The first Conference for Sustainability IGERTs convened at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) on October 10-13, 2007Participants included 41 visiting IGERT doctoral fellows (representing 27 universities and 27 IGERT programs), seven visiting professors, NSF IGERT Program Officer Dr. Carol Van Hartesveldt, and resident faculty and students from UAF'sResilience and Adaptation Program, the hosting IGERT program.
The conference goals were:
- to share perspectives on the sustainability of social-ecological systems;
- to share ways of optimizing interdisciplinary sustainability studies through IGERTs; and
- to share what we learned via the Internet.
Through presentations and discussions on Thursday and Friday participants compared IGERTs and listed problems and solutions they have encountered. The second day focused on break-out sessions exploring topics students chose relating to sustainability science and to interdisciplinary training. These discussions produced wide-ranging lists of concerns and suggestions. Poster sessions showcased student and program research.
The final day began with plenary talks by Dr. Van Hartesveldt of NSF and Dr. Charles Redman, of Arizona State University. Each spoke about future opportunities in interdisciplinary programs and careers. In the afternoon, a panel discussed minority issues in sustainability science.
The conference ended with a panel discussion segueing to a open-ended conversation about lessons from the conference and general conclusions. These included:
- Interdisciplinarity is difficult, promising and a valuable way to address sustainability problems.
- Success begins with participants openness towards the epistemologies, methodologies and concerns of diverse people.
- Respect, listening, and outreach are vital.
- Allowing students to guide programs and helping them network informally encourages teamwork.
- Conference attendees recommended future meetings like this one and establishing an Internet-based community to provide resources, support and a forum for the future exchange of ideas.
Other conference events included a banquet (featuring a keynote talk by UAF Vice Chancellor Bernice Joseph and Native dancers), field trips to Denali National Park and Chena Hot Springs Resort, and a workshop on Facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration through philosophical dialogueled by Dr. Nilsa Bosque-Perez and Ruth Dahlquist of the University of Idaho.