Renowned Environmental Institute Moves to the University of Vermont
Release Date: 12-18-2001
The University of Vermont today furthered its commitment to comprehensive environmental education and research, announcing a $7.5 million gift to relocate the renowned Institute for Ecological Economics to the University of Vermont from its decade-long home at the University of Maryland. The enabling gift, the third largest philanthropic contribution in UVM's 210-year history, was made by Lulie and Gordon Gund of Princeton, N.J., and their sons, Grant '91 and Zachary '93. The Institute will be known as The Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at The University of Vermont.
"Acquiring this world class institute is a tremendous coup for the University of Vermont and a major step towards achieving our goal of becoming the premier environmental university," said Interim Provost John Bramley. "The Gund family's generous gift is a long-term investment that enhances educational quality across the university because environment by its very nature is interdisciplinary. Environment is an area in which UVM already has distinguished itself and now truly has an opportunity to excel," Bramley said.
"It is a feather in the cap" of the University of Vermont, said Steve Rayner, professor of environment and public affairs at Columbia University. Rayner cited the institute's "widely recognized, international stature" and "solid research record" that brings together natural sciences with policy, social and economic science. "I think it will attract high quality students to the University of Vermont," he said.
The Institute for Ecological Economics was founded at the University of Maryland in 1991 to fill the growing need to integrate the study and management of "nature's household" (ecology) and "humankind's household" (economics). At the heart of the institute is interdisciplinary study and research focused on integrating the ecological and human dimensions of environment.
Led by Director Bob Costanza, the institute's team of eight Ph.D. scientists is made up of ecologists, mathematicians and economists who have conducted research around the globe --from the economic valuation and management of South Africa's unique fynbos ecosystems to integrated ecological economic modeling and valuation of watersheds in the greater Baltimore area.
"We are problem oriented, using real world research to address community problems," Costanza said. He termed the institute's move to Vermont a "perfect fit." Costanza noted, as an example, that the current controversy in South Burlington over storm water run-off is the kind of ecological economic issue that the institute seeks to address.
"Vermont is the one place in the world where becoming a premier environmental university can happen because of the special compatibility between the natural environment and both the needs and the culture of the people and the state," he said. UVM is committed to providing comprehensive environmental education that transcends traditional academic disciplines, Costanza said.
In making the gift, the Gund family wanted to invest in an area of strategic importance to the university. The Gunds participated as ad-hoc advisors to the University's administrative team as it developed the institution's strategic plan. "This is an investment in what the University of Vermont does well," said Zachary Gund '93. "My brother and I know from personal experience that UVM is a great academic institution. We want to strengthen the academic mission and the reputation of the University of Vermont, " he said.
To that end, the Gund gift has four components designed to enhance education and make UVM a national leader in environmental education:
- to create an endowed professorship called The Gund Professor of
Ecological Economics in UVM's School of Natural Resources;
- to create an endowment for The Gund Student Enrichment Fund, which will
provide funding for experiential learning opportunities such as student
research and service-learning projects;
- to establish an integrated teaching incentive fund, which will provide
funding for institute faculty to teach in other academic units at the
- to provide funding to relocate the institute to the University of Vermont, including office and research facilities and equipment.
"Fundamentally, this is about educating our students in the 21st century," said Don DeHayes, dean of the School of Natural Resources. DeHayes underscored that the full value of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics is its interdisciplinary underpinnings and its seamless approach to teaching and research.
"The study of environmental problems and opportunities requires a full and integrated understanding of the natural sciences and the social, political and economic dimensions of environmental matters," said DeHayes. "You can't understand one without the others."