SCARP Futures

Hi Everyone,
At the School Management Committee (SMC) meeting last Thursday, I argued the importance of us creating a strategic plan that seizes the opportunities created by the retirements of Bill and I and that begins rebuilding the SCARP faculty and the Masters and Doctoral programs in ways that will keep the School on the cutting edge of research and teaching focused on a refreshed version of our Vision:  Sustainability Through the Democratization of Planning.

In the near term the context and priorities provided by such a strategic plan will be critical in guiding decisions immediately before the School, including:

  • Which UBC Faculty should SCARP join and in what kind of arrangements if CFIS is re-formed or eliminated as a result of the Provost’s plans?
  • What kind of Director should the School seek to support SCARP’s pursuit of the refreshed vision?
  • What should be the priorities in hiring new faculty members to pursue the refreshed vision through the two possible Canada Research Chairs and other opportunities?
  • How should SCARP’s Masters and Doctoral programs be re-formed to make them stronger in the pursuit of the refreshed vision, taking up opportunities for innovations in focus and learning strategies and responding to resource constraints and recommendations of the CIP and PAB accreditation reports?

It was agreed to organize a one-day faculty retreat to begin exploring the issues in more detail by focusing on a re-freshed vision and it was suggested that it would be useful to share some ideas in advance so as to make the discussions more productive.  The student representatives on the SMC (Lauren Klose, Devon Miller and James White) were asked to provide input from students. In coming days I will circulate some of the pieces in which I have addressed issues relating to the future of SCARP and upcoming discussions. To start I excerpt part of my interview with the student editor of Newsbytes that appeared in the most recent issues of Newsbytes last summer; the full article is available at

What are your hopes for the future of the School?
Firstly, I hope that the school holds to what’s made it distinctive –its breadth and diversity of faculty and students, its commitment to progressive planning, the balance it tries to achieve among the academic-theoretical and the professional practice interests, and the way it emphasizes developing students long-term analytical and problem solving capabilities beyond developing merely the skills required for entry career positions.

Secondly, I also hope SCARP will change, to be stronger in pursuing a vision that is relevant to the opportunities and constraints of the times ahead. The School needs to sharpen its focus on what is the cutting edge of sustainability so it can continue to be a leader in meeting the challenges of global change –it’s time to strongly refresh its focus and let this influence both the teaching and research programs.

I think we need more core/required courses to ensure each student has the foundational capabilities of economic, social and environmental sustainability planning before graduating –this could be an opportunity to offer more 1-credit courses and ensure delivery to each student of a greater diversity of course material. That would mean reshaping the masters program, but the School has once-in-a -generation opportunities beginning right now with faculty retiring and new faculty members being brought in.

I would also like to see a greater integration of the practitioners and the academics in teaching, research and capacity development activities. The balance is there in terms of the numbers of people and breadth of course offerings, but if practitioners and academics became more engaged with each other, they would both offer stronger courses and we would have a much stronger school as a result.

Consistent with this I hope that the idea of professional PhDs would be explored as a complement to the traditional doctorate oriented to academic careers and research. They are becoming more relevant and common as people seek more in-depth and extended research opportunities in preparing for practice careers and such a program could nicely cross fertilize with the masters program and the existing doctoral program.

These ideas all come back to what kind of faculty we want to hire to support the new thrust. Bill [Rees] and my retirement should be seen as a huge opportunity for the School to begin remaking itself. Within a decade it can make significant changes with the further retirements in prospect and that doesn’t happen often. The School needs very active dialogue within and without to see how it can capitalize on that opportunity.

I look forward to participating in the upcoming discussions.

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