Overall Rating Reporter
Overall Score
Liaison Chelsea Hamilton
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Vanderbilt University
AC-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Reporter Chelsea Hamilton
Sustainability Outreach Coordinator
Sustainability and Environmental Management Office
"---" 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 research in sustainability? :
Yes

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Vanderbilt University provides myriad opportunities for students to partake in sustainability and environmentally-focused coursework, research and educational opportunities. Vanderbilt’s program in American Studies initiated the Sustainability Project (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/americanstudies/sustainability/index.php), which aimed to encourage campus-wide dialogue that will promote and further the university’s sustainability efforts. Due to the success of the program, the Sustainability Project continued into the academic year with a focus on creating a strategic plan for the new minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching sponsored the Cumberland Project (http://cumberland.vanderbilt.edu/) a two-day workshop intended to foster an interdisciplinary teaching and learning community around sustainability themes at Vanderbilt. A follow-up to the American Studies project and also funded by the Gant Foundation, the Eos Project, supports innovative initiatives at Vanderbilt University to promote understanding of urgent environmental issues and social action-pathways to respond to the challenges of climate change. The goal is to energize attention to environment/society concerns in diverse disciplines and campus constituencies. The project organizes programming and offers small grants and fellowships to support faculty and students to develop the vision, knowledge, leadership skills, and networks needed to address pressing problems at the intersections of ecology and social justice, where the well-being of human communities is inseparable from the well-being of more-than-human life-worlds. Additionally, the English and American Studies departments launched the Environmental Humanities in Action program in late 2016 which offers humanities students a way to incorporate research, experiential learning, and social activism into their course of study.
The Vanderbilt Green Fund expanded in 2016 to include three focuses, allowing for more flexibility to fund projects focused around sustainability research. The Vanderbilt Green Fund (VGF) is intended to systematically reduce Vanderbilt’s greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects with both environmental and economic benefits, and by enabling students, faculty, and administration to engage in the process of transitioning to a clean and sustainable energy future. The fund was expanded in 2016, doubling the funding available for projects to $150,000. The fund provides up-front capital to projects of three primary focuses:
¥ Classroom Proposals: these focus on sustainability enrichment and experiential education. Examples include student research, guest speakers, field trips, seminar series, conference attendance, student-run mini-conferences, and film screenings.
¥ Innovation Proposals: these focus on on-campus projects that increase energy efficiency and promote sustainability efforts in an attempt to reduce energy consumption on campus. Examples include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy use, installing clean sources of energy, reducing water use, reducing sewage or pollutants, and spurring behavioral change to reduce energy or material consumption through education.
¥ Laboratory Proposals: these focus on improving the sustainability of laboratory operations. Examples include offsetting the increased purchase price of energy/water efficient equipment, e.g. ultra-low freezers, green labware and chemicals, and behavioral change such as the Shut the Sash awareness program or the Green Lab certification and recognition program.

In addition to these two special programs, environmental engineering, environmental science, and environmental studies majors and minors and environmental policy concentrations are available to Vanderbilt students. Departments and programs offering courses pertaining to sustainability and the environment include:
1. American Studies
2. Anthropology
3. Biomedical Engineering
4. Biological Sciences
5. Civil and Environmental Engineering
6. Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
7. Communication of Science and Technology
8. Divinity
9. Earth and Environmental Sciences
10. Economics
11. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
12. English
13. Environmental and Sustainability Studies
14. Environmental Engineering
15. Engineering Management
16. Engineering Science
17. European Studies
18. History
19. History of Art
20. Human and Organizational Development
21. Law
22. Law and Economics
23. Management (Owen Graduate School of Management)
24. Mechanical Engineering
25. Nursing
26. Philosophy
27. Political Science
28. Psychology
29. Public Health
30. Religious Studies
31. Sociology
32. Spanish
33. Women’s and Gender Studies

Ample opportunities for student sustainability research are available at Vanderbilt through several research centers in addition to the specific departments and programs previously mentioned, such as the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management Studies, the VU/MWS Renewable Energy Showcase (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lc/), the Eos Project (http://eosprojectvu.org/), the Vanderbilt Green Fund (https://anchorlink.vanderbilt.edu/organization/greenfund), the Climate Change Research Network (http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/academic-programs/environmental-law/climate-change-network/), the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Strategy Study (https://www.vanderbilt.edu/futurevu/sustainability.php), and the BlueSky Vision Energy Strategy Study (https://www.vanderbilt.edu/futurevu/sustainability.php). SEMO also assists students who are interested in or want to initiate sustainability research projects which use the campus as a laboratory. Examples of past projects include: a current study on behavior and fume hood energy use, development of the ThinkOne energy conservation campaign in academic and administrative buildings, development of the SustainVU Laboratory Greening Guide, and use of feedback intervention as a means of inducing student behavior change in The Commons residential campus for first-year students in collaboration with the VUMC School for Science and Math. More information about Vanderbilt’s sustainability research programs can be found at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainvu/resources/academics-curriculum/.


Does the institution have a program to encourage faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability topics?:
Yes

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

¥ The American Studies Sustainability Project aims to encourage campus-wide dialogue that will promote and further the university’s sustainability efforts. Due to the success of the program in 2011-2012, the Sustainability Project continued into the 2012-13 academic year with a focus on creating a strategic plan for the new minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. The Dean of Arts and Sciences awarded discretionary funds of $50,000 for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 academic years to develop this research and outreach program.
¥ The Cumberland Project - One way that individual scholars from across the disciplines are addressing these issues is through their teaching, by focusing on environmental problems as central components of their courses and by embracing interdisciplinary pedagogies that encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership development. Over the last decade, many universities have sought to encourage these innovations in all disciplines by providing educators intensive workshop opportunities to (re)design courses with significant environmental components. It is toward this goal that Vanderbilt’s Program in American Studies and the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching facilitate the Cumberland Project. The Cumberland Project includes a two-day workshop in which Vanderbilt faculty engage in discussions and course designing workshops with Vanderbilt leaders in sustainability education. The workshop joins intellectual stimulation with an opportunity to meet with faculty from around the university and to learn about an array of sustainability resources available on our campus and within our community. The project is intended to build on and strengthen a continuing, vibrant teaching and learning community around sustainability themes. Therefore, particular emphasis is placed on environmental education that is highly interdisciplinary in scope and inclusive of a wide array of environmental studies across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Participants receive $500 in research funds for their participation in the two-day workshop.
¥ Climate Change Research Network - Participants in the Climate Change Research Network are examining questions such as:
o What are the aggregate emissions from individuals and households, and how do those emissions compare to the emissions from industry and other source categories?
o Which individual behaviors release the greatest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions?
o What are the greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicle idling and how can they be reduced?
o How do personal carbon calculators vary in their outputs and conversion factors?
o Which social psychological theories have the greatest explanatory power for greenhouse gas-emitting behaviors?
o How do people perceive and value climate change risks, particularly when they are remote?
o How should these climate change risks be valued for policy benefit assessments?
o What strategies are chosen by those policy advocates and to what extent are these strategies constrained by the political system in which they evolve? What changes in laws and policies can generate the most cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from individual behavior?
o What changes in the administration and staffing of government agencies will be required if climate change laws and policies are adopted?
• The Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment - The Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment (VIEE) engages in research and education that directly link the social and behavioral sciences, physical sciences, engineering, law and policy, and that bear on energy and environmental decision making by individuals and by public and private institutions. Specifically, VIEE research elucidates the relationships among individual, institutional, and societal choices for energy production and use, and the impacts and benefits of these choices on the environment and health through links with climate, water quality, economics, social psychology, and natural resources.
• VU/MWS Renewable Energy Showcase - In collaboration with Nashville Metro Water Services (MWS), Vanderbilt University School of Engineering (VUSE) set up a wind-solar renewable energy site at the Love Hill in Nashville. The main purpose of this project is to examine the feasibility of alternative energy production through solar and wind facilities, and the expectation is that about of 30kWh of energy will be generated on a daily basis; 30kWh is the average daily consumption of electrical energy per household across the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
• EOS Project - The Eos Project supports innovative initiatives at Vanderbilt University to promote understanding of urgent environmental issues and social action-pathways to respond to the challenges of climate change. The goal is to energize attention to environment/society concerns in diverse disciplines and campus constituencies. The project organizes programming and offers small grants and fellowships to support faculty and students to develop the vision, knowledge, leadership skills, and networks needed to address pressing problems at the intersections of ecology and social justice, where the well-being of human communities is inseparable from the well-being of more-than-human life-worlds.
• VUCO2– VUCO2 is an interdisciplinary Vanderbilt think tank devoted to Climate Change issues. It organizes reading groups, speakers, workshops, and retreats and spurs development and refinement of various sustainability research ideas. The think tank is housed in the Philosophy department.
• Sterling Ranch - Sterling Ranch, a 12,000-home planned community south of Denver, will provide a sustainability training site and test bed for Vanderbilt School of Engineering research involving students and professors. The community includes its own commercial space, retail stores and schools. Its design is centered on sustainability and next-generation telecommunications, a focus that’s creating internships and capstone projects for engineering undergraduates plus research opportunities for professors and their teams. The partnership, which includes corporations Mortenson Construction, Siemens and IBM, started with Brock Smethills (BE’13) discussing his idea with David Kosson, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, and Doug Adams, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and holder of the Daniel F. Flowers Chair. They brought in a number of other professors across all departments to advance the concept.
• Rooted Community Health - The Rooted Community Health (RCH) initiative seeks to engage partners across the Vanderbilt campus and communities of Middle Tennessee in service to ecological sustainability, health promotion and human flourishing, and an ethically responsible understanding of our interdependency as a community within the vision of population health. Through partnering with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, colleagues in nutrition services, and other sustainability and health professionals, RCH aims to enhance community engagement through programming around ecology, sustainability, and health care. RCH is committed to facilitating trans-institutional transformation at Vanderbilt and enhancing our community’s health through community engagement, scholarship, and research in ecology, health, and sustainability.
• Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) Grants - Entering its third year as part of the university’s $50 million strategic investment in interdisciplinary research, Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) are a centerpiece of the Academic Strategic Plan. The program is designed to serve as a catalyst to support new ideas, cutting-edge research and the development of infrastructure by providing pilot funds for emerging and existing trans-institutional centers and institutes. Awards are also made to reinvest in existing trans-institutional centers and institutes. The grants are meant to seed and expand research and teaching collaborations across disciplines, solve critical problems, embrace discovery and spark learning to position Vanderbilt as a world leader in a given area. Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) are pilot funds for trans-institutional efforts that are, or may lead to, emerging programs, centers and institutes. Awards have been made over the past 3 years to 17 different projects that include over 100 faculty from all of Vanderbilt’s 10 colleges and schools. Recent winners that address sustainability include: Private Governance Approaches to Climate Change, Sterling Ranch Sustainability and Education Research Center, Vanderbilt Initiative for Smart-City Operations Research, and Materials Durability and Environmental Research Facilities Hub.


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?:
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

• Multiple Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) grants have been awarded to research teams that engage with sustainability topics. Entering its third year as part of the university’s $50 million strategic investment in interdisciplinary research, Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) are a centerpiece of the Academic Strategic Plan. The program is designed to serve as a catalyst to support new ideas, cutting-edge research and the development of infrastructure by providing pilot funds for emerging and existing trans-institutional centers and institutes. Awards are also made to reinvest in existing trans-institutional centers and institutes. The grants are meant to seed and expand research and teaching collaborations across disciplines, solve critical problems, embrace discovery and spark learning to position Vanderbilt as a world leader in a given area. Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) are pilot funds for trans-institutional efforts that are, or may lead to, emerging programs, centers and institutes. Awards have been made over the past 3 years to 17 different projects that include over 100 faculty from all of Vanderbilt’s 10 colleges and schools. Recent winners that address sustainability include: Private Governance Approaches to Climate Change, Sterling Ranch Sustainability and Education Research Center, Vanderbilt Initiative for Smart-City Operations Research, and Materials Durability and Environmental Research Facilities Hub.
• Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience – DIVE is a program at Vanderbilt University that teaches human-centered design thinking to students so that they may solve complex, real-world problems, develop critical thinking skills, and work in multidisciplinary teams during an immersive, mentored project. Multiple engineering courses at Vanderbilt use the DIVE process to design sustainable projects on campus, including waste reduction programs and a community garden.
• Immersion Vanderbilt provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to pursue their passions and cultivate intellectual interests through experiential learning. This intensive learning experience takes place in and beyond the classroom and culminates in the creation of a final project. Students will have four pathways to choose from for their projects: civic and professional, creative expression, international, and research.


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

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Vanderbilt’s extensive library system offers a number of different support mechanisms for sustainability research and learning. For example, the Walker Management Library maintains a robust research guide on Green and Sustainable Business available at http://researchguides.library.vanderbilt.edu/greenbusiness which pulls together in one location dozens of sustainability-related databases to support sustainability research in the business and management realms. The Stevenson Science and Engineering Library offers live feeds of articles and research related to sustainability divided by engineering discipline on their website at http://researchguides.library.vanderbilt.edu/content.php?pid=76468&sid=566411. These are just two examples that highlight how the Vanderbilt Library system is supporting sustainability research and learning at Vanderbilt.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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