library has a Materials Collection that includes samples of green building materials used in buildings and landscapes. Library staff will create Research Guides for specific courses, such as the Community Food Systems course. The Scholar's Lab offers custom-created map and data repositories for sustainability focused classes as well.

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

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.