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The Environmental Collaboratory

Lancaster Walk

The world is facing environmental catastrophe, and time is running out. Over the last half-century alone, our species’ unsustainable way of life has initiated a sixth extinction, advanced widespread environmental degradation, and changed the climate of the entire planet. The consequences are escalating and intensifying, while the most vulnerable among us are bearing the brunt.

With expertise in environmental science, engineering, law, health, policy and humanities — as well as a deep and common commitment to civic engagement — Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University together possess the resources needed to work with communities, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies to both identify regional environmental issues and address them impactfully, equitably and together. The aim of The Environmental Collaboratory is to make that happen.

A Sustainability Approach

More than a place or a narrow theme, The Environmental Collaboratory is a groundbreaking approach that unites Drexel, the Academy and communities of need in a shared endeavor to sustain our planet and mitigate its degradation. From the Latin collaborare — to work together — The Environmental Collaboratory will leverage the extensive human capital of both Drexel and the Academy in ways that effect meaningful, measurable and scalable impact. Bringing faculty, staff, students, partners and the public together, it coordinates, develops and integrates research, education, civic engagement and public programming to solve problems and shape culture. In doing so, it also drives and catalyzes curricular innovation — a crucial measure of The Environmental Collaboratory’s success. It achieves these outcomes by focusing on three key areas:

  • Used-Inspired Research: It initiates, facilitates and promotes interdisciplinary, used-inspired research that creates novel solutions to real-world environmental problems. Faculty, staff and students collaborate with external groups in mutually beneficial partnerships that are grounded in scholarship and consistent with Drexel and the Academy’s roles and missions.
  • Civic Engagement: It identifies research questions in reciprocal partnerships with communities; engages communities in the research process; devises, incubates and delivers implementation strategies with communities; shares outcomes with a wider audience; shapes beliefs and values through public programs and campaigns; and erodes the power-dynamic that commonly characterizes the relationship between “academia” and “community.”
  • Internal Community Building: It builds an internal community at Drexel, acting as a place for interested faculty, staff and students to gather, connect and engage with these issues.

The Environmental Collaboratory will catalyze research and programs through seed grants. Proof-of-concept projects will be an early focus for The Environmental Collaboratory. From its earliest days, funding will need to be cultivated and solicited through private philanthropy, industry partnerships and government grants. A research fund for The Environmental Collaboratory will also be launched.

Collaboratory Design Council

Conceptually devised by Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, The Environmental Collaboratory forges a new approach to interdisciplinary scholarship and community participation to ignite a movement for environmental health and justice. To advance the design of The Environmental Collaboratory, the University launched a facilitated process to inform its mission, programmatic scope and business model.

In order to create as inclusive and participatory process as possible during a fully remote working environment as a result of the pandemic, an internal “Design Council” was invited to contribute to the visioning process. The Design Council comprised 43 members from across 20 Drexel colleges, departments and units. The Design Council participated in the planning and visioning process over four sessions in August and September of 2020, which included an opening Engagement and Orientation session, followed by three focused design sessions: Mission & Purpose, Programmatic Scope, and Business Model. The result of this internal design process was The Environmental Collaboratory Positioning Guide [PDF].

The Environmental Collaboratory Leadership

In November, Drexel Provost Paul Jensen, PhD, named Mathy Vathanaraj Stanislaus, JD, the inaugural Executive Director of The Environmental Collaboratory and Vice Provost. Stanislaus will join Drexel University, reporting directly to the Provost, in January from the Global Battery Alliance, a multi-stakeholder initiative established at the World Economic Forum, where he serves as policy director. For more information, please view the appointment announcement.