Background & History


Click here to view the full 2008 Task Force Report


Colorado State University is renowned nationally and internationally for excellence and leadership in the environment. This historical legacy in global and regional issues (e.g. atmospheric sciences, biodiversity, land use, water, energy, veterinary medicine and diseases) and the base as a land grant institution positions CSU to be a leader in environmental sustainability in the 21st Century. Taking the next step towards environmental sustainability – meeting the needs of people while maintaining the quality of the environment for the long term - embraces all aspects of a land grant university –integrating humanities to energy and research, education and outreach.

The unique world problems of sustainability are cross-cutting and are not usually reflected in traditional structures of universities. To make progress on sustainability problems, universities must find new mechanisms and embark on new structural academic experiments to facilitate interdisciplinary research. These must build connections between traditional disciplines and between existing centers and superclusters. Research universities are entering a new era that will increasingly require interdisciplinary faculty in strong research teams, if they are to maintain their preeminent role in society.

Education is also changing. Students increasingly want interdisciplinary courses on sustainability that link to their majors, but these become difficult to find in universities where departmental and college rivalries prevail. Undergraduate and Graduate students are aware of the need for interdisciplinary linkages to address world problems that expand their jobs, research, and future, and seek opportunities to supplement their field.

Faculty and students at Colorado State clearly understand and reflect those new challenges. The administrative structure, management rules and resource allocations of CSU must change rapidly if the university is to reflect both the demands of its constituencies and the evolving promise of its historic land grant mission. Building on its unique history and strong resource base, CSU has begun to make the necessary institutional changes.

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability was established in 2008 under the direction of Professor Diana Wall. The School is now poised to take off, and to become a successful model for the modern, interdisciplinary 21st century university. The School is an “umbrella” institution that focuses the education and research capabilities of eight colleges within CSU ranging from the Warner College of Natural Resources to the College of Business. This wide range of expertise allows the School to address a comprehensive set of sustainable development issues such as food security, poverty, inequality, water management, industrial ecology, sustainable engineering and urbanization.

SoGES is developing into a significant transformative force nationally and internationally. It is serving as an overarching program to catalyze faculty from every college into fruitful research teams, leverage their strengths in new powerful ways, build partnerships and engage them to address the many aspects of world problems, even when resources are tight. The enthusiasm for the SoGES Faculty panels on managing the planet, the strength of the new research projects, and the sharp increases in enrollment in sustainability courses at the undergraduate level are indicators of the changing academic cultures within the university.