Internal Academic Review Committee

Report on the Review of the School of Environmental Studies

Approved by Senate November 23, 2000

Created in 1995, the School of Environmental Studies is one of the newest units at Queen's. The internal academic review of the School, undertaken in 1999, thus served as an opportunity to assess the progress made by the unit in the first phase of its existence. Both the External Consultants and the Review Team commended the School for achieving its broad objectives in a relatively short time period under the strong leadership of the School's Director.

A clear conclusion of the academic review is that the School of Environmental Studies has laid a strong foundation in the first five years of its existence. The School has established a successful interdisciplinary undergraduate programme built on disciplinary strengths in the natural sciences but overlaid with the broader perspectives of the social sciences. It has also helped give a focus to environmental studies at Queen's. The External Consultants note that the program provides Queen's with a unique niche in environmental education compared to other institutions. In addition, graduate students, who are formally associated with their home departments, are enthusiastic about the opportunities afforded for interdisciplinary research collaborations and state that they benefit from interaction with other students in related environmental fields. It is worth noting that the School has used a unique staffing model with all its faculty members being seconded 50% from their home departments. This model, built to fit the need of an inter-disciplinary area, appears to be working well. The academic review highlighted the genuine concern and strong commitment demonstrated by the faculty members to the School.

Because of the timing of the review a large portion of the reports from the External Consultants and the Review Team focused on the future of the School. There are several directions possible for future development in the School. Indeed, the recommendations of the consultants are not fully in line with the current plans of the School in two areas: (1) depth versus breadth in expansion of faculty complement; and (2) the timing of development of a graduate program, along with the nature of the program.

The IARC recommends that as the School explores its options, steps be taken to ensure that a comprehensive and thorough analysis of all possible avenues of development be conducted. For instance, in looking at the possibility of pursuing the development of a graduate program the School should look at the need for such a program not only in the context of Queen's but also in the broader national context. As noted by the Review Team, the current size of the faculty complement is most pertinent to considering graduate studies. Any expansion deserves careful planning, as the School needs to consider how it can create a niche for itself in graduate studies, can avoid unnecessary duplication with graduate programs currently available through other departments, and can offer a program that will attract high quality students.

The School of Environmental Studies, while amongst the smallest and newest academic units, has been recognized in its first academic review for its substantial achievements. As the School enters a period of potential further growth, the IARC recommends that all relevant options be thoroughly explored.

Follow-up on recommendations and issues raised will occur as part of the annual staffing and budget strategy meetings between the Dean and the Vice-Principal (Academic).

September 20, 2000