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Climate and sustainability are the defining issues of the 21st century. They offer the greatest challenges and opportunities. To address them, Stanford University established the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability in September 2022 with a vision to create a future where people and nature thrive in concert and perpetuity. 

Achieving this vision requires a deep knowledge of Earth, climate, and society, delivery of that knowledge through education, and the use of that knowledge to create solutions.

The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability – Stanford's first new school in 75 years – builds on the university's dedication since 1885 to improving lives and working on behalf of “humanity and civilization,” and its long history of excellence across all disciplines. 

When the school launched, it brought together all the departments in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), which Stanford had established in 1947, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the School of Engineering, which the university established in 1925, as well as the Woods Institute for the Environment and Precourt Institute for Energy. Stanford Earth closed with the launch of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, while the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering became a joint department shared by the School of Engineering and the new school. New departments have been added as the school has grown. 

As the planet and societies worldwide face urgent sustainability challenges that threaten health and well-being, the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability reshapes Stanford’s historic commitment to focus on accelerating the development of solutions, broadening access to sustainability education, and deepening knowledge of Earth, climate, and society.

See a timeline of the school’s formation

Inaugural Dean

Arun Majumdar

The university named Arun Majumdar, an internationally recognized expert in advanced energy systems, new materials, electrical grids, and renewable energy, the inaugural dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability ahead of the school’s launch. 

Collaborating across campus and beyond

At the core of the school from the start were six departments, three interdisciplinary degree programs, a new Accelerator, two institutes, and dozens of associated centers and programs. The school’s initial 139 faculty hailed from all seven Stanford schools. They joined the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability with either full or joint appointments and formed a scholarly community united by a spirit of collaboration and focus on Earth, climate, and society.

Some units traced their roots to the earliest days of the university: Stanford created the Department of Geology (now the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences) and the Department of Civil Engineering (now the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) in 1891. Three decades later, the Department of Civil Engineering became one of the founding departments of the School of Engineering. Other units took shape over time as interest grew in understanding Earth systems, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and addressing environmental challenges. 

Energy Science and Engineering Department

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Established in 1962 as the Department of Petroleum Engineering, which transitioned to the Department of Energy Resources Engineering in 2006.

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources

Underwater Fish

Established in 2001.

Earth System Science Department

Researchers exploring arctic ice in rubber Zodiac boat

Established in 2007 as the Department of Environmental Earth System Science.

Oceans Department

Monterey Bay with rainbow over the ocean

Established in 2022 as the first new named department within the school.

Expanding sustainability scholarship and education

Social sciences, policy research, and societal concerns have been part of the school since its launch through efforts to establish an institute focused on sustainable societies and a department focused on global environmental policy and environmental behavioral sciences. 

Arun Majumdar
Inaugural Dean, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability

“Dedicated research and education in the social sciences is essential to fostering the knowledge, innovations, and leaders necessary for real and lasting solutions.” 

The university’s Board of Trustees approved a new Department of Environmental Social Sciences in December 2023. In the spring of 2024, the school launched a search for a director or co-directors of a Sustainable Societies Institute based on a vision for the proposed institute that emerged from a process involving scholars from across the university.