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School FAQ

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These FAQs answer common questions about the school, its impact, and its history. Students with additional questions can find answers in the student FAQ. You can also contact us with questions.

Why create a new school?

The school arose out of ideas from faculty, students, staff, and alumni, who submitted proposals for how Stanford could have greater impact on urgent challenges such as climate change. Their transformative ideas for how Stanford could educate students, expand areas of scholarship, and create a more sustainable campus resulted in the decision to create a new school.

When will the school open?

The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability launches September 1. 

What academic areas does the school focus on?

The school includes eight areas of scholarship that are crucial for addressing the sustainability of the planet. These are  climate change, Earth and planetary sciences, energy technology, sustainable cities, the natural environment, food and water security, human society and behavior, and human health and the environment.

How will the school have impact?

In addition to broad areas of scholarship, the school has a unique three-part structure that drives impact:

  • Academic departments - Departments generate knowledge that is the foundation for any application

  • Institutes - Institutes and their initiatives foster interdisciplinary problem-solving involving faculty and ideas from across the school, the university, and external stakeholders

  • Sustainability Accelerator - The accelerator supports policy and technology solutions arising out of the institutes or other university programs and develops those solutions with external partners 

The school will also have impact on current challenges and those that arise in the future through its students. New degree programs for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students emphasize experiential learning 

Can you say more about the accelerator?

The accelerator will support teams of faculty and students who engage with external partners to develop and scale solutions across the spectrum of policy and technology. The accelerator will give out competitive grants that emphasize measurable impacts through partnership with government, industry, and other outside entities. Teams supported by the accelerator will have access to space, expert staff, equipment, training, and connections with external partners. In addition, the accelerator will provide opportunities for students to develop solutions working with partners, and prepare them for future careers. 

Learn more about the accelerator

What existing programs and faculty will be in the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability?

When the school launches, the people and programs of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) will move into it, including the three interdepartmental degree programs: Earth Systems, the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, and Sustainability Science and Practice. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy will both also become part of the school at that time. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will become a joint department with the School of Engineering. The facilities of Hopkins Marine Station, which had been part of the School of Humanities & Sciences, will be overseen by the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. 

What new people and programs will be added to the new school?

The school will add 60 new faculty over the next ten years starting with hires in climate science, and in sustainable development and environmental justice. In addition to the Woods and Precourt Institutes, the school will add an Institute for Sustainable Societies.  This new institute builds on the model demonstrated by Woods and Precourt, while adding critical new attention to issues of social justice, institutional and economic infrastructure, and the politics of transitioning to more sustainable ways of life. Finally, the school will include a Sustainability Accelerator to drive new policy and technology solutions.

How will the school be different from the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth)?

Stanford Earth has had top rated degree programs and departments, with a focus on the geosciences, energy resources, and Earth Systems. The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability incorporates those programs and adds expertise in the built environment, social sciences, and the natural sciences including oceans and climate. Also, the school’s three-part structure creates a path from knowledge acquisition to its application. 

What has the process of creating the school been up to this point?

A report from the Faculty Committee on the Organizational Structure for Stanford’s Sustainability Initiative led the President to form the school. A faculty Blueprint Advisory Committee then developed a plan for a three-part school structure with academic departments, institutes, and an accelerator. After that, Workstream Leads laid the foundation for implementing the plan covering key aspects of the school including education programs, faculty roles and responsibilities, integrating the institutes into the school, developing the accelerator, and integrating DEI into the school. Currently, faculty Leaders of Areas of Scholarship, Education, and Research (LASERs) are developing rosters and establishing the departments. 

In addition to these faculty committees, students have been involved throughout the process of developing the school. A student committee provided input on the school structure, and nearly 200 students participated in a deliberative polling event to discuss proposals developed in conjunction with the student committee. Currently, a student advisory council is working with school leadership in advance of the launch in September.

Read more about the history leading up to the new school

When can students start taking classes and declaring majors in the school? 

All students currently enrolled in degree programs within Stanford Earth or in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering will become part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, and will graduate with degrees from that school. Over the coming years, new undergraduate and graduate degrees will be formed and students will be able to apply to those as they emerge. 

New classes developed as part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability will bridge sustainability with business, the humanities, social sciences, and data science, among other disciplines. The school also expects to bolster master’s programs to create more on-ramps for a PhD for underrepresented minorities and first-generation or low-income students and to develop graduate certificates that allow any graduate student on campus to engage in critical sustainability topics. 

If you are a current student in a program joining the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability or if you are considering applying, read our student FAQs.

Will there be new buildings associated with the school?

The people and programs in the new school will be brought together in a new Sustainability Commons, located on the west side of campus. The Commons will be anchored by two new buildings in addition to the existing Green Earth Sciences Research Building and the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building (Y2E2). A promenade will connect the academic buildings, rooftop garden, and multiple outdoor gathering spaces. 

Banner photo at the top of page:  Professor Paige Chamberlain teaching in a meadow on a trip to the Rockies. Photo by Gabriela Leslie.