Zurich Endows Distinguished Visitors Program on Climate Change

Catch up on previous Zurich Distinguished Visitors

New $1 Million Endowment Establishes Distinguished Visitors Program

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is pleased to announce that Zurich Financial Services Group, a Bren School Corporate Partner, has made a $1 million contribution to establish and endow a Distinguished Visitors Program at the School in perpetuity. Zurich, which employs approximately 58,000 people in 170 countries, will also provide the School with additional funds to start the program immediately.

The Zurich Financial Services Distinguished Visitors program will allow the Bren School to attract international leaders in environmental policy, law, business, and science to enrich and expand the intellectual life of the Bren School community and share insight on issues critical to climate change. Activities of the Visitors, who will be in residence for periods ranging from one week to one quarter, will include teaching short courses, offering public lectures, conducting seminars, and leading colloquia and symposia planned around their research, professional endeavors, or areas of expertise.

“Many of these events and activities will directly address such climate-related issues as carbon emissions trading, sustainable building design, renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource productivity, impacts, mitigation, adaptation, technological innovations, and more,” said Bren Professor Charles Kolstad, a lead author on the most recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. “Each of these topics affords the opportunity for our students and faculty to work on climate-change solutions, an interest we share with Zurich Financial Services leadership.”

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang praised Zurich and emphasized the endowment as an opportunity to extend the Bren School’s interdisciplinary perspective.

“UC Santa Barbara is tremendously grateful to Zurich Financial Services for their generous and visionary gift,” he said. “Our Bren School has led the way to an innovative and interdisciplinary approach that integrates environmental science, management, economics, and policy in our teaching and research. This endowment will enhance our ability to host in-residence international leaders in these areas. The Distinguished Visitors Program will strengthen the leadership position of our faculty and students in helping to solve the pressing environmental problems of our world.”

The endowment is part of an institutional outreach effort associated with a company-wide Climate Initiative launched by Zurich to develop new insurance products that address risks associated with climate change, and to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Details of the initiative were announced at a January 21 press conference from company headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, which Bren School Dean Ernst von Weizsäcker attended via a live feed in Los Angeles.

“There is rapidly growing demand for teaching in the areas of climate and policy, and so we are very grateful to receive this generous funding from Zurich Financial Services for our Distinguished Visitors Program, which dramatically expands the available resources for bringing leading climate experts to the School and to our students,” said von Weizsäcker. “I very much look forward to working with Zurich, a market leader that has previously demonstrated environmental vision by offering such things as preferential insurance policies to owners of hybrid cars and is now taking important steps to do a great deal more as an environmentally responsible company pursuing carbon-reducing practices that others will want to emulate.”

As part of the initiative, explained CEO James J. Schiro, Zurich is forming a Climate Change Advisory Council to provide the company with climate, economic, and policy expertise as it implements the Climate Initiative. He introduced von Weizsäcker and former U.S. Congressman Sherwood Boehlert as the Council’s first two members.

“I am convinced that kicking-off our global Climate Initiative today sets Zurich on the course of becoming a leader in indentifying and managing climate-related risks, as well as preparing us to take meaningful and sustainable steps to manage our own carbon footprint,” said Schiro. “Bringing the expertise of Sherwood Boehlert and Dean von Weizsäcker to bear on our climate efforts will ensure that we remain focused and effective. They are both leaders in their fields.”

Zurich Global Chief Underwriting Officer Mike Kerner described the Bren School Distinguished Visitors Program as “ensuring the Bren School’s access to some of the brightest scholars.” Kerner and Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Zurich Environmental at Zurich North America Lindene Patton had visited the Bren School the previous week to meet with members of the senior administration and finalize details of the Distinguished Visitors Endowment.

“Our ongoing partnership with the Bren School is a fine example of industry and education joining forces to benefit the environment,” said Patton, who has represented Zurich in its relationship with the Bren School for the past five years, through her campus dealings with Bren faculty, staff, and students. “We are pleased to provide support for bringing great thinkers and leaders to a school that does such an excellent job of educating students who will assume professional roles critical to solving our most pressing environmental problems.”