April 12-18, 2002
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University sets stage for graduate student innovation
State cuts force hikes in tuition
Faculty Actions from the April BOV meeting
African-American women at increased risk for stroke
Commerce school cultivates innovation and creativity in wine industry

Reactions to Sept. 11 featured in annual ‘Muzzle’ Awards

Baseball field named in honor of the late Ted Davenport
Graduate students are lifeblood of research enterprise
Theater students ‘saw’ a solution for set construction
Lectures engage the mind
Design choices can affect the world environment
Students get one-stop financial services at new Cavalier Central
Feeding hungry ghosts
Whale of a sculpture on display at Fayerweather
After Hours -- Lori Derr
WFPA to honor Bunker, Toms and Black
New course explores global impact of engineering decisions
Design choices can affect the world environment
Braden Allenby
Photo by Jenny Gerow
Braden Allenby

By Charlotte Crystal

“Would you be willing to drive a species to extinction to save a human life?”

The question, posed by Braden Allenby, galvanized class discussion:

“Whose life?”

“Which species?”

“Should it matter?”

Questions like those recently fueled the thinking of students enrolled in Earth Systems Engineering and Management, a new undergraduate course at the University.

The course, believed to be the first of its kind, explores the effect that engineering decisions and designs can have on the global environment. Simple things — the design of new products, the siting of housing developments, the management of national parks — all can have unintended consequences. So, instructors are leading students to broaden their scope of analysis when figuring the costs of a plan of action.

Matthew Mehalik
Matthew Mehalik

“We need to treat environmental issues not as overhead costs, but as strategic planning issues – as individuals, as companies and as a society,” said Allenby, AT&T’s vice president of health, environment and safety and one of the country’s leading experts in industrial ecology.

Allenby came up with the concept for the course, which he is team-teaching with Matthew Mehalik, a post-doc with the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Division of Technology, Culture and Communication, and Michael Gorman, TCC chair. TCC is offering the pilot course, which is cross-listed by the Department of Environmental Sciences.

“Some environmental problems occur on such a broad scale that no single group has a handle on them,” Mehalik said. “And the trade-offs aren’t always clear. This course is designed to encourage students to take a multidimensional approach to complex problems, considering not only their environmental aspects, but also what is feasible from an engineering standpoint, and what the costs are, both economically and socially.”

Michael Gorman
Michael Gorman

More than just encouraging an interdisciplinary view of environmental systems, the course strives to influence the thinking of students who one day will be corporate scientists, engineers and managers involved in the design of new products and processes.

“By thinking about environmental, social and economic issues in innovative ways at the design stage, firms can avoid adverse impacts later,” said guest lecturer Andrea Larson, an associate professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration whose teaching and research focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“We want students to reflect on their moral obligation to society and to be responsible for their decisions,” said Patricia Werhane, Darden’s Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics, who also is a guest lecturer for the class. “We want them to realize that something may be legal, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.”

Andrea Larson
Andrea Larson

Other guest lecturers include Linda Blum, research associate professor of environmental science; David Rejeski, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Foresight and Governance Project; and Gary Tabor, an associate with the Wilburforce Foundation a private, philanthropic foundation that funds environmental issues in the western U.S. and western Canada.

The multidisciplinary course has signed up 24 undergraduates, half from environmental sciences and half from engineering — primarily civil, environmental and chemical engineering majors. AT&T is supporting the course with a $50,000 gift to the Engineering School’s TCC division.

The course combines the case-study method, common at top business schools such as Darden, and a systems-analysis approach, common in engineering, which should enable students to come to grips with the complex nature of actual environmental problems, Mehalik said. Research projects will include studies of:

Patricia Werhane
Patricia Werhane

•Overfishing of the Atlantic by large commercial fishing fleets

•Difficulties involved with a plan for creating an international park that extends from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming through Yukon National Park in the Yukon Territory, Canada

•Pitfalls of a proposed plan to restore the Everglades after nearly a century of housing development, construction of levees and drainage of swampy areas.

“We are learning about current environmental problems, using the tools we have to analyze them, and we expect to hit a wall,” Mehalik said. “That should lead us to realize how incredibly complex these problems are and how much easier it would have been to avoid them in the first place. We also want to understand the extent to which our social and cultural systems are intertwined with the problems and how they influence the shape of solutions.”

Batten fellow teaches U.Va. community to view environmental regulations as industry innovator

Braden Allenby, vice president of health, environment and safety at AT&T Corp., is a leader in the field of industrial ecology who views the interaction of industrial society and ecological systems through a distinctive lens, said a professor who teaches business innovation.

“Brad takes a multidisciplinary approach, combining an earth-systems orientation with the disciplines of engineering, system dynamics, economics, ethics and business management to show students different facets of complicated problems,” said Andrea Larson, associate professor of business administration at the Darden School.

Along with team-teaching the Engineering School’s pilot class on Earth Systems Engineering and Management, Allenby has numerous ties to the University, particularly at the Darden School. As the first Batten Institute fellow in 2000, Allenby (Law, J.D., ’78; and GSAS, M.A., economics, ’79) entered actively into the intellectual life at Darden, conducting workshops, giving faculty seminars and speaking to the larger Darden community.

Two years ago, he contributed an article on sustainable business to a special issue of the business operations journal, Interfaces, that Larson edited with Elisabeth Teisberg, a professor of business administration at Darden. Since then, Allenby has been a guest speaker in Larson’s class, “Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” which explores how successful companies have incorporated social, environmental and economic benefits into innovative strategies.

Allenby also has helped develop course materials for Larson’s class and recently completed a case study of AT&T — all the while keeping up with the demands of his day job at AT&T.

“We’re a good fit in the classroom because Brad looks at the ways in which human activity is altering the dynamics of natural systems and urges students to think more carefully and deeply about why this has occurred,” Larson said.

And I focus on companies that are leaders in developing new ways of dealing with environmental concerns, seeing them not just as regulatory burdens and compliance costs, but as profitable opportunities for innovation that can work to companies’ strategic advantage. We’re lucky to have someone with Brad’s expertise in this path-breaking field at U.Va.”

 


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