From the Dean | The Open Academy | SUNY ESF
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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

From the Dean...

Welcome to the ESF Open Academy.

Looking back…  In 2001, we changed the name of ESF’s office of “Continuing Education and Non-resident Programs” to “ESF Outreach”.  For starters – it was shorter! More importantly, this change reflected a renewed vision, broader aspirations, and a national trend. A spirit and commitment to higher education’s “third mission” was reflected in name changes at campuses such as Oregon State University (Division of University Outreach and Engagement), Pennsylvania State University (Penn State Outreach), and University of Georgia (Public Service and Outreach). We were in pretty good company.

Looking ahead…  Our entire College community is committed to being a leader in the evolving and ever-competitive higher education landscape. In this spirit of ongoing improvement and innovation, we have renamed ESF Outreach the ESF Open Academy. This new name represents an academic unit that encompasses the College’s pre-collegiate, professional, and public education programs, as well as a renewed commitment to online educational programming. 

In the near term, you may get the impression that we are all about online education. A lot of our attention will indeed focus on this newest part of our educational portfolio. Nevertheless, you and our learners will also have opportunity to learn about and participate in well-established programs that have earned ESF state-wide and national recognition. 

For example, the ESF in the High School program (now 18 years old) has formal partnerships with over thirty high schools in New York City and throughout Upstate/Central New York. Last year over 500 students in these schools took ESF courses in preparation for college and career. ESF in the High School has been the basis for educational outreach grants, including two National Science Foundation grants (with a total value of $3 million) that funded over 50 graduate student fellowships.

The New York State Green Building Conference (looking ahead to its 16th consecutive year) was recently recognized by Greening USA, a Syracuse-based not-for-profit organization that promotes community sustainability, as one of their 2016 Sustaining Our Community Award recipients. This award recognizes organizations, projects and individuals that contribute to the sustainability of our community and demonstrate commitment to environmental, economic and social justice, and stewardship.

The Green Building Conference provides ongoing professional education, professional licensing credits, and hosts nationally-recognized academic, industry, and public sector leaders as speakers (e.g., Jeff Speck, Principal, Speck & Associates LLC; Anthony Leiserowitz, Director, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Yale University; Silda Wall Spitzer, Senior Advisor, New World Capital Group; Tedd Benson, Founder and Owner, Bensonwood; Alex Wilson, Founder, BuildingGreen, Inc.; Dan Reicher, Executive Director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University; and Sarah Susanka, Architect, cultural visionary and bestselling author of The Not So Big House).

For the third year, we held a one-week pre-collegiate program here at ESF, in collaboration with New York City-based SEO Scholars (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity). This is another example of an opportunity for high school students (in this case from NYC) to engage with ESF faculty, staff and student mentors. This experience enables students to stay in ESF’s Centennial Hall, to experience college life and learning, and to gain insights into the various academic and career paths available to them. This summer, Prof. Emanuel Carter (Landscape Architecture), Dr. Lemir Teron (Environmental Studies), Dr. Neal Abrams (Chemistry), and Mr. Neal Patterson (Center for Native Peoples), along with ESF staff and ESF Science Corps students, tackled The I81 Conundrum.  This project focused on the visioning and imminent reconstruction of Interstate 81 that goes through the city of Syracuse. SEO students explored this challenge from multiple perspectives, including historic, community planning and design, social justice, engineering and environmental science. Students worked side-by-side with their mentors in on-campus studios and labs, and at several locations throughout Syracuse and at Onondaga Lake. They generated take-home lessons and questions about their own communities. And they took an ESF-inspired perspective with them throughout their academic and professional careers. 

These programs are cornerstones of ESF’s pre-collegiate STEM and professional educational outreach. Our commitment is to sustain and grow these and similar programs. 

So what’s really new…  In a word (or two), online education. We are working to make online education programs a key part of ESF’s educational offerings.  Online learning activities are similar to those we’ve all experienced in traditional courses, that is, students read course materials, write papers, do research, complete graded assignments, and communicate with their instructor and fellow students. However, the course design facilitates these activities through an online network. Learning in this format is both interactive with faculty and collaborative with other learners. 

To help achieve this goal, we are formally establishing the ESF Open Academy, as well as the ESF Teaching and Learning Collaboratory (TLC). The TLC is a teaching/learning center that encourages and supports innovative and effective teaching and learning. The TLC will directly support our faculty as they adapt and create new programs for online delivery for additional students. Near-term priority will be on faculty and the courses that are part of the College’s online certificate and degree portfolio, along with programming and approaches that are broadly beneficial to all ESF faculty and graduate teaching assistants.

As we work to expand ESF’s reach and impact, we need your active support and involvement. Your thoughts and questions are always welcome and will be appreciated - thank you!

Dr. Chuck Spuches, Dean

chuck spuches

Dr. Chuck Spuches, Dean
ESF Open Academy
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