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Seychelles archipelago

Photo taken by E-IPER PhD student Shannon Switzer Swanson during field study in the Seychelles archipelago.

A Passion for Education and the Environment

Dan, '61, and Rae Emmett grow and sustain an innovative interdisciplinary program

Fall 2016

The Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences has announced a new $7.2 million gift from Dan, '61, and Rae Emmett to enhance the groundbreaking program that bears their name.

Dan and Rae EmmettThe Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) attracts and trains some of the world's most promising leaders working on issues related to environment, resources, and human well-being. Established in 2001 and named with a gift from the Emmett family in 2009, the program has been a model for interdisciplinary education around the world. With a highly competitive PhD program and a master's degree for Stanford students enrolled in MBA, JD, MD, and selected other PhD programs, E-IPER promotes interdisciplinary research and equips students with an unprecedented range of skills for discovering solutions and shaping policy.

Alumni of the program have gone on to leadership positions in a wide range of fields, including clean technology, medicine, venture capital, conservation, academia, and government. With their ability to bridge science and policy, integrating conceptual and practical approaches, E-IPER graduates are highly sought after in the public and private sectors and by universities around the world.

New Emmett Matching Program

The gift will add to and better leverage the highly diverse talents of the faculty and students in the program. The largest portion of the new commitment—nearly $5 million—creates a new matching program that will encourage other donors with a dollar-for-dollar match on gifts to E-IPER's highest priority needs. Overall, the Emmett family's gift is expected to result in more than $12 million in new resources for faculty, graduate fellowships, visiting scholars, and innovative research and educational opportunities for E-IPER students.

Building on E-IPER's Success

In addition to creating the matching program, the Emmett family will directly fund a new faculty position focused on understanding and managing social-environmental systems. Most E-IPER student research explores questions at the interface of the human and biophysical/technical aspects of these systems. Enlarging the core group of Stanford faculty with this range of expertise is a high priority for the program and the students it draws from across the university.

The new gift will also support collaboration grants between PhD students, who bring a depth of research expertise, and their MS counterparts, who bring important perspectives on implementation from their professional degree programs.

Very successfully piloted over the past two years with research on climate change and renewable energy, the collaboration grant program will be expanded through the Emmett gift to other E-IPER research topics, including conservation in land and ocean systems, environmental governance, sustainable development, and issues related to other resources such as agriculture and food systems.

"Dan and Rae understand that strategic investments in faculty and research opportunities are necessary to support the development of students who can pursue truly innovative solutions to some of the most challenging issues of our time," says Peter Vitousek, the Clifford G. Morrison Professor in Population and Resource Studies and the Sykes Family Director of E-IPER. "Their gift provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to build on our success and continue to develop the paradigm for interdisciplinary environmental research and education."

E-IPER's master's program is now 52 students strong, having started with only two joint MBAs and two joint JDs in 2005. The PhD program is extremely competitive, with more than 130 applicants for eight spots in each year's cohort.

E-IPER's popularity and effectiveness were important factors in the decision of its founding benefactors to make such a significant new investment in the program.

"The demand by highly qualified students for inclusion and the substantive contributions being made by E-IPER alumni on critical environmental issues show proof of concept," says Dan Emmett. "E-IPER has a critical role to play in preparing leaders for the challenges our planet will face in the decades to come. We hope that the matching program will encourage others who feel the same way about E-IPER and its role to join its community of supporters."

The Emmett family is passionate about education and the environment. Dan Emmett, chairman of the board of directors of Douglas Emmett Inc., a company that owns and operates commercial and residential real estate, grew up on farms across rural California—an experience he credits with stimulating his appreciation for the outdoors.

He has served on the board of numerous environmental organizations and as chair of the Real Estate Roundtable's Environment and Energy Policy Advisory Committee. Along with his son, Daniel, MA '96, he was an advisor to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on energy and environmental issues. He is also a member of the advisory council for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Rae Emmett is a marine naturalist in the Channel Islands National Park and a former teacher. The family has generously supported environmental programs at several universities, including founding the Emmett Institute for Climate Change & the Environment at UCLA School of Law and the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School.

Pushing the Envelope in Search of Solutions

Top students are attracted to Stanford by E-IPER, which allows them to draw on the university's strengths in all seven schools. In the process, E-IPER students also play an important role in shaping the university's approach to critical Earth issues and in defining its research agenda, says Pamela Matson, the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor in Environmental Studies.

"E-IPER students come to Stanford with a strong sense of the social and environmental challenges they would like to address," she says. "As they design their dissertation projects and recruit advisors from around the university for their committees, they draw faculty together on these important topics and push the envelope of interdisciplinary research."

Rae Emmett believes that this diversity—of disciplines and of perspectives wrought by training—is the secret to innovative problem solving. "Today's E-IPER students are tomorrow's leaders," she says, "and the solutions to these problems are not going to be found in the usual places."


Polar bears

A student collaboration grant awarded in 2015 resulted in a paper published in Marine Policy recommending an innovative approach to managing new shipping channels opened by melting Arctic sea ice. Building on the concept of dynamic ocean management, the students proposed a series of stakeholder engagement activities and threshold-based regulations that would balance economic and conservation goals. PHOTO: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

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