Ask the Admin: Kam Moler and Stephan Graham on new climate and sustainability school

April 20, 2021, 11:10 p.m.

The Daily sat down with Vice Provost and Dean of Research Kam Moler and School of Earth Dean Stephan Graham last Friday to ask some of the community’s most pressing questions about the new climate and sustainability school. This podcast episode is part of a series titled “Ask the Admin,” where Daily reporters talk with University officials to explore a variety of topics affecting the Stanford community.

Here are our reporters’ top 10 takeaways from their conversation with Moler and Graham:

  • The new school will not refuse funding from fossil fuel companies, according to Moler. However, Moler stated that she hopes the school will rely on other sources of funding — not just the fossil fuel industry. Graham added that the University has safeguards in place to ensure that they are “not accepting funding that is illegal or otherwise inappropriate.”
  • Though there is no set timeline for when the new sustainability and climate school will be launched, Graham said that he hopes classes will be offered through the school as early as fall 2021.
  • The goal is for frosh entering Stanford during the 2021-22 academic year to be able to declare majors within the new school by their sophomore year, Moler said. Majors will include interdisciplinary themes from economics to ethics, Graham added.
  • Diversifying the faculty members hired at the new sustainability and climate school is a major priority for its planners. Graham said that those in charge of hiring hope to bring new faces to the field instead of drawing post-docs and professors from other institutions.
  • Moler and Graham are working with School of Humanities and Sciences Dean Debra Satz to jointly search for new faculty who are experts in environmental ethics. These discussions could pave the way for environmental justice to become a more prominent feature of the new school, Moler said.
  • The school will also feature post-doctoral programs that aim to increase diversity. Graham noted that these programs will also increase the number of experts and researchers in the climate and sustainability realm. 
  • Currently, there are plans to develop a new quad-like campus that would be adjacent to the Yang and Yamazaki Environment and Energy and the Green Earth Sciences Buildings — creating a hub for those who are interested in sustainability and related subjects, according to Graham. There will also be a new sustainability theme house for the 2022-23 academic year, though details have yet to be announced.
  • Moler acknowledged the detrimental environmental effects of fossil fuel but also said that some fossil fuel companies are making an effort to shift to greener energy-providing alternatives. She also added that technologies developed by Stanford can play a critical role in that transition.
  • The sustainability accelerator will be anchored by two pillars: a technology pillar and a policy and practice pillar. Moler said that she hopes projects resulting from the accelerator will blend technological innovation and policy and practice work and emphasized their interrelated nature. 
  • There will be a student deliberative polling event on May 8, where a few hundred randomly sampled students will be invited to ask questions and provide feedback on plans for the new school. A similar event was previously held with over 200 faculty members, where they debated proposals put forward about the school. 

Camryn Pak is a news managing editor. Contact her at cpak 'at' Zaidel ’24 is a desk editor for the Daily interested in studying Bioengineering. A Los Angeles native, Benjamin believes that 68 degrees should count as sweater weather. Contact him at bzaidel 'at'

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