Dec. 2, 2013

Spotlight on Sustainability: Craig Gerlach, the new academic co-ordinator, sustainability

Infusing sustainability into academics
Craig Gerlach is the new Academic Coordinator, Sustainability.

Craig Gerlach is the new Academic Coordinator, Sustainability.

Riley Brandt

Academic Co-ordinator, Sustainability is a new position at the University of Calgary but it's an old role for Craig Gerlach, who recently relocated from the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) where he had a similar role in addition to his research and teaching.

"It's a familiar job, but I am still trying to figure out all the people and the places, and the acronyms for all the buildings," he says. "It's been an interesting experience."

Gerlach, who researches food systems particularly in remote northern aboriginal communities, will teach in the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts. Additionally, he has a half time commitment in the Provost's office to integrate and co-ordinate sustainability research and education on campus.

"What I want to do is link sustainability with interdisciplinary research across multiple programs and departments," he says. "Sustainability presents complex problems that require complex solutions and there's no one particular discipline that necessarily has the answers."

Rather, Gerlach says solutions in sustainability will come from comingling of disciplines and collaboration among faculty. "Everywhere I turn here there's somebody doing something that's absolutely relevant whether it's related to the social and natural sciences, humanities and the arts, or technology and bioscience," he says. "For me the goal — and the challenge — is to pull everything together into something concrete that will serve the research and educational needs of students and faculty."

That work is guided by the Academic Committee for Sustainability, which Gerlach now chairs. "There are about 20 different people representing almost every unit on campus in some way or another," he says of the committee, which is tasked with developing the academic arm of the Institutional Sustainability Plan (ISP).

"Sustainability is one of the university's seven academic priorities," says Provost Dru Marshall. "Craig brings terrific experience and perspective to this new position and we are very excited to have him here working with our academic community. He will work with others to help coordinate academic efforts in sustainability – particularly as it relates our teaching practices and curriculum, research, and service."

While he may still be learning his TFDL from TRW, Gerlach has already figured out that the university is committed to sustainability. "For me it's a real gift to be in a place where there is a real forward looking faculty and administration, and people who are doing some incredible research," he says.

"And I bet I don't know the half of it yet."

Craig can be reached at or 220-6193.

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.