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UW–Madison names finalists for Nelson Institute director

February 14, 2012 By Jill Sakai

UW-Madison has named three finalists for the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Concluding a national search, a 15-member committee chaired by geoscience professor Jean Bahr and composed of faculty, staff, students and a member of the Nelson Institute board of visitors has recommended three candidates to Interim Chancellor David Ward and Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr.

The three finalists are:

Steven R. Beissinger, the A. Starker Leopold Chair in Wildlife Biology and professor of conservation biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Beissinger studies conservation, behavioral, and population ecology of birds and mammals, with projects including animals’ long-term response to climate change and the ecology of endangered and exploited species. He won the 2010 William Brewster Memorial Award from the American Ornithologists’ Union for the most meritorious body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere over the past decade.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology from Miami University in Ohio and a doctorate in natural resource ecology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Paul Robbins, director of the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Robbins helped establish the School of Geography and Development and during his time as director has expanded its degree offerings, including two new master’s degree programs and an interdisciplinary environmental studies major. His research focuses on humans’ interactions with nature and the politics of natural resource management in a range of environments, from the forests and pastures of rural India to the lawns of the American suburbs.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at UW–Madison and a master’s degree and doctorate in geography at Clark University.

David G. Victor, professor in the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

Victor directs the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, where he studies how international regulatory institutions affect behavior, including the impacts of environmental regulation and the role of corporate ownership in energy markets. He previously directed the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University and headed the Council on Foreign Relations’ science and technology program.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and science from Harvard University and a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The finalists will visit campus in February and March to meet with campus faculty, staff, students, administrators, governance and other groups. Their visits will include presentations open to the entire campus community. More information will become available once the visits are scheduled.

Interim director Gregg Mitman has led the institute since 2008. Mitman will return to the faculty and resume his environmental history research as the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of the History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies.

The Nelson Institute, founded in 1970 and renamed in 2002 for former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, is dedicated to interdisciplinary environmental scholarship, education and community engagement. It includes four research centers — the Center for Climatic Research; the Center for Culture, History, and Environment; the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment; and the Land Tenure Center — that span traditional disciplinary boundaries and include faculty and students from more than 40 natural and social science, engineering and humanities departments the UW–Madison campus.

The institute administers three graduate degree programs, five graduate-level certificate programs, and an undergraduate major and certificate in environmental studies, the latter of which is the largest undergraduate certificate program at UW–Madison. In addition to overseeing these programs, the director serves on the Deans’ Council and provides general leadership for environmental initiatives across campus.