Water Expert To Lead USF's School of Global Sustainability

Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy selected to be the founding director of the school.


By Vickie Chachere

USF.edu News Manager


TAMPA, Fla. (July 12, 2010) – Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, an internationally-recognized expert on urban water issues who has worked to create clean and sustainable water and sanitation systems through programs for UNESCO and the European Union, has been selected as the Director for USF’s newly-minted School of Global Sustainability.


Vairavamoorthy will begin his new assignment in September as the founding director of the school, whose inaugural class of 25 graduate students begins studies in sustainable water programs this fall. Vairavamoorthy comes to USF from the University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, where he was chair professor of water engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering and chair professor of sustainable urban water infrastructure systems for UNESCO-IHE’s Institute of Water Education in Delft, Netherlands.


USF’s School of Global Sustainability is an innovative, interdisciplinary effort to prepare graduate students for a new generation of “green collar” careers.  The first degree program offered by the school will be a Master’s of Arts in Global Sustainability focusing on water management.


“It’s a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to lead this exciting cross-campus initiative in an area close to me, sustainability,” Vairavamoorthy said. “What I believe distinguishes the School of Global Sustainability from others, is that it will be based around USF’s large, broad, interdisciplinary expertise in sustainability, and its integration with a wide range of international partners.


“I’m confident that teaching and research at the School of Global Sustainability will have strong international impact, have a true global outreach and will contribute positively to the global sustainability agenda.”


USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said the School of Global Sustainability will be unique in providing education and leadership on the interconnected issues of water, climate change, clean energy, public health, urban development and corporate social responsibility – matters which left unaddressed can threaten the security and economies of communities around the world, including the Tampa Bay region.


“We are fortunate to attract someone of Dr. Vairavamoorthy’s caliber, experience and proven success to USF,” Wilcox said. “He has vision, energy and a deep passion for improving the lives of urban residents around the world. He has been effective in joining together interdisciplinary teams of scholars and scientists to develop innovative solutions to pervasive problems. Dr. Vairavamoorthy will play an important role as USF takes on the crucial issues of creating healthy and prosperous communities which protect their natural resources in the 21st Century.”


In his 17-year career, Vairavamoorthy has led groups of researchers studying the future of sustainable water systems for cities and how urban areas might respond to water issues in the face of climate change and population growth. Since 2006, Vairavamoorthy has served as scientific director of SWITCH (Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow’s Cities Health), the European Union’s Integrated Project for Sustainable Urban Water Management.


The SWITCH project was a collaborative effort between cities in Europe, South America, China and the Middle East which examined how urban water and sewage needs could be improved through research, design and innovative technologies. The effort focused on the projected needs of cities 30 to 50 years from now in hopes that better planning will mitigate and remediate the effects of climate change, urban growth and global poverty.


As the director of SWITCH, Vairavamoorthy led more than 100 researchers and practitioners from 32 organizations in 15 countries. He also has worked closely with a dozen governments, mostly in developing nations on water issues and with intergovernmental organizations, UN-Habitat and the World Bank.


The programs Vairavamoorthy has led have been rooted in “action research” that connects researchers to the communities they serve.


“If you want impact on the ground, it has to be demand-driven,” he said. ‘This whole idea of interdisciplinary research is really looking at problems outside your own discipline boundaries and looking at the problems as they are and then trying to find the perfect solution.”


That approach is at the heart of USF’s School of Global Sustainability, which seeks to unite research expertise from a variety of disciplines to develop solutions to both local and global problems. Students who graduate with research and work experience in sustainable systems will be primed to take advantage of growing opportunities in the green economy – which will create an estimated 2.5 million new jobs in coming years.


The creation of the school, the selection of its new director and the admission of its first class of students is the culmination of several key efforts surrounding sustainability, which has become one of USF’s signature initiatives.


In 2006, the university announced its Sustainable Healthy Communities Initiative, followed by President Judy Genshaft signing the American Colleges and University President’s Climate Commitment in April 2008. This fall, the university established its first Office of Sustainability to coordinate efforts to create a sustainable campus environment and coordinate fundraising efforts. And in October, President Genshaft was the only American university president invited to speak at the Global University Presidents Summit in Seoul, South Korea.


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.