Each month, GCSE spotlights one Member organization and the importance of sustainability at the institution and the institution's role in informed environmental decision-making.
University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma (OU) is the state’s flagship university. With a new strategic plan launched in 2020, OU is focusing research and creative activity to address real world challenges - including those complex, interconnected and often competing challenges that lie at the intersections of societal, environmental and energy systems.
Sustainability initiatives from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships build on a foundation of strong academic programs within our top ranked College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences and Mewborne College of Earth and Energy, among others. Our recently-established Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy Systems (IREES) is one of four new research verticals designed to bridge disparate academic disciplines together to catalyze creative, comprehensive solutions to global challenges.
Work at IREES leverages existing strengths in three key thematic areas: Earth systems and global change, sustainable societies and low-carbon energy and infrastructure. By integrating expertise, investing in people and infrastructure and partnering with diverse collaborators, our approach seeks transformative solutions to enable a more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous future.
For instance, the IREES Hydrogen Initiative is helping fuel a sustainable energy transition. A key partner in the tri-state HALO Hydrogen Hub, IREES is working with collaborators at top research universities in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas to ease entry into the hydrogen economy, serving as a connection point between industry, civil society and regulatory agencies as well as a resource for research, development and training.
IREES is also investing to expand the university’s world-class environmental and ecological monitoring field stations and laboratories. In collaboration with the Data Institute for Societal Challenges at OU, we are combining data from newly deployed state-of-the-art sensors with artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to develop high resolution maps and predictive analytics for soil function. This information will be used to create a platform for data-driven, climate-smart research, education and land management.
To address complex environmental, human health and societal challenges across the Western Hemisphere, IREES has developed the Latin America Sustainability Initiative (LASI). LASI works to catalyze, support and scale collaborations with partners in Latin America through university-led projects focused on improving human well-being and the environments in which we live. We believe that research universities bring a unique collection of benefits to the table that includes regional trust capital, long-term workforce development, convergent research and development and connected stakeholder networks.
Did you know?
Oklahoma is known for its fossil fuels production. However, our state is a leader in clean energy production with nearly 45% from renewable resources and the third in the nation in wind-generated electrical production. Oklahoma continues to promote research and public-private partnerships to leverage vast wind, sun, and subsurface energy resources to lead the transition to clean energy systems.
The University of Oklahoma hosts the Oklahoma State Surveys for Biology, Geology, Archeology, and Climate. OU is a leader in graduating Native American engineering undergraduate students.
Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a global, experiential, research university built on a tradition of engagement with the world that ranks among the top 40 undergraduate institutions in North America.
The university provides a variety of educational pathways for undergraduate and graduate students interested in sustainability and resilience, spanning multiple disciplines and program types. For example, graduate students may take a course in “Critical Infrastructure Resilience” or pursue a Master of Public Policy focused on sustainability and climate change, an MS in Security and Resilience, or earn certificates in Environmental or Sustainability Engineering.
Northeastern faculty and graduate students regularly help city governments, NGOs, and residents around the world improve their practices in the field through joint research and collaboration, including the City to City Impact engine run by professors Alicia Modestino and Carie Maultsby-Lute in Boston and Oakland and partnerships with Chief Resilience Officers (CROs). Northeastern has also conducted multi-year, multi-institution, multi-million dollar research projects on resilience funded by the National Science Foundation, US Department of Defense, NASA, and the US Department of Energy.
Beyond a focus on improving sustainability and resilience through external partnerships, Northeastern University’s Planning, Real Estate, and Facilities oversees the physical footprint of over 8 million square feet on 12 campuses in six states as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. The Department ensures that the planning, design, and construction projects, and the daily operations of its thirteen campuses incorporate green building, carbon reduction, climate justice, energy conservation, climate resiliency, and waste reduction measures while they are meeting the current and future needs of Northeastern University. Among other strategies for shrinking Northeastern’s carbon footprint are reflective roofs, groundwater recharge, landscaping, and water reduction measures.
From building back better and designing financial incentives to developing nature-inspired systems and equitable social capital, resilience strategies need to be multifaceted and interdisciplinary. Northeastern University has responded to these demands by investing in global resilience over the last several years. Based on the foundations laid by the founding director Prof. Stephen Flynn, the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) continues to lead new and important convergence research across colleges and disciplines. The Institute actively works to collaborate with other institutes across Northeastern University, including the Network Science Institute and the Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence. Founded by Professor Steve Flynn, and currently co-directed by Professors Auroop Ganguly and Daniel Aldrich, GRI continues to advance its global and national reputation and thought leadership through the development of multi-faculty research products as well as growing investments in novel interdisciplinary capabilities for responding to strategic opportunities.
Interamerican University of Puerto Rico - Metro Campus
The Interamerican University of Puerto Rico (IAUPR) has a long history of serving its community. Founded in 1912, the Interamerican University has been instrumental in addressing societal needs in Puerto Rico, especially in service professions such as education, social work, and health.
The Metro Campus (MC), established in the 1960s, is found in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, with a mission to serve students from diverse cultural and national backgrounds with an education geared toward the development of leaders and entrepreneurs who are committed to making significant contributions to society. These contributions are based on the values of service, democracy, and the reaffirmation of Interamerican University of Puerto Rico’s character as an institution with Christian roots and an ecumenical focus.
As an institution interested in the wellbeing of society, in 1993 the IAUPR established Center of Environmental Education, Conservation, and Interpretation (CECIA) for integrating environmental issues into higher education. Through CECIA, IAUPR develops social responsibility and critical skills in citizens to make informed environmental decisions. The flagship projects of CECIA are: EPA - Enhancing Partnership for Addressing Multimedia Environmental Risks in Poor Rural Communities of Puerto Rico and the Integrative Program to Develop Environmental Interpreters and Citizen Environmental Ambassadors. For the past 20 years, CECIA has partnered with state, federal and non-for-profit organizations to provide educational, outreach, and technical services and support. CECIA has positively impacted over 100,000 students from pre-K to the university level, as well as the public through these efforts.
Supporting Energy Justice
Economic crisis and the recent climate change events have placed a severe strain on the already fragile electrical system of Puerto Rico. The disastrous response has further burdened low income and disadvantaged communities’ energy needs. Therefore, to address and strengthen energy resources in our communities, IAUPR has partnered with the Instituto de Competitividad y Sostenibilidad Economica de Puerto Rico (ICSE-PR), for developing activities and educational resources aimed at promoting energy conservation, efficient use, independent production, and energy management. To support energy justice, the partnership has embarked on a campaign to educate the public about Law 17 of 2019, which seeks to apply justice principles of efficiency, quality, continuity, adaptability, impartiality, solidarity, and equity to address energy policy in Puerto Rico. In the last year, CECIA at Metro Campus has collaborated in energy justice symposiums and forums providing essential educational materials to students and faculty from underserved communities about energy laws, regulations, and justice in Puerto Rico.
Did you know: CECIA at IAUPR’s Metro Campus has received the Tree Campus award from the Arbor Day Foundation for 10 consecutive years for student and faculty efforts to reduce, recycle, reuse, and maintain habitats for fauna and flora. Efforts include fostering the campus as a biodiversity hotspot, and creating an urban garden where students develop entrepreneurship and leadership skills.
University of California - Davis
The University of California, Davis, and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) have helped shape California and the world in monumental ways for more than 100 years. The university is dedicated to solving critical issues surrounding food, water, energy, climate change, conservation and human health.
UC Davis offers more than 100 majors; within CA&ES that includes 29 undergraduate majors and 23 graduate degree programs focused on agriculture, the environment and human sciences.
The campus encompasses more than 5,000 acres with 2,300 acres of land dedicated to agricultural research and teaching on a variety of topics, including animal science, plant breeding, agricultural engineering and other subjects. Those lands are home to greenhouses, avian facilities, cattle operations, farms and animal barns.
Research out of the college has led to disease-resistant strawberries, a better understanding of grapevine diseases and techniques to reduce agricultural emissions. Recent research has shown how the buoyancy of water vapor influences low altitude cloud formation and climate in coastal areas. Other research projects include using seaweed and other food additives to reduce cattle methane emissions and developing a new form of cooling cubes that don’t melt and can prevent cross-contamination, while reducing water use. The college holds 305 active U.S. patents.
The university is home to dozens of centers, institutes and facilities with aims to make the world safer for a growing population. That includes the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Bodega Marine Laboratory and Agricultural Sustainability Institute.
In addition, a new $40 million center for agricultural innovation will focus on agricultural and environmental sustainability. An additional $10 million in grants will be available for research into reducing crop waste, increasing water efficiency, developing new technologies, expanding access to nutritious food and making crops more resilient and sustainable in a changing climate.
The campus is nationally recognized as No. 1 in agriculture, plant sciences, animal science, veterinary medicine, biological and agricultural engineering and agricultural economics and policy. It is ranked among the top ten in agronomy, biodiversity education, ecology, entomology, environmental sciences, horticulture, nutrition, soil science and toxicology.
Did you know?
CA&ES houses several museums, including the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, with thousands of unique specimens, such as a California condor, platypus and other animals. The R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology is home to more than 7 million specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
The University of Vermont
Since 1791, the University of Vermont (UVM) has worked to move humankind forward. Today, UVM is a top research university situated in the vibrant Green Mountain State. Students’ educational experience and activities are enriched by location — benefiting from the energy and innovation of Burlington and the proximity of forests, farms, mountains, and waterways of Vermont.
The study of the environment is a cornerstone of UVM, with undergraduate programs offered in five different schools and colleges and more than 20 graduate degree programs offered across a range of environmental fields. For over 50 years the university has been fostering interdisciplinary studies in environmental sciences; forestry; sustainability; food systems; wildlife and fisheries biology; ecological economics; environmental policy and law; parks, recreation, and tourism; geology; environmental leadership; and more.
UVM’s environmental programs emphasize hands-on learning through field work, internships, and student research. They also examine issues holistically, looking at the social structures that influence how people interact with the environment. The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources is home to many of UVM’s environmental programs. Its curriculum centers environmental justice and sets out to graduate leaders dedicated to a more sustainable and equitable future.
Driven by the belief that research should inspire action, UVM launched the Gund Institute for Environment to mobilize scholars and decision makers to understand and tackle the world’s most critical environmental challenges. Through partnerships with government, business, and NGOs, the Institute takes an integrated approach to developing solutions for people and nature. For example, UVM partnerships with USDA and USAID inform conservation-related decisions throughout federal government.
Globally, Gund Institute researchers lead studies with the International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and conduct research with partners in other countries to bring science to bear on public decision making, shaping policy dialogues from the UN to international agroecology networks. With over 250 scholars in Vermont and across the world, the Institute brings together a network of recognized researchers from diverse disciplines, seeking to match the urgency of our environmental challenges with bold action.
Did you know?
The University of Vermont owns and manages 10 natural areas, 4 research forests, an ecosystem science laboratory and hybrid-electric research vessel on Lake Champlain, and a research outpost on the top of Mt. Mansfield – the tallest mountain in the state.
Photo credit: Photo by Glenn Russell, courtesy of the University of Vermont
Founded in 1742 on a belief that education is essential for all, Moravian is the 6th oldest college in the United States. Part of the institutional mission is that Moravian prepares each individual for transformative leadership in a world of change. Through the environmental science and studies programs, along with many other academic programs and co-curricular activities, Moravian mentors students to investigate and address environmental change locally and globally, and are guiding them to become leaders who, through a liberal education, can help create a more sustainable future for people and the planet. Moravian strongly believes that working collaboratively and serving the larger community is critical to fulfilling our mission.
Moravian has been a member of the Global Council for Science and the Environment (GCSE) since the 2009–10 academic year, and over the years have participated in the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), the GCSE Leaders Alliance, and the delegation to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) .
Moravian students and faculty have helped the City of Bethlehem develop its climate action plan and the regional planning commission develop their greenhouse gas inventory. Since 2007, students have conducted research at the Palmerton Superfund Site, providing critical scientific data for the responsible party and state and federal agencies that has guided the revegetation efforts and adaptive management of part of the site.
Not only do Moravian faculty and students “think globally, act locally,” they also act globally. Moravian has been an official observer for the UNFCCC since 2009. Their students and faculty attend as researchers, activists, and global learners. One faculty member plays a leadership role on the Research and Independent NGOs constituency group and on task forces for the Technology Executive Committee. The institution is also involved in a National Science Foundation funded Research Coordination Network: the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education that aims to develop young leaders at the undergraduate and graduate level who can work at the science—decision-making interface within the UNFCCC and the Sustainable Development Goals. Moravian faculty and students also participate in research on biodiversity, conservation science, and sustainability through the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (a partnership of higher education institutions, a private 501 3C organization, and the National Park Service) and in Costa Rica, in conjunction with the Camaquiri Conservation Initiative.
Did you know?
Students, alumni, and employees participate in the campus sustainability committee that, in 2015, created the Greenhound Fund. Funds from this account pay for campus projects designed to have a positive impact both on the environment and institutional budget. Accumulated savings over time pay back the money invested in the project.
Since 1965, Dallas College has served more than 3 million students. Dallas College has been a member of GCSE since 2013 and one of the first community colleges to join and participate in the GCSE Leaders’ Alliance. Dallas College strengthens their community by modeling, teaching, and serving as an anchor institution for sustainable development in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Dallas College is educating and empowering more than 100,000 students each year to make sustainable decisions that help create an equitable society, a healthy environment, and a thriving economy. Dallas College is the only two-year college in Texas to earn a rating (Silver) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
Their commitment to sustainability impacts everyday decisions — from academic offerings to campus architecture and campus operations. They are champions of sustainable solutions, and also encourage their students, employees, business partners and community members to seek sustainable solutions. Their local and global sustainability efforts include:
- Free educational outreach programs and events that engage hundreds of students and community members each year (e.g., Sustainable U Speaker Series, an annual Sustainability Summit and E-waste recycling events at seven locations throughout their service area)
- Departmental specific programs such as Sustainable Purchasing and Energy Efficiency
- Regular workshops to teach faculty how to infuse sustainability into their existing courses
- Collaboration with the cities they serve to connect students, faculty and employee’s projects to city initiatives. For example, Dallas College served as a convener for stakeholder participation in the design phase of the City of Dallas Comprehensive Environmental & Climate Action Plan (CECAP).
- Efforts to serve as science advisor to local decision-makers. For example, a Dallas College employee who serves on of the Environmental Commission advises the City Council on issues related to the environment and sustainability, as well as providing guidance on the implementation of CECAP.
- Projects to encourage students and faculty to be Global citizens, participate in the Global Citizenship Alliance (GCA) and promote education for engaged knowledge and responsible action in an interdependent world.
Did you know?
Dallas College’s downtown campus, El Centro, has experimented with adding electricity-generating wind turbines on the roof several times. Ironically, the neighboring high-rise buildings create a wind tunnel, and none of the prototypes have been able to withstand the fierce winds.
Yale School of the Environment
The Yale School of the Environment (YSE) is helping to lead the world toward a sustainable future with cutting-edge research, teaching, and public engagement on society’s evolving and urgent environmental challenges. YSE strives to break new ground in a wide array of areas, including biodiversity, climate change, energy, environmental justice, industrial ecology and green chemistry, urban systems, and wildlife ecology.
Located on Science Hill on Yale University’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut, YSE offers four master’s programs, a doctoral program, and 14 combined and joint degree programs in collaboration with departments and schools across Yale, as well as with external partner institutions. Each degree program is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and incorporates diverse perspectives on critical environmental issues. To further promote interdisciplinary collaboration, YSE has created learning communities, such as Business and the Environment and Environmental Policy Analysis, that provide students with expanded education, training, and career opportunities, enabling them to pursue areas of research and professional interest, regardless of degree specialization. In addition, the Forest School at YSE serves as a forest-centric educational and research hub, bringing together cross-disciplinary research in science and practice to find solutions to the challenges that threaten the world’s forests.
YSE also has 20 affiliated centers and programs that fuel innovative research, sponsor student internships, and host conferences and events that engage citizens and policymakers. Their foci are wide-ranging — from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), known for its novel scientific studies on public opinion and behavior on climate change; to the Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering at Yale, committed to providing practical solutions to sustainability challenges; to the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI), a unique program that has trained over 8,000 participants in tropical forest restoration globally.
There are currently more than 5,500 YSE alumni working around the world to protect and restore our environment. They are negotiating international climate agreements on behalf of vulnerable small islands and low-lying coastal developing states, launching groundbreaking conservation efforts for threatened species such as snow leopards and the Golden Mahseer, and building the world’s first commercial, land-based coral farming company for reef restoration, among numerous other high-impact endeavors that are leading us toward a sustainable future.
Did you know?
The Yale School of the Environment manages the Yale Forests —10,880 acres of forestland in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont that provide educational, research, and professional opportunities to the Yale community and beyond.
Photo credit: Rob Mattson/Noble Research Institute
Michigan State University
Re-engaging international partners to address global environmental challenges at Michigan State University
The Environmental Science and Policy Program (ESPP) is an umbrella for environmental research and graduate education at Michigan State University (MSU), working together with colleges and departments across campus in a collaborative manner to solve environmental problems at home and abroad. It addresses emerging and pressing global environmental challenges that require multi-sectors and multi-disciplines through interdisciplinary sciences and policies at multiple scales across the globe. As part of MSU’s endeavor to become a “World Grant University” and address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ESPP together with the Asia Hub program in the International Studies and Programs (ISP) and the Center for Global Change & Earth Observations, has actively been engaging in the water-energy-food nexus research and education, with a specific focus on the climate variability and food security in key vulnerable regions in the world.
Among others, MSU is leading an effort in addressing the emerging and long-standing regional sustainability challenges in water, energy and food nexus (WEF Nexus) in Asia, one of the core themes of the UN’s SDGs and Future Earth’s priority KANs (Knowledge Action Network). The established Asia Hub, launched in 2017 with Nanjing Agricultural University and other 22 international partner institutions in the region, is leading an effort to cope with the challenges imposed upon by the increasing climate variability in Asia and by the pandemic, by addressing the nexus of the agricultural food production, water use efficiency, hydropower dam construction, urbanization and regional economic disparities. Funded by different agencies multi-scale activities are being carried out with our Asia partners to disseminate science, technologies and policy recommendations to the local stakeholders, ranging from climate and hydrological modeling to land use and land cover change analysis, lake and wetland dynamics, hydropower dams assessments, agricultural irrigation, deforestation and livelihood changes in Asia. The broad global environmental challenges that Asia Hub is addressing include:
- Water-energy-food-land nexus in Asia
- Human interventions to hydrological processes of Lower Mekong River Basin
- Land use and land cover changes and implications to food, energy and water systems
- Regional climate change and its variability
- Science and technologies for solutions to food, energy and water nexus challenges
- Adaptation strategies and regional governance of water, energy and food systems
Did you know?
Michigan State University has been recognized for its significant progress toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. MSU is ranked No. 26 globally and No. 1 in the U.S. for SDG 17, “Partnerships for the Goals.”
Source: MSU Today MSU ranked highly for global impact on sustainable development
Fifty years ago, Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs was founded as the first school of its kind, combining public policy, management, and administration with environmental science. Through an explicitly international mission, the school, which was named after Paul H. O’Neill in 2019, sought to prepare students for public service in an increasingly complex and interconnected global society. From the start, the O’Neill School focused on applied problem solving, assembling teams to tackle pressing issues from water quality management to the impact of deregulation. The school developed strong and lasting partnerships with public agencies at all levels of government ensuring its interdisciplinary research led to real-world solutions.
Today, the O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is consistently ranked in the top tier of programs in the environment. We offer multiple undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs in environmental science, management, and sustainability — including a top-ranked MPA specialty in environmental policy and management, an innovative one-year master’s program in environmental sustainability, and opportunities to specialize in pressing environmental science topics like conservation, water resources, energy, or environmental chemistry.
The O’Neill School’s graduate building is LEED Gold certified. In addition to state-of-the-art laboratory space on campus, O’Neill students have opportunities for hands-on scientific exploration through the field labs, campus farm, and more than 1,600 acres of protected wood- and wet-lands that make up IU’s Research and Teaching Preserve. All of these resources and experiences prepare our students to go out and lead informed environmental decision making in the real world. We have a broad and extensive range of alumni who are making a direct and positive impact on the environment today including an Environmental Protection Specialist with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, a Landscape Conservation Design Specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an Environmental Quality Analyst for the State of Michigan, a Policy Regulatory Planner for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, an Ecologist Coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Division, a Wetlands Project Manager for Indiana Department of Environmental Management, a Wetlands Specialist with Burns & McDonnell, a Park Ranger with the National Parks Service, and many, many more.
Did you know?
Among the many O’Neill scholars who have made a profound and lasting impact on global environmental affairs are Professors Lynton K. Caldwell (1913-2006) and Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012). Caldwell, the principal architect of the National Environmental Policy Act, inspired more than 100 similar laws throughout the world. Ostrom’s research on the governance of common-pool natural resources such as forests and fisheries earned the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009. Many O’Neill faculty members continue her research mission through the Ostrom Workshop, which also honors her late husband and colleague, Vincent Ostrom.