Earth Sciences sees 40 percent enrollment increase over 6 years

Classes in the School of Earth Sciences are becoming increasingly popular, with enrollment rising approximately 40 percent in the past six years. Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences, attributed increased student enrollment to the growing interest in focus on sustainability challenges.

“The world is facing huge challenges as we try to meet the needs of a still-growing and more consuming human population – needs for food, energy, water and other things – while at the same time protecting our climate ecosystems and environment,” Matson wrote in an email to The Daily.

The increase is largely due to increased enrollment in the school’s Earth Systems Program, the school’s largest undergraduate program; the Environment and Resources graduate program; and the Department of Energy Resources Engineering, which offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The rapid growth in student enrollment has led to a need to grow the faculty to accommodate the growing student population.

“The programs and faculty draw new students, and the growing student population encourages us to hire new faculty – a positive feedback,” Matson said.

The School of Earth Sciences plans to hire five or six new faculty members to achieve a 10 percent increase from its current faculty size of 55, many of whom are senior fellows at the Woods Institute for the Environment. The school hired between one and three faculty members per year over the past decade, which Matson characterized as a considerable increase in faculty size.

Faculty hiring in the new geobiology program – the study of the interaction of environment and biology over Earth’s history – will begin in January, but Matson said that the school plans to grow its geobiology faculty over the next couple of years to aid the development of a research program in geobiology.

The School of Earth Sciences has also hired staff members in response to the recent increases in student enrollment. The staff size increase was intended to keep up with the size of the student body, as well as to aid the faculty as they increase offerings for students.

A master planning initiative accompanies the rapid growth of the school. The Mitchell Earth Sciences building, which was built in the 1960s, is going to be turned over to Stanford University from the School of Earth Sciences.

“[Mitchell] can no longer support the kind of teaching and research we do,” Matson said.

The school plans to replace Mitchell with a new, larger building designed specifically for earth sciences. The new building is still in the early planning stages; plans and estimated construction costs have yet to be created and submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Once constructed, the new building – which Matson said will be sustainably constructed and designed – will include teaching and office space in addition to computational facilities.

About Alice Phillips

Alice Phillips is the deputy editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously, she was a news desk editor and a news writer. She is a biology major from Los Angeles.