Climate march 2019
SEAS Dean Jonathan Overpeck with students and staff at the 2019 Climate March in Ann Arbor.

Dean's Letter

Dear Friends,

What a difference a year makes. When I last wrote to you in Stewards in Fall 2019, the world hadn’t yet heard of COVID-19, and social distancing and other precautions that have become the norm these days would not have been imaginable.

As I think about the challenges brought about by the pandemic, as well as the continuing environmental threats our planet faces, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be part of the SEAS community. The resilience and dedication to solving the world’s pressing issues, even in the midst of adversity, makes me proud to be your dean. Some of that work is highlighted in this first all-digital issue of Stewards, with stories that focus on “Innovation and Resilience Through Times of Challenge and Change.”

You’ll read about our new Equity and Justice Initiative, through which we will strive to create a culture at SEAS, U-M, and within society that advances equal rights and justice for all and recognizes the intersectionality between issues of race, identity, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, and background.

And you’ll also learn more about the new Sustainability and Development (SusDev) degree specialization we’re launching, which aims to help students understand, analyze, and address the most pressing challenges to human well-being, including poverty, hunger, climate change, conservation, access to clean water, and inequality, among others.

With the addition of SusDev, SEAS now offers eight specializations, two of which have recently undergone name changes. The Conservation Ecology specialization will be renamed Ecosystem Science and Management, and the Environmental Informatics specialization will be renamed Geospatial Data Sciences. These changes come as the result of a process that incorporated student and faculty feedback, and more accurately describe the knowledge base students gain in these areas of our school, in addition to better aligning with the careers that they are preparing students for.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of Earth and its inhabitants.

Stay safe, be well, and go Blue!


Peck signature

Jonathan Overpeck
Samuel A. Graham Dean
William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor of Environmental Education

School for Environment and Sustainability

P.S. I know you are as aware as I am that the stakes in this upcoming election are high. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to make you voice heard and get out and vote!