Norwich University’s origins are rooted in many firsts. One of the first majors to be offered at the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, now known as Norwich University, was civil engineering — with a recognition of the need to build our nation’s infrastructure.
Weiner and Matthews (2003) note that the term, “engineer,” was first used for the “builders of war machines,” and implied military involvement until the eighteenth century, when the construction of roads, structures, and canals took precedence and John Smeaton asserted that the person whose profession was focused on the construction of public facilities should be a known as a “civil engineer.”
At Norwich University, founder and U.S. Army Capt. Alden Partridge not only built the civil engineering program but was an early adopter of the experiential and hands-on pedagogy that continues to define a Norwich education today. He also placed in the highest esteem the value of a liberal arts education, asserting that all technical education was to be imparted by placing humanist traditions at its core, by balancing the theoretical and practical. By understanding both — the people in society and their needs — Partridge built an educational system that relied on collaborative innovation. Further, in framing the education that Norwich University offers as “American in character yet global in perspective,” it was clear that internationalization and diversity of people and viewpoints were welcome here.
This places Norwich University in an ideal position to take on the current wicked problems — impossible-to-solve conundrums that challenge us with ever-changing variables, uncertainty and incomplete and often contradictory requirements. One of these challenges is in environmental security.
As storms intensify, rendering millions homeless and without power, as virus strains mutate and bring well developed global systems to a shutdown, as wildfires spread in drought-stricken deserts, damaging air quality and impacting lungs far away, misinformation has spread as well, political ideologies have clashed, partitions have deepened, conflicts have grown and threats to our security have increased.
This juxtaposition of environmental degradation and challenges to our security — national, physical, psychological, involving resources and beliefs — needs a careful study. The partnership between Norwich University’s research centers, the Center for Global Resilience and Security (CGRS), the John and Mary Frances Patton Peace & War Center (PAWC) and the Center for Cybersecurity and Forensics Education and Research (CyFER), does exactly this.
CGRS is in the third year of a three-year subcontract to develop energy resilience and security curricula to guide generational change in the U.S. Department of Army, and by extension all communities and stakeholders that interact with the Army. We have entered our fifth year of building Vermont’s resilience and the fourth year of educating through the Dog River Conservancy.
CyFER’s education and research models have placed Norwich University at the forefront of cybersecurity and forensics education and are creating a pipeline of a much-needed workforce, adept at addressing the cyber vulnerabilities of our nation. PAWC has stood up event after event, visit after visit, blurring the lines between international geographic boundaries, creating the space for difficult conversations, engaging with experts and citizens, immersing students in the experience of real-world events in the true spirit of Partridge’s educational model.
If we as a small, teaching-focused university that just embarked on a third century of developing citizen-soldiers and citizen-scholars can leverage our birthright of engineering into strengthening our humanities and social sciences on the backs of evidence-based and scientifically grounded education to address the most pressing of today’s challenges to redefine what tomorrow looks like, what are you waiting for?
Join us in feeling the urgency for climate action laid out by the International Panel on Climate Change, and in uncoiling the tensions in our global society from violent extremism and misinformation campaigns. Help us reshape a curriculum to engineer this new path forward. Work with us as we collaborate across disciplines and strengthen the role of each — the sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and engineering — in these pursuits, so each area sits as equal players at the table.
Help us make the ideas flow, actions energize, and outcomes come to life, to create real impact.
Weiner, R. F., & Matthews, R. A. (2003). Environmental engineering. Butterworth-Heinemann.
— Dr. Tara Kulkarni is an associate professor and chair of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and construction management, and director of the Center for Global Resilience and Security (CGRS) at Norwich University. She holds a doctorate in civil engineering from Florida State University and is a licensed professional engineer. She is an award-winning teacher and scholar and uses her experience in state government, consulting and academia in and out of the classroom. Her research in engineering education, water infrastructure and environmental resilience and security have resulted in multiple publications include a book, several book and report chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers. Kulkarni co-directs the Norwich Humanities Initiative and has created and led multiple funded CGRS initiatives related to the Dog River Conservancy, energy resilience, environmental security, and the Resilient Vermont Network.