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CUAS Mission, Objectives and Outcomes

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 College of Sciences and Technology 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, the garden beds along the Science and Technology building, 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). 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 College of Sciences and Technology 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)- Director 
  • Rachel Hudspeth (Assistant Director, Assessment, Institutional Effectiveness)
  • Juan Martinez (Sustainability Coordinator)
  • Sanghamitra Saha (Lecturer, Biology)
  • Lawrence Spence (external member, Westside High School)
  • Mike Tobin (Associate Professor, Biology)
  • Vassilios Tzouanas (Professor, Engineering Technology)

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.

Statements of who the center will report to, both financially and administratively

The CUAS will be housed in the College of Science and Technology. As such, it will report to the Dean of College of Sciences and Technology both financially and administratively.

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, College of Sciences and Technology 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 College of Sciences and Technology 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 College of Sciences and Technology 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.