U.Va.'s Engineering School Hosts Environmental Justice Workshop

May 21, 2008 — The University of Virginia will host environmental scholars from across the country in a workshop, "Engineers, Scientists, and Environmental Justice: Transforming Expert Cultures Through Grassroots Engagement," to be held May 30 and 31.
Approximately 10 scholars from institutions nationwide will convene on U.Va.'s Grounds to discuss and critique chapter drafts they are writing for a book that shares the workshop's title. The book is scheduled to be published in 2010 and will be co-edited by Gwen Ottinger and Benjamin Cohen, faculty members in U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science's Department of Science, Technology, and Society.
Because the workshop is open to the public, it will also serve to familiarize the community with the concept of environmental justice — the equitable distribution of environmental risks and benefits among all people, regardless of race or socioeconomic level.
Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, pollution and hazards of the U.S. industrial lifestyle are not evenly distributed. And, for a large number of marginalized populations, this translates to dangerous living conditions — conditions about which adequate information may not exist.
"Although recent years have seen an impressive growth in the literature on environmental justice, the research has all but ignored the ways that engagement with environmental justice activists has changed technical professionals, the expert cultures in which they are embedded, or of the ways they interact with non-expert activists," said Cohen. "The unstable roles and identities of scientists and engineers have been left mostly unexamined."
The workshop and eventual book will offer that focus, examining the relationships between technical practitioners and environmental justice activists. 
The two-day workshop is sponsored by U.Va.'s Darden School of Business; the U.Va. Engineering School's Department of Science, Technology, and Society; and U.Va.'s Department of Environmental Sciences, Energy Research Initiative and the Department of Anthropology. Workshop activities will take place primarily in the Rodman Room of Thornton Hall, located on the second floor of the A-wing at 351 McCormick Rd
For information about the workshop, a complete schedule and list of participants, visit the workshop's Web site.

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MEDIA ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND the workshop's opening reception at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 30 in the Rodman Room, Thornton Hall. Workshop co-organizers Ben Cohen and Gwen Ottinger will be available to speak to media at that time.

Note that paper drafts will be made available to interested attendees when they register for the workshop on the Web site.  Attendees are encouraged to read and provide feedback on the drafts in an effort to offer new perspectives and different disciplinary viewpoints on the matters at hand.
About the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science
Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young men and women to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University's highly ranked medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.