Provost's End of the Year Letter 2016

Dear Friends and Alumni of Rachel Carson College,

Rachel Carson, by Rachel Maryam Smith (silicon bronze)

Fall Quarter 2016 has been a momentous one; for better or worse, it will soon come to an end. We have a new President. The campus is crowded to the gills and the housing to accommodate students will not appear for several years.  Professor Alison Galloway is retiring as Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor, and the search for her replacement is underway.  Winter 2017 is just around the corner.  No doubt, there is more in store.

In the meantime, let me tell you about six great things going on or in the planning at the College for the rest of the 2016-2017 academic year.

The first great thing is that College Eight is now Rachel Carson College (RCC)!

Thanks to the generosity of the Helen and Will Webster Foundation and the enthusiasm of Claudia and Alec Webster, the college’s academic programs will have a solid financial base in the future.  There will also be a new Robert Headley Chair in Ecological Integrity and Environmental Justice in RCC (a first!), cofunded by the Webster Foundation and the UC Office of the President.  We hope a faculty member will be appointed to the chair very soon.

The Sustainability Studies Minor continues to grow. This is the third and final year of the pilot phase, and we are developing a revised curriculum to accompany its permanent authorization for 2017-18 and beyond. In addition to labs and research, the core classes will now be 5 units. We hope these changes will elicit greater commitments to experiential learning, sustainability internships and fieldwork by students in the minor.

Third, the Ecotopia Tiny House project continues. EH is a collaboration with the Construction and Energy Management Program at Cabrillo College.  Students and faculty from both institutions worked all summer and into the fall to complete the tiny house in time for an October competition in Sacramento—but, unfortunately, we did not make the deadline. Nevertheless, the house is progressing and should be completed by the end of Spring, 2017 (you can see a photo at This project is Phase I of a longer-term collaborative effort to design and build affordable, resource-efficient “Tiny Row Houses” for urban infill, homeless vets and others in need. As part of Phase II, students and faculty are developing smart resource management hardware and software for groups of row houses sharing energy and water.  More information about this exciting project is available at

Fourth, the new Sustainability Lab (“S-Lab” for short) is being launched in early December (see S-lab is a collaboration among RCC, the School of Engineering and Physical and Biological Sciences, and the Art Department, to provide work and makerspace and incubator facilities for student-led projects. It provides functional indoor (at Thimann Labs) and outdoor (at the Arboretum) research laboratories, workshops, prototyping and test equipment, meeting rooms and gathering spaces that allow students to work on and develop sustainability projects.  Students in the Sustainability Studies minor and the Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Program will have access to the S-Lab.

Fifth, we have been given a bronze bust of Rachel Carson, cast by Rachel Smith, a student in the UCSC Art Department, as her class project.  We will be mounting the bust on a pedestal and putting it in one of the garden areas at the RCC plaza. 

Fifth, for those of you who might be nostalgic for the College’s pre-1989 digs, RCC will be hosting a “Kerr Hall Kegger” during Alumni Weekend in April.  We will also be showing a forthcoming film on Rachel Carson, which is scheduled to be broadcast on NPR in January 2017 (

The social project of protecting and preserving our natural and built environments through sustainability continues, as does RCC’s mission. The new endowment will make it possible to support our programs and students, but it will not pay out interest until August, 2017. Until then, RCC continues to support its academic efforts with “soft funds.” I won’t beat about the bush here: we are still asking for money.  Outside of the core course, the Sustainability Studies minor and other courses are made possible only through your donations and grants we are able to procure. For the rest of this academic year, we will continue to operate on shoestrings.  Since it is the season of giving, would you consider a gift of $100 (or more) to RCC?  I will personally match, dollar for dollar, all contributions received, up to $2,500.

Finally, if you are not in touch with RCC, we’d love to hear from you and about your interests and activities. Watch our website:  Come visit: Alums, parents and friends are always welcome. If you’d like to attend one of our quarterly Faculty Fellows dinners, please contact me, or if you are in the neighborhood, let us know.  It would be great to see you and we will welcome you with open hearts and arms.

All the best and happy holidays,


Ronnie D. Lipschutz

Provost, Rachel Carson College & Professor of Politics