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Mellon grant funds two new environmental programs

The Environmental Science and Policy program at William and Mary has received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will allow the College to establish two new highly innovative programs: a Center for Geospatial Analysis and a “teacher-scholar” postdoctoral program in the interdisciplinary environmental science program.

The Environmental Science and Policy program is one of William and Mary’s most successful interdisciplinary programs, drawing dozens of participating faculty from several departments and from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Timmons Roberts, a professor of sociology, is the program’s director. Two other faculty members will take lead roles in incorporating enhancements to the program. John Swaddle, associate professor of biology, will oversee the establishment of the postdoctoral fellows program. Swaddle also is the program’s director, but is currently on research leave. Greg Hancock, associate professor of geology, will coordinate the establishment of the Center for Geospatial Analysis (CGA).

The second aspect of the Mellon grant, establishing the postdoctoral program in environmental science and policy, also will benefit both students and faculty across the College.

Strikwerda said that a series of postdoctoral fellows on staggered two-year terms, two at any one time, will participate in the program. Postdoctoral fellowships are temporary positions held by scholars with new Ph.D.s., and are more common in large research-oriented institutions, although William and Mary typically has a few in the physics and applied science departments. Strikwerda explained that $800,000 of the Mellon grant is to start an endowment for the post-doctoral program. The College must raise an additional $1.6 million to complete the endowment. For this matching endowment the College will turn to private donors—many of whom are eager to see their resources support the role the College can play in our collective understanding of environmental concerns. Roberts pointed out that the Mellon Foundation has been a stalwart supporter of William and Mary’s environmental program for years.   i