On Saturday, Oct. 23, the College of the Environment (COE) was officially opened at the seventhannual “Where on Earth Are We Going” symposium held in Tischler Hall. COE Director Barry Chernoff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Josh Boger ’73, and President Michael Roth were present to cut a ribbon made of red, white, and black intertwined streamers, adding a celebratory flair to the program that hosted a series of lecturers speaking on weighty topics.
At the COE open house on Friday, Roth likened the commencement of the COE to the visionary beginnings of the College of Social Sciences (CSS) and the College of Letters (COL) in the 1950s.
“People say that Wesleyan came into the 1960s in 1955, and I like to think that we still live up to that spirit,” Roth said at the open house. “Barry came to me in 2007 already discussing the idea of a college where students learn about the most important issues of their time.”
The environmental symposium, which hosts guest lecturers every Homecoming, hosted three talks on diverse issues relating to hunger and the environment and the many ways that these issues can be addressed. COE faculty expressed excitement about the college and the events it was hosting.
“I am extremely proud to call myself Director of the College of the Environment,” Chernoff said during the symposium.
Tischler Hall was filled to capacity as students, alumni, and parents filed in early that morning. Professor of Economics Gary Yohe was pleased with turnout.
“I think this is just great—there are so many people here,” Yohe said. “This is a great take on hunger. The idea of putting a face, or slides and statistics, on hunger and poverty in the United States is really important. Also, it is making clear to an academic audience how hard it is to create metrics, to measure something like hunger, that often become arbitrary and out of date.”
During the event, Yohe was also recognized as the first holder of the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair in the COE, which was created through a three million dollar donation announced this month. The donation will fund the chair’s salary and provide a small research stipend.
Dr. Katherine Alaimo, Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, was the first lecturer at the symposium. Her speech focused on the consequences of hunger and poverty in the U.S. today and the role of policy in alleviating these issues.
The second speaker, Jonathan Dumont, discussed the global and local programs of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), for which he is the Head of Television Communications. During his emotionally charged presentation, which included WFP videos to demonstrate the intensity and extremity of hunger, he called on the audience to take action and help the millions of people suffering from hunger.
“WFP can be forgotten, but you shouldn’t forget the people on the edge,” Dumont said. “If you forget these people, I haven’t done my job. I am the messenger. I can’t pretend to fight hunger with a TV, but I can put a face on the hidden. I can place this burden on you, the future scientists, artists, and leaders.”
Kristie Ebi, Executive Director of the Technical Support Unit for Working Group II (Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, finished up the event.
Although it has been fully functioning since the beginning of this year, the COE is now publicly and formally a part of the University.