There are many programs for environmental education and there are fewer, but other programs in ecological literacy and even deep ecology and spiritual ecology. Is it possible though at established universities to build advanced degree programs that are self-consciously grounded in the New Story and the Ecozoic with the intent to bring about institutional reform leading to transformed human/Earth relations? A group at the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont and at McGill University and York University in Montreal Canada are doing just this. Peter Brown (McGill), Jon Erickson (UVM), Josh Farley (UVM), Ellie Perkins (York), and Dina Spigelski (McGill) lead this effort. Significant funding for this effort has been given by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
In December 2017 a new partnership “Leadership for the Ecozoic” was announced. Here are excerpts from the “Launch Plan”:
The Ecozoic represents a vision for the future founded on mutually enhancing relationships between human societies and the global community of life. Leadership for the Ecozoic (L4E) is a global partnership initially based at McGill University and the University of Vermont to work toward that vision by: (1) advancing transdisciplinary scholarship in select doctoral programs to educate and empower new leaders for the Ecozoic; (2) co-creating a global research-to-action network to heal and restore Earth’s life support systems and foster a mutually-enhancing human-Earth relationship; and (3) mobilizing and focusing higher education resources and communication on multi-faceted, human-induced, planetary disturbances.
L4E builds upon the success of Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A), a graduate research and training partnership that currently includes 25 institutions, 80 collaborators, and about 40 graduate student fellows. This next phase will continue to support joint courses, lectures, research projects, and service on doctoral committees as we work towards establishing a “global campus” that brings together an expanded community to envision, educate, and implement new and existing pathways towards the Ecozoic. The transition will include increased focus on implementing, communicating and advocating for paradigm shift outcomes through internships, action-research projects, active long-term partnerships and strategic communications.
An international steering committee has been assembled to facilitate a process of broad consultation to formulate a structured yet adaptable strategic plan for this next phase. The strategic plan will include guiding principles, annual goals and objectives, and descriptions of our community of practice, roles of actors and institutions, budget scenarios, and a long-term funding development plan. While strategic planning is underway, we will recruit our next cohort (starting Fall 2018) of doctoral students to the University of Vermont and McGill University. The graduate training program will emerge from the strategic plan, for example, including an integrated research-to-action theme to help shape joint internet-connected classes, a summer field course, policy and advocacy internships, and transdisciplinary doctoral research projects.
Initial funding will allow for the immediate recruitment of this inaugural L4E graduate student cohort, as well as initial support of staff and research personnel to implement the forthcoming strategic plan. Graduate student support for this core group will be cost-shared through teaching assistantships and tuition scholarships at McGill and UVM, and also be tied to work assignments that help expand the partnership to other doctoral programs. Each student fellow will be part of international working groups led by L4E research scholars. With additional funding for cohorts starting in 2019 and 2020, the partnership will have the capacity to initiate the L4E Global Campus to establish or strengthen its presence in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
This transitional year will be built around a core set of networked courses, including both real-time (i.e., web-linked lecture/discussion sessions allowing interaction among all participants) and asynchronous sessions (i.e., pre-recorded lectures and online discussion forums). While the ultimate course offerings will be shaped by strategic planning underway, the working assumption is to offer the following:
- From the Big Bang to the Ecozoic, led by McGill University in the fall 2018 semester.
- Economics for the Ecozoic, led by the University of Vermont in the spring 2019 semester.
- Experience and Implement the Ecozoic, a field course grounded in experiential learning, focused on the cohort action research theme, and hosted by one or more partner institutions that are modeling transitional strategies towards the Ecozoic.
- Leadership for the Ecozoic, graduate research seminars led by doctoral students in the fall 2019 semester with a focus on transdisciplinary and participatory action research methodologies.
The curriculum will be complemented by joint workshops on impactful communications of L4E’s vision, research and outcomes; public policy design; and advocacy campaign mobilization. UVM and McGill graduate students will be awarded three years of support, with a fourth year expected from additional grants or teaching opportunities generated by the partnership. This initial L4E cohort will include up to 10 partnership-funded doctoral students, plus additional doctoral students recruited into the training program from collaborating institutions.
All doctoral students will have:
- Access to the 3 web-linked courses, 1 summer field course, graduate research seminar, affiliated workshops or webinars, and advisors from L4E partner institutions;
- Support to write, edit, and publish communications related to L4E action-research and policy proposals;
- Supplemental funding for travel expenses related to the summer field course, partnership retreats, and opportunities to present research; and
- Obligations to arrange independent study credit at their home institution for L4E courses and web-linked classrooms for joint class meetings and workshops.
Fully-funded doctoral students will be expected to:
- Contribute up to 5 hours per week of 20-hour assistantships to support partnership management, communications, networking, and grant writing;
- Co-organize and facilitate research seminars during the second year of their program;
For additional information about this program, use this contact page.
- Collaborate with a multi-year action research team lead by L4E research scholars;
- Complete the full L4E training (4 named courses plus action-research internship); and
- Complete all degree requirements at their home institution.
Research scholars will be recruited to:
- Lead and co-create an action research program centered on critical deficits in current university programs including, but not limited to, those identified in the E4A partnership in economics, finance, political science, law, and ethics;
- Mentor student-led research seminars in the second year of L4E cohorts;
- Work with existing non-governmental organizations to strengthen and inform advocacy and communication of L4E work and outcomes; and
- Model career pathways for leadership in the Ecozoic.
The initial funding includes three years of support for the 10 UVM and McGill doctoral students, two research scholars, general administrative support, and general expenses related to the field courses, workshops, web-enabled classrooms and courses, and partnership communications. Synergies with the current E4A budget are anticipated, and matching resources from UVM and McGill include significant faculty and staff time, graduate teaching assistantships, tuition scholarships, and other project management expenses.