Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability Statement of Mission, Objectives and Outcomes
The vision of the CUAS is that Houston citizens will apply their knowledge and resources to create sustainable neighborhoods throughout the city.
The mission of the CUAS will be to create and support sustainable neighborhoods throughout Houston by engaging UHD and the external community in teaching, research and professional development and promoting best practices in business, technology, science and engagement.
In order to accomplish the mission and support the vision of the CUAS the center has several objectives. These objectives include supporting teaching of agriculture and sustainable practices relevant to living in an urban environment. Teaching means promotion of new curriculum at UHD and teaching of practical skills to UHD students through engagement with the Houston community. The CUAS will also support academic research related to optimization of agriculture and food distribution in urban settings. Additionally, the CUAS will support research projects that evaluate sustainable business and scientific practices in urban settings which would include topics such as conservation of resources, maintaining biodiversity and reducing the impact of climate change while supporting economic growth. Finally, the CUAS will serve as a hub to organize sustainability and urban agricultural initiatives and service opportunities both at UHD and throughout the greater Houston community.
The outcomes of the CUAS will be the creation of new curriculum through both academic and continuing education. The CUAS will support the creation of new courses that educate UHD students about issues of urban agriculture and sustainability. There is also interest in creating a minor in Sustainability that can be taken by any student at UHD (no hidden pre-requisites). This minor may also be offered as a certificate to the Houston community seeking an academic advancement in the area of Sustainability. The other area of curriculum the CUAS will help create is continuing education courses. Topics for such continuing education would include horticulture and urban ecology (i.e.. native plant landscapes, gardens for restaurants), specific food courses (i.e.. wine appreciation, molecular gastronomy), sustainable technologies (i.e.. solar powered garden systems). The CUAS will increase the research focus and research dollars at UHD in the areas of urban agriculture and sustainability. CUAS will help to coordinate faculty with shared interests for the writing of grant proposals and supply those engaged in research projects with any needed community partners or undergraduate research students. The CUAS will also solicit industry donations to support relevant student or faculty research programs. Finally, the CUAS will create a network of partners and novel collaborations between the Houston community organizations and the UHD faculty, staff and students with a focus on tackling complex issues of food and sustainability in Houston.
A plan for the annual assessment of the center's or institute's objectives and outcomes provided to the director, provost, president and advisory board. The plan must provide decision making procedures to act on the findings of the assessment report.
The Director of the CUAS will keep records of the outcomes of the CUAS and report those to the CUAS Steering Committee (at every meeting) and to the CST Dean, Provost, President and the CUAS Advisory Board once per year. The CUAS Director will keep track of the number of UHD students impacted by new curriculum created at UHD, the numbers of the Houston community members served by the continuing education, the number of students engaged in CUAS area projects (UHD Sustainability Garden, native plant areas at Johnny Goyen Park, etc.). The goal will be to increase the number of students engaged in such programs each year. The CUAS will keep track of the external funds coming into the CUAS both in the form of grants and industry contributions supporting student and/or faculty research (in addition to funds coming from continuing education programs). The financial goal of the CUAS will to be fiscally independent of any UHD funding by the end of three years. Finally, the CUAS will keep record of the number of community and industry contacts made each year with the goal of increasing this number by at least 10% each year. In addition to the quantitative goals set in curriculum, research support and service connections, the CUAS will collect qualitative data. Students in new UHD courses and continuing education courses will be asked to complete a brief survey of how the new curriculum changed their knowledge base or opinion about relevant topics in urban agriculture or sustainability. Community and industry partners and the CUAS Advisory board will also be asked to answer a brief survey within one year of new collaborations. This will allow CUAS to evaluate whether the community partners are well-served by the CUAS relationship. The CUAS Advisory Board, the CUAS Screening Board and UHD administration will also evaluate the assessment data annually to determine if there needs to be any changes to areas of focus or items funded. The CUAS Screening Committee and the CUAS Director will be obligated to make any recommended changes proposed by the CST Dean or upper administration.
A list of faculty and other primary participants:
The primary faculty and staff participants in the Center thus far are all members of the CUAS Steering Committee. These participants include:
- Lisa Morano (Professor Biology & Microbiology)-Proposed Interim Director
- Liza Alonzo (Office of the President)
- Chris Birchak (Dean of University College)
- Kirk Hagen (Professor Humanities)
- Faiza Khoja (Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs)
- Mike Tobin (Assistant Professor Biology)
- Vassilios Tzouanas (Associate Professor Engineering Technology)
The Steering Committee will also include a member of facilities and a student leader from the SGA Sustainability Council, the UHD Environmental Club and the UHD Garden Club. Other faculty or staff members will be added if their interests align with those of the CUAS. If other student clubs feel their mission overlaps with the goals of the CUAS, they will also be invited to send a leader to join the CUAS Steering Committee.
Description of funding source for both immediate and long-term sustainability
The CUAS was given a budget for 2015-2016 budget cycle of $20,000. Dr. Morano and Tzouanas were also awarded a USDA-NIFA grant September 1, 2015 which directly supports some of the initiatives of the CUAS. The grant is titled "The Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability: New Experiential Learning and Curriculum at UHD" and it supplies the center with $250,000 over the next four years. The grant will support PI and Co-PI time for one summer session and give student stipends and supply funds for student projects with a sustainability and urban agriculture focus. In addition, the CUAS will also manage funds from corporate contributions that focus on student projects in the areas of urban agriculture or sustainability. The WCA waste company of Houston has already contributed $10,000 to UHD in the form of a competitive student project awards to fund two student projects (student award money and money for the top projects) which will promote sustainable practices in the Houston community.
The financial long-term sustainability of the Center will include multiple venues of funding. External funds will include grant funds and industry funded projects to support student and faculty research or collaborative projects between UHD and the Houston community. Given that before the CUAS has even been approved it already has both a federally funded grant and one corporate donation for student driven projects, there is strong reason to believe one or both of these will be continued sources of funds. In addition, the CUAS will develop continuation education courses (described above). A significant fraction of the continuing education funds can be moved back into the CUAS to support and grow new programs. Once the continuing education program is in place it will become a consistent source of financial support for the CUAS.
Statements of who the center will report to, both financially and administratively
The CUAS will be housed in the College of Science and Technology (CST). As such, it will report to the Dean of CST both financially and administratively.
Any requirements for space and other university assistance
The CUAS would like to have an office with a small conference room to meet with community and industry leaders. Given the limited space at UHD conference space can be borrowed from either the CST office or Natural Sciences (NS). In addition, the CUAS will be the official manager of the UHD Sustainability Garden being created to the east of the UHD Police Station. The UHD Sustainability Garden will be an official CUAS space. Maintenance of the garden will be under the direction of the CUAS and the CUAS will give interested student organizations responsibility for creating and maintaining the garden (i.e.. UHD Garden Club). It is likely that additional areas of UHD may become the shared responsibility of both facilities and the CUAS. For example, the north side of the Johnny Goyen Park is likely to be become a native plant area owned by the Houston Park system but adopted by UHD. CUAS will also manage this area and give an interested student organization responsibility for establishing such native spaces (i.e.. UHD Environmental Club).
Directorship: Job description, how chosen, length of term, filling vacancy
The CUAS Director will be responsible for overseeing the mission and vision of the CUAS and setting the timelines so that CUAS outcomes are carried out. The Director will call Steering Committee meetings and create an Advisory Board for the CUAS. The Director will be responsible for managing the UHD cost center, signing off on expenditures, handling logistics associated with CUAS sponsored programs and producing the annual report. The CUAS will have an Interim Director for the 2015-2016 academic year. A Director will be selected in late spring of 2016 and serve a two year term. A Director will be a faculty member with expertise is some area of urban agriculture or sustainability. The Director will get a course release each long semester they serve as the Director of the CUAS. Applications for the Director position will be reviewed by a subcommittee including at least three members of the CUAS Steering Committee who will then make recommendations to the CST Dean. At the end of the two years the Director may choose to stay on for another two year term. The Dean of CST can also request that the Director of the CUAS be replaced at any time.
Advisory Board: Description of responsibilities, how chosen, length of term, filling vacancy, how it lead, and relationship to Director
The CUAS will have a CUAS Steering Committee which will be made up of internal UHD faculty and staff that will steer the direction of the CUAS and its projects. The CUAS Advisory Board will be created from members of the Houston Community and will include at least 10 members from local agencies or corporations that share the goals of the CUAS and the mission of UHD. The goal will be to create the Advisory Board within one year of CUAS approval. The CUAS Advisory Board will include community leaders who will be recruited based on their areas of expertise and position approved by the CUAS Steering Committee. Members of the CUAS Advisory Board will be asked to serve for two years and will be obligated to attend one annual CUAS Advisory Board meeting per year. The CUAS Advisory Board will give advice to the CUAS Steering Committee about the direction, ideas and implementation of the CUAS objectives in teaching, research and service. The Advisory Board can give the Steering Committee honest feedback about the needs in the Houston community with respect to degrees, certificates and continuing education. The CUAS Advisory Board can also be valuable resource for creating service partners, identifying or funding student, faculty or community projects.
Decision-making procedures (fiscal, programmatic, mission)
The Director of the CUAS will make all minor decisions related to fiscal or programmatic logistics as outlined as the areas that will be routinely funded by the CUAS. The CUAS committee will vote (by majority) to approve on funding of any new student positions, programs or activities not described as the basic operations of the CUAS. Items up for a vote will still need to be in support of the mission of the CUAS. The decision-making procedures of any grant that is associated by the CUAS will be the full responsibility of the PI and any Co-PI listed on the grant. Likewise, the decision-making procedures associated with any industry gift or collaboration will be established before the relationship is initiated.
Content and distribution of annual reports (as consistent with this policy and other university and system policies)
Annual reports of fiscal and assessment data will be written by the CUAS Director. They will be distributed to the CUAS Steering Committee, CST Dean, Provost and President as consistent with UHD policy. A summary version of reports will be generated for the CUAS Advisory Committee and presented to the Advisory Committee at the annual meeting.
Use of equipment and space
As mentioned above the CUAS will borrow meeting space as needed. The CUAS will help manage relevant UHD spaces such as the UHD Sustainability Garden and the native planting areas (such as the proposed area of Johnny Goyen Park). Grants funded may require the use of research space already partitioned to faculty. For example, faculty including Tobin, Morano and Tzouanas will likely involve students in undergraduate research programs which may involve use of their laboratory spaces. As the UHD Sustainability Garden will fall under the shared direction of facilities and CUAS, faculty who may want to use a portion of the UHD Sustainability Garden for a project may bring their idea to the CUAS Steering Committee who will decide whether the project meets the goals of the CUAS with a majority vote.
Description /Assignment of copyright, patent, royalty and other intellectual rights
Copyright, patent, royalty and other intellectual rights will be handled using the policy and procedures currently used by the UH system.
Processes and approvals for commissions and consulting
Faculty that are asked to consult or do work on commission will be required to fill out the correct form (Consulting and Paid Professional Service Application form) and get approval by upper administration for such activities before they engage in any commissions or consulting work.
Process for dissolution of center or institute (internal to center members)
The CST Dean, President or Provost may dissolve the CUAS if they feel it is not meeting its obligations to the college, university or the greater Houston community.
Other bylaws and operating procedures
Budget: The CUAS budget will be used to fund several items. First, the budget will be used to support a course release each long semester for the CUAS director and several weeks of summer salary depending on the project workload during the summer. The CUAS can pay a student worker for a few hours per week to help with advertising of special initiatives, creation of a webpage, social media updates and assistance with paperwork. Funds can be used for advertising costs for special programs (i.e.. brochures for relevant continuing education courses). Since both the UHD Sustainability Garden and the new native planting areas will be the joint efforts of both CUAS and facilities, CUAS will be responsible for supplies to keep such areas adequately maintained (i.e.. seeds, soil, signage). Facilities will be responsible for major infrastructure investments (i.e.. fencing). Budgetary expenditures beyond these basic support services of the CUAS mentioned above will require approval of the CUAS Steering Committee (majority approval) and the CST Dean.
CUAS Steering Committee Meetings: Meetings of the CUAS Steering Committee will occur at least 2 times per semester. At each meeting, the CUAS Director will review the major initiatives going on in the CUAS. The Director will also give a CUAS budget summary listing both internal and external funding which is supporting the CUAS and a breakdown of CUAS expenditures. After that the Steering Committee will discuss possible new projects and new collaborations and what its role will be in supporting them. New items that will require use of CUAS time or funds will be voted on by the entire CUAS Steering Committee.