The Program for Society & the Environment at UMD by Anya Galli & Zach Richer

If you’ve visited the third floor of Art-Sociology this year, you may have noticed that the Sociology Department now hosts the Center for Society and the Environment (CSE), a newly established center at UMD for society-environment studies. Building on the BSOS strategic plan theme of “fostering greater understanding of human relations and the natural environment,” the CSE creates an interdisciplinary hub for social sciences scholarship, research and conversation related to socio-environmental issues at the University of Maryland. Associate Professor Dana Fisher serves as Director of the CSE and is excited for the new opportunities the Center provides on campus: “in most cases,” she says, “environmental centers privilege the natural science aspects of environmental problems and the CSE will balance the scales toward the social component of the relationship.”

Dr. Fisher heads the two major research projects associated with the center. The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project, funded through an NSF grant, examines civic engagement and environmental stewardship in New York City tree planting initiatives. The US Climate Policy Network project, also funded by an NSF grant, explores national climate change policies, focusing on transnational comparisons of social and advocacy networks. A project is currently in the works to establish a research network linking scholarship and urban environmental stewardship projects in the Northeastern Megaregion.  This collaborative effort will synthesize environmental projects on land use, water management, energy use, and decision-making in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, and Boston.

In addition to providing a base for social sciences research projects throughout the Northeast, the CSE connects faculty across the university. A workshop series is hosted every other Wednesday from 2:30-4:00 pm in Art-Sociology 1101, providing the opportunity to scholars from Public Policy, Government and Politics, and Sociology Departments to present and discuss research in progress.  Recent weeks have featured workshops on carbon market formations, community involvement in urban stewardship projects, and networking among climate change protestors. Plans are being laid to hold a conference and speaker series in the future.

Sociology faculty associated with the CSE include Professor Kurt Finsterbusch, Assistant Professor Christina Prell, and incoming Assistant Professor Rashawn Ray. Jennifer Hadden, Assistant Professor of Government and Politics, and Nathan Hultman, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy also contribute to CSE workshops and projects. The CSE hosts Graduate Fellows (Sociology graduate students Joseph Waggle, Zach Richer, and Anya Galli) and visiting international scholars. This year, Sun Jin Yun joins us under funding from the Korea Research Foundation for a comparative project on climate policy networks. Emanuela Bozzini joins the center under a Fulbright-Schuman Fellowship for a project on climate change and food security policies in the United States and European Union.  Both guest scholars are scheduled to present their research at the workshop series this month.

The CSE’s location in third floor’s center space is scheduled for renovation during the semester break, at which point the conference room will be outfitted with new equipment for multimedia presentations, offices will be refigured into more open, collaborative spaces, and sustainable carpet will be lain.  Although the physical space for the center is very much in transition, the CSE has already fostered a great deal of interdisciplinary discussion on climate change and socio-environmental issues. Dr. Fisher says she hopes that the CSE will foster “cross-fertilization of ideas” by creating a “community of sociologists who are working on aspects of the society-environment relationship.”

Be sure to out the new CSE website  at http://cse.umd.edu/ where you can see a schedule of events and workshops, get more information, and read papers related to ongoing projects. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming workshops!

Anya and Zach are both 2nd year graduate students.

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