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Krish Seetah named new E-IPER faculty director

Seetah, an environmental archeologist, will be leading the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), which offers PhDs within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and joint and dual MS degrees with other schools within the university.

Associate Professor Krish Seetah has been appointed Sykes Family Director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) starting Sept. 1. The program, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in the 2021-22 academic year, trains students to conduct interdisciplinary work that fosters new insights and solutions to urgent global problems that affect human health, livelihoods, and sustainable resources.

Krish Seetah
Krish Seetah

Since its first cohort in 2001, nearly 400 Environment and Resources PhDs and joint/dual MS students in the schools of business, law, medicine, humanities and sciences, education, and engineering have graduated from E-IPER. The MS-MBA, which is the largest joint degree program in the Graduate School of Business, is especially in demand among those aspiring to bring about transformative changes in sustainability across various sectors and industries. 

Seetah, an associate professor in the Social Sciences Division and Oceans Department at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, focuses on colonization and colonialism, disease, and the relationship between environmental change and society through the lens of environmental archaeology. He is a field scientist with emphasis on social sciences and international research – areas he hopes to grow through his leadership of E-IPER.

“I happen to have a highly interdisciplinary background and work across the social sciences and natural sciences,” said Seetah, who is also an associate professor of anthropology and a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. “I work on climate, I work with AI, data science – the stars align very well in terms of my background and the E-IPER program.”

Seetah has served as chair of the E-IPER PhD admissions committee for the past two years and is excited to be stepping into a larger role with the program. He is taking over leadership from Nicole Ardoin, the Emmett Family Faculty Scholar, who has held the directorship since 2018.  

“It will be challenging – particularly to step into Nicole’s shoes, huge shoes to fill," Seetah added. "But it’s also such a good time to be involved in the program as it becomes part of SDSS and we can think about how to bridge even further across the university. How could E-IPER become even more complementary to the goals and aims of SDSS and the university more broadly around issues of sustainability and environmental challenges?”

Former deans Franklin “Lynn” Orr and Pamela Matson championed the program, which launched in 2001 with Earth system scientist Rob Dunbar, the W. M. Keck Professor, as its first director. In 2009, Dan Emmett, ’61, and Rae Emmett provided a generous sustaining gift that named the program.

The program has more than 150 affiliated faculty from across campus who advise, mentor, teach, and collaborate with its students. In collaboration with Dean Arun Majumdar and Senior Associate Dean for Education Lynn Hildemann, Seetah said he would like to think about how to prioritize future growth of the program, from further engaging donors and alumni to improving representation of faculty. He recommends taking a broad approach to creating meaningful impact with research.

“It may be that we’re going to have to be much better at engaging artistic, community, and religious leaders, leveraging their support to enhance our impact,” Seetah said. “That’s where the future may lie – in thinking about areas of impact, inclusion, and education that we’re not necessarily focusing on now.”

In addition to ecology, sustainability, energy, and climate change, E-IPER students delve into ocean science, food security, environmental policy, environmental justice, human behavior, and economics. Under Ardoin's leadership, the Joint/Dual MS program has more than doubled, and in 2022, the program expanded to include a dual degree with the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy (MIP) program. As the program transitioned into the Doerr School of Sustainability it underwent revisions to its PhD and MS curricula, including prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Ardoin said these accomplishments have been a result of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who contribute to the program. "E-IPER is truly a team effort. Leading E-IPER through the transition has presented an exciting opportunity at this dynamic time," she said. "Now more than ever, the solutions-oriented scholarship that our students and faculty members carry out is motivating and inspiring. E-IPER is well positioned as an interdisciplinary program in this interdisciplinary new school."

Seetah said that more than anything, he’s looking forward to continuing to work with E-IPER students, who are required to bridge at least two different disciplinary fields in their research and therefore often come into the program with enough preparation to springboard immediately into research and field work.

“The world’s problems cannot be tackled from one perspective alone, so the more perspectives that the students bring on board and have in their toolkit, the better scientists they are at tackling the types of problems that we’ve set our sights on resolving,” Seetah said. “That’s what’s really exciting for me.”

Seetah is a faculty affiliate with the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) and is active with the Stanford Archaeology Center in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

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