Faculty, students form high-energy partnership
Carl Simon knows whatever solutions scholars and politicians find to the energy crisis it's going to be up to future generations to make them happen.
So who better to partner with than students to plan the LSA Fall 2008 Theme Semester "Energy Futures: Society, Innovation and Technology," examining the human and social behaviors associated with energy demand.
For the first time in 20 years students from LSA Student Government are working with faculty members to plan the theme semester.
From lectures and courses to writing contests and a green homecoming parade, students are at the table, says Simon, director of the Center for the Study of Complex Systems, which is coordinating the theme semester with students.
"It's a 100 percent partnership and it's so natural," Simon says. "Their enthusiasm and hard work is making it more satisfying and increasing the chances of success. Their contacts are really getting the energy flowing."
John Monaghan and Andrew Fileti, members of LSA Student Government, are working with the faculty to connect students to the theme semester.
They have set up a Facebook page and Google calendar to publicize it and are partnering with students in the College of Engineering and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, as well as the Ann Arbor Energy Commission and Detroit Edison.
"We are trying to tap into all the environmental groups on campus to mobilize students to take action," says Monaghan, a third-year student in the Program in the Environment.
LSA students will participate in an Energy Fest, part of a campuswide Planet Blue energy-conservation and recycling initiative coordinated by Plant Operations.
They are working with the Michigan Student Assembly on homecoming week Sept. 29- Oct. 4, which will feature a "Go Blue Live Green" theme, Monaghan says. Plans call for a parade and pep rally emphasizing sustainability.
The theme semester will feature internationally renowned scholars in political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, public policy and survey research, who will examine the cultural, historical and social aspects of energy policy.
A course will be offered in the social science of energy and other courses will include energy components. A writing contest, "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out," will ask students to write about experiences with energy failures.
As part of a summer reading program about 700 first-year students will read the book "Power to the People: How the coming energy revolution will transform an industry, change our lives and may even save the planet'' by Vijay Vaitheeswaran. The author will give a lecture on Sept. 28 and meet with students and faculty Sept. 29.
The theme semester will give the University community a unique opportunity to explore the multi-dimensional aspects of energy from a cultural, political and historical perspective that goes beyond technical considerations, says LSA Dean Terrence McDonald.
"The University of Michigan has unparalleled strength in the social sciences and a unique ability to examine complex topics from a collaborative interdisciplinary approach," McDonald says.
Theme semesters have been an integral part of U-M's teaching and learning experience for more than 20 years, offering an interdisciplinary approach on topics as varied as China, civil rights, food and citizenship. The winter 2009 theme year will study the universe and the fall 2009 semester will focus on museums.
The LSA Energy Futures theme semester is part of a Universitywide Initiative on Energy Science, Technology and Policy, established by Vice President for Research Steve Forrest.