Pitzer Interviews Candidates For Director of New Conservancy

Students interested in the interdisciplinary 5C Environmental Analysis (EA) major will soon have the chance to focus on hands-on sustainability, as Pitzer College is hiring a faculty member to teach sustainability-based design and studio classes. Over the past week, candidates Deike Peters, Lance Neckar, and Daniel Barber were on Pitzer’s campus to interview for the new position of Founding Faculty Director of Pitzer’s new Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability.

The new hire will fill a tenure-track position and will focus on sustainable design, which includes green architecture, sustainable urban planning and land use, and landscape design.

The Conservancy of Southern California Sustainability (CSCS) will be a center based in the Bernard Field Station’s (BFS) infirmary dedicated to sustainability. The center will include classrooms and laboratories. The hiring of the new position coincides with the creation of a new track within the EA major, “Sustainability and the Built Environment.”

“We are looking for someone whose teaching and praxis explore relationships among the natural world, the built environment, the political domain, and the social sphere,” EA Professor Paul Faulstich wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life. “And, we need to identify a candidate with visionary leadership to an emerging institute.”

Each of the candidate’s schedules included meetings with a search committee, a “Meet & Greet” with students and faculty, and a “Job Talk” on a relevant subject.

The search committee is composed of Pitzer professors Faulsitch, Melinda Herrold-Menzies, Brinda Sarethy (currently on sabbatical), Pomona professor Char Miller, James Weiner PZ ‘80, Lucy Block PO ‘11, and student representative Isabella Thorndike PZ ‘12. The committee is in the process of meeting and interviewing Peters, Neckar, and Barber.

Peters is currently an Adjunct Professor at USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development. According to Thorndike, Peters focuses on transportation.

Neckar is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. His interests include water usage and costs in southern California.

Neckar said that he would focus on creating classes that specifically use design inquiry. “We would try to do analytics that are purposeful and a projection of things that can be built and planted, and the things that can be learned from building things and planting,” he said.

Neckar added that one of his goals was to build a “living machine” on the BFS that would take in waste water and produce clean water, creating a net plus of water.

Barber is a Ziff Environmental Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for the Environmental. Barber’s job talk focused on the history of green architecture, specifically the building of solar the 1960s.

“I think we’ve had a lot of the technology to make the changes for the last 50 years, in terms of architecture technology to reduce energy use dramatically—it’s the desire that’s lacking,” Barber said.

Thorndike said that the search committee is hoping to add depth to the EA department through the position. “The primary thing that we need is someone with a design background… because we have a very solid EA faculty, but we’re lacking someone with an applied knowledge in design,” she said. “There’s been a lot of student interest in the past few years in really wanting to have a hands-on type of education, which is a special thing in a liberal arts college.”

“We hope to find someone who will be able to create teaching and research opportunities for students that help solve the enormous problems confronting us,” Faulstich added. “Areas of particular interest to students and faculty include studio and hands-on work in green architecture and urban planning, policy and land use, and landscape design.”

One of the main components of the position will be leading the CSCS, which will be a teaching facility. “Once this faculty person is hired, they will be the wings beneath the wind of this new Conservancy and help shape it,” Thorndike said.

According to Thorndike, one of the first jobs of the CSCS will be to retrofit the existing infirmary, using student input.

“There’s a lot of lack of clarity when people hear that they’re developing this new Conservancy on the Bernard Field Station (BFS),” she said. “There’s a lot of drama and emotion that comes into play when you talk about the BFS. The point of this new Conservancy is that sustainable design is taking into account conserving the landscape, and not paving over the BFS.”

The BFS is one of last remaining coastal sage scrub habitats in the area. It is jointly owned by all the 5Cs. The BFS has been a source of controversy for many years, due to past projects to build on or sell the land, and there has been a great deal of student interest in maintaining and conserving the BFS, according to Thorndike.

“This Conservancy is something special because I believe that it will finally protect [the BFS],” she said.

Thorndike added that the goals of the CSCS may be unclear now, because the direction of the conservancy will be determined by whoever is hired.

The search committee will send the recommendation to the Appointments, Promotion, & Tenure (APT) committee by Dec. 2. APT should clear the decision by the spring, and the new faculty member will be at Pitzer by fall 2012.

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