Transforming the way higher education teaches, learns, and operates is a necessary, often overlooked, leverage point in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society. Colleges and universities must produce the graduates and knowledge needed to create an economy that can meet the needs of the 7 billion people on the planet today – and the 9 billion expected by 2050 – without undermining the social and ecological systems upon which we depend. Higher education has begun to lead in this arena. Through the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it is the first sector in which a critical mass has set the goal of climate neutrality and is actively working towards that goal.
To support this shift in higher education, Second Nature has launched the Presidential Fellows program, which will engage recently retired college and university presidents on a part-time basis, as mentors and ambassadors to support the ACUPCC. We expect to grant at least four Fellowships during this academic year, representing a diverse range in terms of institution types (location, size, public/private, 2-yr/4-yr) and constituencies (gender and ethnic balance in Fellows group).
Fellowships are granted to recently retired presidents who are deeply committed to sustainability (writ large), who are dynamic, and who are willing to actively engage in moving the higher education system by working directly with other senior leaders in the sector, professional associations at the state, regional and national level (such as the American Council on Education, the Council of Independent Colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges, etc.) and on national policy issues. Fellows bring a unique combination of high theoretical capacity on the subject matter with years of experience leading institutions of various types.
The Fellows combine the leadership skills, practitioner know-how and intellectual depth to break new ground in conceiving of sustainability as a transformational process for campuses, making them facilitators of transformational change.
Fellows will work with Second Nature and the ACUPCC Steering Committee in the following ways:
- Support existing ACUPCC Signatories (e.g., check-in on progress, help identify barriers and solutions, share experiences, provide advice, and make strategic connections).
- Provide thought leadership on education for sustainability, writing articles, Op-Eds, blog posts, and possibly an annual publication from this group.
- Act as ambassadors with key external constituencies (e.g., higher ed presidential, business officer, chief academic officer and trustee associations, business and government).
- Recruit new ACUPCC Signatories.
- Build support for key national policy issues to advance sustainability.
- Play a prominent role in fundraising for SN and the ACUPCC, by determining the most significant areas of need, and by using their networks to approach foundations and specific donors.
- Help develop other new approaches to raising revenue for these initiatives, including more private sector partnerships.
- Help shape, launch, and possibly lead or participate in new initiatives.
The Presidential Fellows program was successfully piloted in 2009-2010 with two former presidents – Richard Cook, former president of Allegheny College and Ed Johnson, former president of Sterling College – who helped bring more than 50 new signatories into the ACUPCC network, represented Second Nature at conferences and events, and provided thought-leadership through publications and speeches.
Mitch Thomashow, former president of Unity College, will serve as Director of the Presidential Fellows program, playing an active role in coordinating and leading the Fellows group and working closely with the ACUPCC Steering Committee and the leadership of Second Nature to set the strategic direction for the program. Diana Van Der Ploeg, former president of Butte College will also receive a Fellowship for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Be on the lookout for more news from the Fellows as the academic year gets underway. If you have specific opportunities for projects where the Fellows could be helpful, or if you know of any recently retired presidents who would make good candidates for Fellowships, please contact Mitch Thomashow at mthomashow[at]secondnature[dot]org.