The University of Nevada, Reno has a long history of both departmentally-based and campus-wide interdisciplinary environmental programs. There also have been several efforts in the past that have tried to foster and coordinate greater interaction among faculty and staff interested in environmental issues.

In the 1990s, two university centers were created to promote greater activity in this arena at the University of Nevada, Reno.

  • The Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering (CESE) at the University of Nevada, Reno was created in 1992 with the help of a large grant by Sierra Pacific Resources. It was designed to prepare scientists and engineers for careers in the expanding areas dealing with environmental processes and quality, and stimulate research into solutions to the environmental problems of Nevada, the American Southwest and the world. Expertise in the Center came primarily from the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute. In addition, the Center coordinated closely with scientists, engineers, educators, administrators and other policy makers from all segments of the Nevada System of Higher Education, governmental agencies, environmental groups and industry.

  • The Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities (CEAH) was established in July 1995 in recognition of the central place of the fine arts and humanistic scholarly disciplines in exploring the meaning of the natural environment for human culture and the impact humans exert on the larger planet. Traditionally, environmental studies programs have emphasized the physical sciences and policy studies; however, the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities brought together a group of distinguished scholars and teachers from such fields as literature, photography, philosophy, history, geography and anthropology to illuminate not only the physical and political dimension of the environment, but the important ways in which nature permeates our imaginative lives, our cultural and aesthetic experience, in America and throughout the world. In complementing the work of the University Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, their goal was to create a new model for interdisciplinary research and teaching on environmental topics by merging the scientific and humanistic disciplines.

These Centers provided outstanding leadership on campus and promoted a significant number of seminars, projects, and other opportunities for interaction among faculty and staff that had not occurred previously.

Proposal for New Institute

However, a greater university commitment to interdisciplinary environmental programs was desired by the faculty. Therefore, in 2003, a self-organized group of faculty (including many from CESE and CEAH) promoted the establishment of a university-wide environmental institute to further enhance and coordinate campus-wide environmental teaching, research, and service. Following extensive faculty discussion, a proposal to create the Academy for the Environment (UNAE) was submitted for review to the Faculty Senate. Under this proposal, the CESE and the CEAH will be sunset and their functions merged under the umbrella of the new Academy for the Environment.

This proposal was unanimously endorsed by the Faculty Senate on 22 April 2004 (Earth Day) and subsequently approved by the Board of Regents on 3 June 2004. On 22 November 2004, the Provost appointed an Interim Executive Director to open the office, hire support staff, and begin the process of establishing the UNAE on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. In June 2006, following a national search, Dr. Michael Collopy was selected as the founding director of the Academy for the Environment. The Academy was designed to be an interdisciplinary institute, whose mission is to develop, enhance and coordinate environmental teaching, research and service at the University of Nevada, Reno.

UNAE Objectives

  • develop innovative courses
  • provide cross-college connections related to the environment;
  • support the development of interdisciplinary programs in environmental studies;
  • link the environmental programs of sciences/engineering with those in the arts/humanities;
  • enhance and expand research/scholarship opportunities for environmental faculty;
  • conduct collaborative public outreach activities on the environment;
  • raise the environmental awareness of the campus; and
  • promote environmentally-related programs at the university.


In 2009, the Academy participated in a university-wide review of all centers and institutes. Because of the significant budget cuts that the university experienced, state support for the academic and outreach programs of the Academy were eliminated; however, it was determined that the Academy for the Environment should continue, albeit in a modified form and with a narrower research focus. The Academy continues to work with campus leaders to support interdisciplinary environmental research, in keeping with the Universitys 2009-2015 Strategic Plan to create an environmentally sustainable Nevada. Given its new research focus, Academy for the Environment now reports to the Office of the Vice President for Research, under the auspices of the Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research.