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ISSE Mission & History

The Institute for a Secure & Sustainable Environment develops policies, technologies, and educational programs that respond to pressing environmental and security issues. ISSE’s centers, programs, and initiatives cut across multiple disciplines, engage the university’s research faculty and staff, and address many issues that affect sustainability. ISSE houses the Appalachian Leadership Institute, ISSE Climate Change Initiative, DriveElectricTN, East Tennessee Clean Fuels, FEWSUS (International Research Coordination Network to Create Transdisciplinary Nodes of Food-Energy-Water to Support Sustainable Urban Systems), Methane Center, and Tennessee Water Resource Research Center. Sponsored by federal and state agencies as well as local organizations and companies, they conduct research and provide education and outreach for water, energy, and economic sustainability.

ISSE research specializes in many aspects of environmental security and sustainability: Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency, Climate Change, Regional Sustainability, Water Research, Energy and Environmental Justice, Decarbonization, and Sustainable Food.

ISSE Mission Statement

The University of Tennessee’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) seeks to promote the development of policies, technologies, and educational programs that cut across multiple disciplines, engage the university’s research faculty and staff, and grow in response to pressing environmental and security issues facing the state, the nation, and the globe.

Timeline of events leading to ISSE’s creation


  • Water Resources Research Center created


  • Energy, Environment and Resources Center (EERC) established
  • Appalachian Resources Project opened five offices in South Stadium Hall at Neyland Stadium.


  • Lt. Gov. John Wilder asked EERC to help develop a comprehensive energy plan for the state of Tennessee, leading to the Tennessee Energy Act of 1975 and creation of the Tennessee Energy Office as a branch of the Governor’s office.


  • Gov. Lamar Alexander proposed a Centers of Excellence program under the Tennessee Higher Education Commission


  • EERC focused on the approaching 1982 International Energy Exposition at the Knoxville World’s Fair. EERC managed three international symposia on energy as part of the festivities, attracting energy experts world-wide
  • EERC provided Martin Marietta Energy Systems technical assistance for data systems research and development in electronic networking, security, and strategic assessment.
  • This program later became the Information Systems Research group under Associate Director Sheila Webster and flourished as a multi-year, multimillion-dollar initiative.


  • EERC support services were amalgamated with those of the Water Resources Research and Transportation Research centers.


  • Creation of a Center of Excellence for waste management policy studies at the University was proposed and supported by the University administration.


  • This Center of Excellence was approved as the Waste Management and Research Education Institute (WMREI).
  • At the time, WMREI was the sole research center in the United States to concentrate on all major types of hazardous waste, solid, chemical, low level and high level radioactive.


  • Clean Products and Clean Technologies Center established under the Center’s umbrella, funded by a seed grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Its principal goal was to research and develop safe substitutes for toxic chemicals used in manufacturing.


  • East Tennessee Clean Fuel Coalition was established and designated by as the Department of Energy as a Clean City Program


  • University of Tennessee combined EERC with other existing research centers devoted to issues of energy and environment to form the new Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE).


  • ISSE began to help the Appalachian Regional Commission run the Appalachian Leadership Institute.


  • The International Research Coordination Network for Creating Transdisciplinary Nodes of Food-Energy-Water to Support Sustainable Urban Systems (FEWSUS) was established with funding from the National Science Foundation.