Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment



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  • 217-333-4178


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  • University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign

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Institute History

In December 2013, the University of Illinois launched the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

The Institute was created to lead an interdisciplinary approach to researching solutions for the world’s pressing sustainability, energy and environmental needs today and tomorrow. iSEE calls this “actionable research” — with the emphasis on finding real-world answers to these problems.

The staff at iSEE also want to help the U of I campus become a model of sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental friendliness for the world to see — and to prepare students to be leaders in these fields and/or leaders by example as good Earth citizens when they leave campus.

iSEE's three-pronged approach — research, campus sustainability, and education and outreach — was created to do just that.

The Institute was officially established Dec. 16, 2013, by the University’s Board of Trustees with approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, barely a year after the Academic Senate had approved establishment of its predecessor, the Center for a Sustainable Environment (CSE), on Dec. 3, 2012. CSE was a merger of the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and the Office of Sustainability (OS), both of which did outstanding work in environment and sustainability for our campus.

Work at iSEE is supported by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund through a generous gift. The Baum Fund previously supported CSE and ECI.

The iSEE Philosophy

With the world population projected to increase to 8 billion by 2023 — and to as much as 16 billion by 2100 — the Institute is purposed to find solutions for the ever-growing demand for food, water and energy while ensuring a safe, productive, and sustainable environment for all global citizens.

This will be accomplished as iSEE conducts “actionable research” and equips current and future scientific and policy leaders to solve global problems in sustainability, energy, and environment — while using the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus and the local community as a living laboratory. The overarching goal: to become a global model of sustainability by creating effective, positive change.

The Institute will take a holistic approach from teams of faculty members dedicated to “actionable research” — scientific progress toward real-world solutions. This research requires interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing the brightest of the bright together to solve the world’s current and future problems. iSEE will shepherd that approach in five distinct themes:

In addition, the iSEE website will include a comprehensive list of campus scholars in each research theme, offering a searchable database by name, academic unit, theme, and categories and subcategories within each theme.

The Institute also is taking a holistic approach to campus sustainability, bringing a community together to achieve responsibilities of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). And so, iSEE SWATteams of faculty, staff and students are examining the 2010 Illinois Climate Action Plan, evaluating campus progress toward the goals laid out in six categories — energy conservation and building standards; energy generation, purchasing and distribution; transportation; purchasing, waste and recycling; agriculture, land use and sequestration; and water — and preparing recommendations on future work to be done. The goal is for campus to be a model of sustainability other communities will emulate.

iSEE wants to be the “front porch” for all sorts of sustainability resources for campus and community members, and you can see the beginning list on the Resources webpage.

For education, iSEE is planning to gather a group of courses taught across several campus academic units — and propose new ones — so that students will be able to receive a sustainability minor that will help them in future employment endeavors.

And the Institute’s outreach efforts both near and far will bring together scholars, experts and other people passionate about sustainability, energy, and environment issues to share knowledge and hold conversations that might lead to solutions locally and globally.

For more about iSEE’s vision and mission, as well as some of its published papers and reports, check out the Mission & Publications page.

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