FACULTY SENATE


Senate Document Number    5007S


Date of Senate Approval      03/15/07


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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



IDC 1:        Proposal to Establish the Environmental Quality Institute

at the University of North Carolina Asheville



  1. Name


The name of the proposed center is: The Environmental Quality Institute.  This has been our operating name since 1990 and we would like to keep it because of its name recognition.


  1. Mission, Goals and Objectives



The Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) conducts technically rigorous and unbiased research to help communities, non-profit organizations, government agencies and the private sector gain accurate technical understanding of complex environmental issues.


Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives of EQI are as follows:


    1. To provide high-quality objective research on environmental issues.  This will be accomplished by: 

                                                              i.      Obtaining funding from non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, foundations and private companies to research issues that have a direct impact on the health and quality of life of their constituents.  Our focus is on providing information that citizens and decision makers can use to make intelligent decisions; and

                                                            ii.      Disseminating our research findings through journal publications, conference presentations.


    1. To provide students with a research experience that complements and enhances their learning experience at UNCA.  This will be accomplished by:

                                                              i.      Involving undergraduate student researchers in our projects whenever possible.  We will closely match the skills and interest of our students to the projects that they work on; and

                                                            ii.      Encouraging our students to successfully complete a research project of high quality that earns them UNCA’s designation as an Undergraduate Research Scholar.


    1. To serve the community through public education about environmental toxins and water quality and through special efforts to reduce children’s exposure to lead.  This will be accomplished by:

                                                              i.      Publicizing our research through our website and contacts with the media.

                                                            ii.      Providing public education, home inspections and training to reduce lead exposure to children through our Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.     


  1. Relevance to University Mission and Impact on Related Departments

According to the UNCA Mission Statement, “The ultimate aim of the University is to provide students the best possible opportunity to acquire the skills, knowledge, and understanding necessary to pursue their goals, to find meaning in their lives, and to take their places as contributing citizens of a changing society.”  The EQI plays an important role in achieving this mission by including our student researchers in every level of the research process, from literature searches to sampling, analyses to reporting of results. Because much of our research is directly related to improving the quality of life of the public, we follow the guidance of the UNCA Mission Statement to “encourage(s) students, faculty, and staff to interact with and serve the community”.  Our interns and volunteers with the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program acquire skills and knowledge through educational and outreach experiences in the community.

Additionally, EQI impacts related academic departments by providing financial support to their faculty and students.  Approximate yearly student scholarship monies, student salaries and faculty salaries are provided in Table 1.  Since UNCA has a high percentage of non-traditional and first-generation college students, many of our students need financial support to be able to attend the university.  For the past four years, we have provided scholarships to an average of approximately four students per semester.  Our scholarships are now contributing $3,600 to each recipient’s education per year.  Additionally, we pay approximately $25,000 per year in salaries to undergraduate student researchers.  In addition to providing full summer support to its director, EQI is currently providing partial summer support to two faculty.  We are planning to expand the amount of support and the number of faculty supported in the following year to a goal of three to four faculty each receiving 1-2 months of summer support. 

Table 1. Approximate yearly student scholarship monies, student salaries and faculty salaries supported by EQI 2001 - 2006.  All units in $1,000.  Figures were calculated by summing over FRS object codes.


                        Faculty                        Student           Student

Year                Stipends1         Scholarships    Salaries


2005 - 2006     40                   13                    27

2004 - 2005     77                   11                    26

2003 - 2004     56                   11                    31

2002 - 2003     47                   12                    25

2001 - 2002     43                   15                    18                   


1 Includes Funds for Release Time




EQI also offers the use of analytical instruments to other faculty or their students when those instruments are not in use for EQI projects.  For examples, faculty from the Chemistry Department have used our atomic absorption spectrometers (AAs) to perform analyses for a bioremediation project in their classes, and Environmental Studies faculty have used the AAs for undergraduate research projects.  Our staff has typically assisted them in getting set up with the instruments.  EQI has collaborated on research projects with other faculty at UNCA in the past and will continue such collaborations in the future. 


  1. Effects of the Unit on the UNCA Instructional Program

The primary impact that EQI will have on the UNCA instructional program is to provide an opportunity for students to conduct research on interesting and useful topics with experienced, dedicated mentors.  In addition to utilizing faculty in science departments, the EQI plays a critical role in meeting the demand for research experiences for students in these departments.  In the past four years we have had an average of three students per year receiving the Undergraduate Research Scholar designation.  Also, our interns and volunteers with the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program receive valuable educational experiences through educational and outreach experiences in the community.

Much of our research is presented in the media, and this attracts some students with an interest in environmental issues to study at UNCA.  The public attention that our research receives plays a role in increasing the public's familiarity with UNCA and our scientific publications help to enhance the reputation of UNCA among scholars.


EQI equipment has been used in two environmental studies classes, ENVR 321:  Limnology and ENVR 362:  Principles of Water Pollution Control.  It has typically been used occasionally for ENVR 362 and almost every week for ENVR 321.  Use of state-of-the-art equipment enhances the learning experience for those students.  Research students and professors who are not directly associated with EQI have also used our equipment occasionally.


We regularly use examples from our research in our teaching, which helps students ground their knowledge as well as providing motivation for them to master the discipline.  Typically, at least two of our students per semester are taking an undergraduate research course with us.  Staff and faculty from the EQI also provide guest lectures in other classes at UNCA.


  1. Director and Advisory Board



The Director of EQI will be Dr. Steven C. Patch.  Dr. Patch has been a Statistics Professor at UNCA since 1984, teaching statistics and mathematics courses. He received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Clemson University in 1985 and has coauthored over 40 publications on exposure to environmental toxins, water quality, and ecology.  Dr. Patch—along with the late Dr. Richard Maas—has been Director/Co-Director of EQI since 1996. 


Advisory Panel

Upon acceptance as a University of North Carolina Asheville Institute, the EQI will form an advisory panel of six people.  The Advisory Panel will be composed of two faculty members from science departments; one faculty member from a non-science department; one staff member, and two persons from outside the University.  The faculty and staff members will be selected through a consultation of the EQI Director and the UNCA Dean of Natural Sciences.  The outside members will be appointed by the Chief Academic Officer.  Advisory Panel members will serve 3-year staggered terms, eligible for one-term renewal.


  1. EQI's Organizational Structure


All programs within the EQI are supervised by the Director, Dr. Steven Patch (Figure 1). The EQI falls under the administration of the Office of Academic Affairs and is supervised by the Dean responsible for the Natural Sciences. 


There are two subprograms within the EQI: the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) and the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (LPPP). The VWIN is a research and service program that works with local government agencies and environmental groups utilizing volunteers to take surface water samples.  Samples are analyzed for sediment, nutrients, and heavy metals to detect temporal and spatial trends.


The LPPP is a service program that provides bilingual community-based education concerning the hazards of exposure to lead, conducts lead inspections, and trains citizens in lead-safe renovations.  The LPPP also provides volunteer opportunities for UNCA students, and sponsors two to three paid student internships each year. 


Figure 1.  EQI Organizational Chart


Daily laboratory operations are coordinated by the Laboratory Manager, Diane Morgan.  The laboratory manager coordinates the activities of a full-time chemist, associate chemist, and undergraduate student researchers; provides results to funding agencies; and ensures that proper protocols are followed. 


The Program Director reports to the EQI Director, and will assist EQI in identifying and securing funding from a variety of sources.  This person will also provide input to strategic planning of EQI’s future, offer guidance on current policy issues involving EQI, and serve as a liaison to the UNCA administration, funding agencies, and collaborating researchers.


  1. Current and Projected Budgets


Budgets for the past five years for the EQI are provided in Table 2.  Revenues for the past two years reflect especially productive years for grant solicitation and are not sustainable given the current staffing and space allocation.  In fact, because faculty and staff have had to focus on completing projects in 05-06, efforts on grant solicitation for 06-07 have been minimal, hence the lower projected revenue for that year (Table 3).  We anticipate the budget of EQI to return to that of the early 2000’s historical levels after that.  The scope and number of research projects undertaken by EQI are currently limited by our laboratory size. 


Table 2.  Historical Budget Information for EQI 2001 - 2006.  All units are in $1,000.                                          

                                 Funds                 Stud.

Fiscal           State     Grants& Fac.     Schol.&     Other

Year            Funds         Cont.            Stip.     Salaries      Salaries      F&A   


2005-2006   $0         $730       $40      $48            $230          $49

2004-2005     0           756         77        37              161            50

2003-2004     0           399         56        41              109            19

2002-2003     0           390         47        37              111            18

2001-2002     0           394         43        33              133            24           




Table 3.  EQI Projected Fiscal Year Revenues from 7/2006 to 6/2011. All units are in $1,000. 


Fiscal Years                 06-07   07-08   08-09  09-10  10-11  


State Funding             $     0   $    0    $    0    $    0    $   0

Grants, Contracts        $ 350   $ 400   $ 400   $ 400   $400


Total                            $ 350   $ 400   $ 400   $ 400   $400


  1. Statement of Capital Needs


The primary capital needs are for laboratory instrumentation for conducting research and for student training.  We are currently planning to purchase a Direct Mercury Analyzer.  Although funding for additional instrumentation is available, currently we do not have enough research space to place additional instrumentation.  (See discussion in #9.) Therefore, the only needs for the next year will be in upgrading or replacing current instruments.  If additional research space became available, we would probably purchase an Inductively Coupled Plasma Analyzer - Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS)—an analytical instrument used for the detection of trace metals in environmental samples, another Gas Chromatograph- Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) and other instrumentation to be determined at that time.  EQI anticipates that it can meet its capital needs from grants and contracts.  However, if general funds become available for research equipment replacement, we would apply for a portion of those funds to help us keep our instrumentation current.


  1. Description of Space Needs


Currently, space used by EQI consists of a 50’ x 30’ laboratory, an 8’ x 12’ office, a 10’ x 14’ office and a 4’ x 8’ storage area.  However, it is unclear whether this space is designated as Environmental Studies space or EQI space. To be able to attract and retain faculty and staff in the long term, we need to have space that is designated as EQI space as is space for other Centers such as the National Environmental Modeling and Atmospheric Center (NEMAC) and the Mossbauer Effect Data Center.  Otherwise, that space would be in jeopardy of being taken away at any time as other departmental needs take priority.  Knowing that this is a possibility may deter faculty and staff from making a long-term commitment to EQI. 


EQI can operate at similar level or slightly reduced level in its current space.  However, we are currently restricted by our amount of research space. This results in inefficient operations from constantly setting up and tearing down experimental apparatus before project completion to make room for other experiments.  It also leads to less than ideal working conditions for students and staff.  If space becomes available for an ICPMS and an additional GCMS, we could expand the scope of our research projects.  Until that time we will be forced to pass up certain research grant opportunities for which we qualify but cannot conduct because of spatial limitations. 


Additionally, the arrangement of shared space for instrumentation and wet chemistry activities impacts the quality of the analyses and the quality of the research experience for undergraduate students.  To remain competitive with other research labs in our field, EQI needs to have separate laboratory space for instrumentation and for wet chemistry.  EQI also needs more storage space.  We are currently using the hallway for storage and have to move items around to gain access to other items.  A reasonable amount of dedicated storage space would greatly improve the efficiency of our operation as well as make the building appear less cluttered to students and visitors.


Our current VWIN coordinator's office is located in a windowless, poorly heated, 8’ by 12’ area in the basement of Rhoades Hall that is also used for storage of equipment and files.  Our current LPPP office, which houses the coordinator as well as the LPPP associate and the student assistant, is a 10' by 14' windowless former closet on the second floor of Robinson Hall.  It is hard for the LPPP staff to meet the needs of the program with such a small amount of space. 


Given the current space situation in Rhoades-Robinson Hall, we realize that it is not possible for us to receive more space until the new Science Building is completed.  When the new Science Building is completed we would be able to function more effectively with additional laboratory space, as well as sufficient office space for our VWIN coordinator, and significantly more storage space.  When the NC Center for Health and Wellness is complete, it might be an appropriate place to house our LPPP program as well as provide additional space for an EQI outreach program designed to educate the public about the hazards associated with other environmental toxins.  If it is not possible to provide space for the LPPP program in the NC Center for Health and Wellness it will need more space in another location.  In the future, it might be necessary for EQI to hire a full-time administrator to be able to continue to fulfill our mission.  If so, EQI would need to have another office for them.  To be competitive in filling that position, the space would have to be space that was designed for an office, for example, having a window.


  1. Additional Information



The EQI has been a financially self-sufficient, contributing member of the UNCA community since 1986.  Its first mission was primarily to perform outreach activities concerning the disposal of hazardous waste.  In 1988, Dr. Richard Maas became director of the EQI and it began a research emphasis on lead in drinking water.  In 1996, Dr. Maas became Chair of the Environmental Studies Department and Dr. Steven Patch took over as director of EQI.  In 2002, when he stepped down as chair, Dr. Maas assumed Co-Director responsibilities with Dr. Patch.


Since its inception, EQI researchers have received approximately 250 grants totaling five million dollars in grant funding.  During that time, the EQI has published approximately 200 technical reports and 30 refereed journal articles, most of which include undergraduate researchers as co-authors.  Our research has been cited by National Public Radio, CBS Nightly News, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Time Magazine, Science News, and most of the largest newspapers in the U.S.  More importantly, by increasing awareness and providing data on the danger of exposure to certain substances we believe that our research has played a role in reducing the public's exposure to environmental toxins.  Our research has also assisted communities in Western North Carolina gain access to millions of dollars in grant funding to improve local water resources by providing accurate and low-cost water quality monitoring and analysis, and it has helped to develop and train the next generation of environmental researchers.



Undergraduate Research

Since 2001, sixteen EQI students have graduated with Distinction as an Undergraduate Research Scholar.  As we have gained experience in working with undergraduate research students, we have improved the quality of the research experience that is provided for our students.  We believe that it is important for students to be involved in projects that have an impact on society.  We also believe that students conducting research should receive financial support so that they are able to concentrate their efforts on their studies and their research.