“I have the best job in the world,” says Dr. Scott Benson as he begins to describe his journey from being an environmental engineer, to a medical doctor, to working on the front lines of public health in the developing world. “My work allows me to deal with the whole spectrum of human health. As a doctor, I can treat the patient. As an engineer, I can examine and reorganize the systems so that people don’t get sick in the first place.” Dr. Benson learned this approach to dealing with public health through working on the ground in the Dominican Republic, Peru, India, Pakistan, and most extensively in Ghana. He now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine specializing in infectious disease.
On Friday, Oct. 20, world-renowned scientist and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva spent the day on the University of Utah’s campus. The main purpose of her visit was a powerful lecture to more than 600 people at Libby Gardner concert hall describing sustainable farming practices and sharing insights into how learning to coexist with the earth can better inform our coexistence with each other.
In addition to the public lecture, Shiva shared ideas and meals with university students, faculty and community members.
Her day began with students who filled the Sustainability Office to ask questions about creating sustainable futures, protecting the rights of farmers to breed and exchange seeds, and learn how to ground themselves through self-care.
During the course of two transatlantic trips to India, and a semester of intercultural collaboration, University of Utah students discovered that before you can solve, you have to listen.
From December 2015 through June 2016, history professor Benjamin Cohen and Stephen Goldsmith, associate professor (lecturer) in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, built an interdisciplinary cohort of six University of Utah and nine Indian student researchers. Tasked by the United States Consulate General in Hyderabad to create ‘market-ready solutions for sustainable urbanization,’ the team chose to target water. Hyderabad, the capital of the Indian state Telangana, was once known as the city of lakes. Today, Hyderabad’s residents face water insecurity due, in part, to problematic urban development. Cohen and Goldsmith used the grant as a singular opportunity for U students to connect sustainability, culture and applied research toward addressing one of Hyderabad’s wicked problems.
Universities are generally tasked with the organization, creation and transfer of knowledge. The most effective Universities transfer this knowledge in three ways: 1. To students 2. Publications, conferences, literature, books, etc… AND 3. To society to make an impact. Transitioning the knowledge created and organized in a University setting to society represents a vital function of Universities and one primary mechanism of doing so resides in what is referred to as Technology Transfer – at the University of Utah it is called Technology and Venture Commercialization (TVC). The University Utah has developed a functioning and productive TVC and it was my goal to go to Pakistan to help Universities in that great country determine how best to set up their own TVC.
Global sustainability is term that is thrown about quite a bit these days. The idea of creating greater and more efficient methods of energy consumption, waste management, water conservation, pollution control and more are at the forefront of today’s international research. While an overarching focus on these goals is certainly admirable, it would seem that sustainability on a smaller scale just might be the key to seeing a broader change. At least that’s the hope of Stephen Goldsmith, Director of The Center for the Living City and Associate Professor of the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah.
Ask anyone who is involved in current global sustainability efforts what the most important aspect of their work is, and nearly all of them will give the same answer: teamwork.
Global sustainability is an area of research that, by its very nature, requires the input of scientists and experts from virtually every discipline imaginable, and it was this idea that led to the inception of the Global Change and Sustainability Center [GCSC] here at the University of Utah in 2011.
“Many of the environmental challenges of today can not be tackled by an individual discipline,” said Jim Ehleringer, Director of the GCSC. “So the critical and essential feature of the GCSC and its affiliated research, is that it’s all about faculty coming together that need input from different disciplines in order to tackle each research opportunity. Building the bridges across colleges so that people get to know each other, and understand what each can bring to the table has led to the point that we are able to submit successful programs for research and training.”
When it comes to international scientific research and humanitarian effort, few organizations carry as much clout as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In December, 2014, the University of Utah announced a significant partnership with USAID-funded Partner Center for Advanced Studies in Water [PCASW] in Pakistan.
The USAID project is a 10 million dollar undertaking, with 2 million dollars in funding allocated for the center every year over the course of five years. The project involves more than fifteen faculty members just from the University of Utah, and will support a number of students and administrative staff for the center.
University of Utah student Colton Groves, from the College of Architecture and Planning, has been named the 2015 recipient of The Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award.
The Undergraduate Research Award is an honor reserved for the most rigorous and impressive undergraduate research done in a learning abroad setting each year, with typically only one or two nominations being accepted from each university across the country.