The Vermont Cynic

Environmental Institute may replace Gund


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A University-wide institute for the environment may soon replace the currently-standing Gund Institute.

The Institute for the Environment will be a collaborative research facility based on the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development goals, Taylor Ricketts, director of the Gund Institute, said.

These goals include climate action, gender equality and eliminating poverty, according to the UN website.

The Institute will fund specific research projects that stem from these broader themes and go beyond the Gund’s primary focus of ecological economics, Ricketts said.

Sophomore Arielle Cheifetz, an environmental studies major, said replacing the Gund could be a change for the better.

“If it’s going to be bigger and have more funding then it’s great,” Cheifetz said.

If more students used this new institute, then it would be a benefit, she said.

“I never really used the Gund before, I always just heard of it,” Cheifetz said.

The Institute has been in the works since its initial envisioning in 2012, according to the Provost’s website.

The last steps that remain in order to launch the Institute include consideration from the Faculty Senate, Board of Advisers approval and an external monetary gift, according to the website.

The staged five-year budget for the Institute includes existing funds originally supporting the Gund Institute, $2.2 million from UVM itself, according to the Proposed Resourcing and Governance Plan of 2015.

$3.8 million in expected external grants will also fund the institute, according to Provost’s plan.

“We haven’t found external funding yet, but we’re close,” Taylor Ricketts, said. “It’s been three to four years of planning led by faculty and we’re arriving at the finish.”

This will be a “campus-wide resource open to faculty and students from all units,” according to the plan.

“Undergraduate students will have exciting opportunities to conduct thesis projects, assist in faculty research, participate in symposia and interact with visiting scholars,” Provost David Rosowsky said in a Sept.11 email.

The Institute will provide competitive funding for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers as well as faculty.

All departments within the University will be able to conduct research through the Institute, Ricketts said.

Any undergraduate student, no matter their major, will be able to participate. Interdisciplinary work will be the main focus, he said.

The Faculty Senate will review the proposal for the Institute Sept. 26 and the Board of Advisers will review it Oct. 21.

“It sounds like it will truly benefit my ENVS major,” sophomore Ryan Beattie said. “Any time we initiate a program that shines light on the University and the environment is a good thing, I think.”

If approved, Ricketts, the current director of the Gund Institute, will serve as the director of the Institute.

Basil Waugh, the current communications officer of the Gund, will be the communications lead.

Nora Shahoud, the current assistant to the director at the Gund, will be the administrative assistant.

Two more positions, deputy director and policy lead, will need to be filled.

“We want to keep the staff small so that the money can go toward the work,” Ricketts said.

For now, there is no intended physical construction for the Institute, he said.

The Gund was founded at the University of Maryland in 1993, but moved to UVM in 2002, according to the institute’s website.

Recent studies done by the institute include calculating the price of cleaning Lake Champlain and testing for drug traces in local water resources, according to its website.

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Environmental Institute may replace Gund