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.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has been an NCSE Member for three years. Created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas, this transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, located along the U.S.-Mexico border in one of the most underserved regions of the country. UTRGV has been named a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator for its success in making college affordable, advancing economic opportunity, and providing opportunities for its students to make a positive impact in their lives and on their community, such as through various research centers including those for nanotechnology, space, coastal and climate change research, and entrepreneurial and economic growth. A new School of Medicine, which will graduate its first class in 2020, also contributes to the health of the region’s populace and advances research on diabetes and infectious diseases that disproportionately affect the Rio Grande Valley. Across the Rio Grande Valley, students and faculty wholeheartedly engage in applied community-engaging and sustainable development research to the extent that the university was awarded the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for 2020.
Coordinated by the UTRGV Office for Sustainability, UTRGV offers a Sustainability Fellowship program in which masters students carry out impactful sustainability and community resilience projects. UTRGV also recently launched a new Sustainability Graduate Student Leadership program in partnership with the Office of Professional Education and Workforce Development which aims to scale the impact students make towards communities’ sustainable development, providing leadership training and support for collaboration. Sustainability Faculty Fellows contribute their expertise to these programs.
Did You Know? The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is an AASHE designated International Center for Sustainability Across the Curriculum and one of only five universities in Texas to receive an AASHE Gold Rating for overall efforts to integrate sustainability across the university. UTRGV’s commitment to maintaining a sustainable environment on campus is also evident through its Tree Campus USA and Bee Campus USA designations, both informed by their faculty and student researchers.
Long Island University (LIU) is advancing as a leading institution in producing research that bridges environmental and health sciences, while educating students for a sustainable future economy. LIU has been an NCSE Member for three years. Two of the University’s signature research areas—One Health and Resilient Communities—highlight LIU’s awareness and commitment to finding solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. Leveraging its proximity to the United Nations’ headquarters, LIU has aligned several of its courses’ learning objectives and extracurricular programs with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, while faculty across multiple disciplines are producing high-level, federally and privately funded research in climate science, public health, the social sciences, and humanities.
Did You Know? The Campus Urban Sustainability Program (CUSP)—a program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with the Director of the Honors College, a fellow of the Theodore Roosevelt Institute of LIU (dedicated to one of the founders of conservation in the U.S.)—have recruited a leading environmentalist for the 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Day this April (the speaker’s identity will be revealed soon).
Louisiana State University (LSU) has been an NCSE Member for 12 years. LSU’s proximity to the banks of the Mississippi River and the fastest disappearing coastline in the continental U.S. contributes to its unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability. As an R1 university in the Carnegie Higher Education Classification, LSU’s research productivity places the university in the top 3% of higher education institutions in the U.S. As a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution, LSU is globally known as a leader in coastal and environmental research and education.
LSU continually strives to demonstrate efficient and environmentally responsible activities, operations, and education by incorporating sustainable living and recycling into campus operations and events. The university promotes sustainable practices both on and off campus, provides resources and support for those who wish to incorporate sustainable practices in their work and life, and advocates for sustainable programs and initiatives. Their goals include increasing campus-wide recycling, decreasing energy usage in buildings, incorporating green and sustainable alternatives in building design, and promoting alternative fuels/modes of transportation.
Did You Know? LSU’s commitment to sustainability reaches all corners of its campus. In fact, LSU’s Landscape Services Department has achieved Tree Campus USA designation for the past several years in a row by using a proactive and aggressive approach to planting trees on university grounds. More than 250 new trees have been planted since 2013, and there are currently 5,000 mature trees of various species around campus.
Northern Arizona University (NAU) has been an NCSE Member Institution for 13 years.
NAU has built an international reputation for environmental and sustainability research through its world-class programs in ecosystem science, earth sciences, forestry, restoration ecology, land management, and sustainability. From its Flagstaff campus in Northern Arizona at an elevation of 7,000 feet, NAU faculty focus on the unique natural and cultural resources of the region to mentor students as they conduct research on the Colorado Plateau beyond the classroom and lab settings.
Ranked #201 in the U.S. by the National Science Foundation in its latest research rankings—and #93 among universities without a medical school—NAU is home to many multidisciplinary institutes and programs focused on environmental and sustainability research, restoration, and land management, including the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, the Ecological Restoration Institute, the Landscape Conservation Initiative, the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. The university has also formed major partnerships with other institutions to accomplish its goals in these areas, such as the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention and the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit.
NAU is regularly recognized on the Sierra Club’s Coolest Schools list and maintains a gold rating in the AASHE STARS program. Campus programs in sustainability include student-driven behavior change initiatives such as the 120+ Energy Mentor Program, a Green Office Certification Program, and a Sustainable Citizen Program available for all majors.
Did You Know? The NAU community launched the Ponderosa Project in the 1990s to support an interdisciplinary group of faculty to incorporate environmental sustainability into university curricula. The initiative is still active today as the Environmental Caucus Action Teams, an informal grassroots group of students, faculty, staff, and community members developing and promoting sustainability education, research, operations, and outreach.
The Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) has been an NCSE Member for seven years. DCCCD is working to become an environmental leader in their community, continually advocating for the wise use of natural, financial, and human resources through mindful education and action across their seven campuses. DCCCD aims to embed sustainability principles into the curricula of all degrees with the goal for all students to be exposed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and Project Drawdown. Students also have the opportunity to complete a voluntary co-curricular program which allows them to graduate with special recognition and distinguishes them in the workforce.
Did You Know? Two of the seven community colleges have earned multiple national first place titles in RecycleMania. RecycleMania is a friendly competition among colleges and universities in the United States managed by the National Wildlife Federation. The national competition provides the campus community with a fun way to reduce waste, reuse items, and recycle materials. The traveling trophy named “Pin Man” is made of an old bowling pin and other recycled materials.
The Pennsylvania State University has been an NCSE Member Institution for 11 years. Penn State views sustainability to be the “simultaneous pursuit of human health and happiness, environmental quality, and economic well-being for current and future generations,” and looks to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030 as framework to advance efforts that improve the health and prosperity of people and the planet. With 24 campuses located throughout Pennsylvania, plus a world-campus with more than 658,000 alumni worldwide, Penn State is uniquely positioned to incorporate sustainable approaches and solutions to the way we all learn, live, and work. Penn State is a leader in research, and especially transdisciplinary research, an area where there are limitless opportunities for people to work across disciplines in order to co-create knowledge and apply real-world solutions to meet today’s global challenges.
Did You Know? Penn State used its last shovel of coal to power the University in April 2016, and just three years later, signed a Solar Power Purchase Agreement with Lightsource BP that will provide 25% of the university’s total purchased electricity over 25 years. The solar arrays that will provide the electricity are currently being installed on 500 acres of leased agricultural land in Franklin County, PA, providing a secure source of revenue to those landowners and providing 250 local jobs to small, rural communities.
The University of Arkansas has been an NCSE Member Institution for ten years. Through environmental academic programs, campus initiatives, and innovative research, the University of Arkansas is a living laboratory for experiential learning. Students from all disciplines are able to supplement their degree path with the Sustainability Minor or Graduate Certificate. The campus prides itself on being AASHE STARS Gold, Bicycle Friendly University Silver, and Bee Campus USA certified. Interdisciplinary research teams across campus conduct studies to solve complex problems at the interface of food, water, and energy systems. Opportunities to contribute to the science of sustainability exist within every college and nearly every department on campus.
Did You Know? The University of Arkansas will complete the nation’s first large-scale mass timber residence hall this fall. This 708 bed residence hall has cross-laminated timber as its structural core rather than concrete and steel.