Partners in Sustainability and Environmental Studies

Scientific leaders and faculty members from USC Dornsife and Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines are developing a joint strategic program to strengthen environmental and climate-related research and education.
ByLaura Paisley

USC hosted a special academic delegation from Versailles, France, from Jan. 19-23 as part of an interdisciplinary workshop designed around the topic of global environment, climate and sustainability.

Over five days, scientific and administrative leaders from the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) joined their counterparts at USC Dornsife with the shared objective of creating a cooperative program between research center Observatoire de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (OVSQ) and USC Dornsife.

UVSQ is one of two founder partners, along with Université Paris-Sud, of the new French “megauniversity,” Université Paris-Saclay — a $9 billion project also involving several Grandes Écoles and regional research organizations — which will have international academic cooperation as one of its cornerstones.

The workshop aimed to devise strategies for strengthening research and education in climate and environmental sustainability at both institutions, building on their complementary strengths.

Based at UVSQ, the OVSQ is a research center focused on data collection, analysis and education. It is a leading participant in the fields of climate change and sustainable development at national, European and international levels.

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Alain Bui, vice president for international affairs at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, addresses workshop participants from both institutions at a Jan. 20 welcome reception.

The U.S.-French partnership originated two years ago when Fabien Agenes, attaché for science and technology at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles, introduced USC Dornsife’s Vice Dean for Natural Sciences Charles McKenna to UVSQ administrators Alain Bui and Céline Delacourt-Gollain. Subsequently McKenna, professor of chemistry, traveled to UVSQ to meet with other potential collaborators and scientists on behalf of USC Dornsife’s Sustainability Task Force, which he coordinates with Vice Dean for Social Sciences Wendy Wood.

The task force was established by USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay and is currently led by Professor of Earth Sciences William Berelson, Professor and Chair of International Relations Robert English and USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies Director Roberta Marinelli. Professor and Chair of Biological Sciences Doug Capone, William and Julie Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies, also played an important role in the workshop.

“Both universities have the potential and numerous experts to come up with complementary strategies for strengthening research and educational programs in climate-environment interactions,” said Agenes.

USC administrators supporting the project include Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Quick, Vice President of Research Randolph Hall and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Anthony Bailey.

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Vice Dean for Natural Sciences and Professor of Chemistry Charles McKenna was first introduced to UVSQ administrators by Fabien Agenes, attaché for science and technology at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles.

“We are exploring some exciting possibilities with UVSQ to add a global dimension to research and education in environmental and sustainability studies at USC Dornsife that will be beneficial to students and faculty on both sides of the partnership,” said McKenna.

French delegation members included Bui, vice president for international affairs, and Delacourt-Gollain, director for international affairs, both of the Department of International Relations at UVSQ; Sophie Godin-Beekmann, dean of OVSQ; Philippe Bousquet, deputy director of OVSQ’s Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement; and Yorghos Remvikos, professor of environmental health at OVSQ’s Centre Européen pour l’Arctique. Also participating were Agenes and Pierre Michel, attaché for science and technology (environment and sustainable development) for the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C.

“We are looking forward to developing new topics of collaboration in environment and sustainable development with USC,” Delacourt-Gollain said.

During their visit, the delegation toured USC’s University Park campus and the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island in addition to meeting with a number of USC Dornsife science faculty members for discussions and presentations. A videoconference linking UVSQ and USC was also arranged.