Archive for the ‘Presidents’ Perspectives’ Category

We recommend this recent article originally posted on the Huffington Post, by Dr. Scott Miller, president of Bethany College and signatory to the ACUPCC. 

With the current election year, among other topics capturing headlines and media analysis, it’s sometimes challenging for other newsworthy stories to receive the coverage they deserve.

A prominent example is higher education. Aside from high-profile scandals, spectacular jumps in tuition costs or significant research breakthroughs, much of the news about colleges and universities escapes the attention of the mainstream media. Not only is this news generally good, but it directly impacts families and their daily lives all across America.

As a former reporter, I know well how and why certain stories are assigned in the newsroom. As a college president, however, I also appreciate the little-publicized but substantial achievements of higher education — as well as their related challenges — that deserve the public’s attention. Here are some examples:

Please link to the Huffington Post for the full article.


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By Richard L. Torgerson, President, Luther College And Co-Chair, ACUPCC Academic Committee
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCRichard Torgerson, President, Luther College

Since its founding in 1861, Luther College has remained true to its mission by preparing graduates to respond to a changing world. As we look ahead we see global environmental problems, resource scarcity, and climate change threatening the health of the planet. In response to these threats Luther College’s 2007 Sesquicentennial Strategic Plan pushes the college to seek sustainability through greater operational efficiencies while preparing graduates with the skills, knowledge, and experience to lead society toward a more sustainable future. In order to “make sustainability a part of every student’s learning experience,” a clearly articulated conceptual framework for sustainability education is necessary so that faculty from disciplines across the campus can discover how sustainability connects to their work and can enrich their teaching.

In March 2009 a campus faculty survey revealed 25 courses are sustainability-focused, which means 20-100% of the class time in these courses deals with sustainability.  Another 16 courses were sustainability-related, which means less than 20% of class time dealt with sustainability. In summer 2012 nine Luther faculty have submitted proposals to participate in a summer workshop to prepare a fully designed new or modified, ready-to-teach course focusing on sustainability. Participating faculty are also asked to engage in ongoing discussion through the fall of 2012 with faculty peers to share ideas and plans for dissemination of work and to share their experiences through presentations and brown-bag lunches. Participating faculty receive a $1200 stipend jointly funded by the Margaret Cargill Foundation and the Luther President’s Fund. The use of presidential discretionary funds for high priority initiatives signals to the campus a level of importance and affirms good work being done. To stimulate faculty thinking about sustainability in the curriculum two Luther faculty have written a Frequently Asked Questions about Sustainability Education to answer questions and stimulate thinking.


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If your institution’s president is considering signing the ACUPCC, but is unsure if it’s an appropriate stance to take on behalf of the institution, below is a great line of reasoning from Macalester College’s president Brian Rosenberg.  The following is an excerpt from a 2009 essay titled “What Am I Doing Here” that ran in Inside Higher Ed:

I consider it my civic duty to vote and my right as an individual to contribute from time to time to the campaigns of particular candidates, but I am typically reluctant to make public endorsements. Similarly I do not believe that I should be staking out through my public remarks Macalester’s position on health care reform or cap and trade or military intervention in Afghanistan. These are however precisely the issues that all of you should be studying, arguing about, and taking action on through your lives as students, scholars, and global citizens. My job is to ensure that Macalester provides the environment within which you can do these things, rather than to delineate in each instance the proper “Macalester” stance.

On the other hand, I have spoken out both individually and on behalf of Macalester on issues including the importance of diversity to higher education and the necessity for all of us to practice and model environmental responsibility. For me, these issues are inseparable from and directly relevant to our work as a college and therefore ones that I can and should address. Some might contend that the latter topic is one that falls outside the standards I have defined; my response is that the reality of climate change has passed beyond the point of reasonable debate and has become an essential component of responsible citizenship, whose encouragement, at least at Macalester, lies at the core of our mission.

So we have taken such public actions as signing an amicus brief in the University of Michigan affirmative action case and becoming early signers of the College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. I would be prepared to contend that not to take stands on issues of this kind — stands whose particular form will rightly vary from institution to institution — would actually impair our ability to carry out our educational work and therefore that they are issues to which I should speak, both individually and as a representative of Macalester.

Since President Rosenberg signed the ACUPCC, taking a stand on behalf of the institution, Macalester has reduced its annual greenhouse gas emissions by over 10,000 metric tons, and saved an estimated $250,000-$500,000.  See Macalester’s progress report for more details.

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By Stephen Mulkey, President, Unity College

Over the last decade, Unity College has made great strides in developing its sustainability portfolio by implementing numerous infrastructure projects and sustainable practices into our operations.  Our former president, Mitchell Thomashow, did much to enhance our commitment to sustainability (see our remarkable 90 percent passive dorm, TerraHaus, and our net zero multipurpose facility, Unity House).  Most recently, I have committed the College to participation as a founding member of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge developed by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, in partnership with the ACUPCC, Second Nature, AASHE, and others.   The green revolving fund established through our participation will provide Unity College with a source of recurring dollars to fund sustainability projects over the long term.

Unity House at Unity College

Equally important to our infrastructure improvements is our institutional commitment to teaching sustainability.  As an institution focused on environmental and natural resource sciences, we have renewed our development of a curriculum focused on Sustainability Science.  All of these efforts have built on a much longer tradition of engagement with local and regional partners committed to sustainable resource use.  Unity College has a long list of such partners including several conservation land trusts, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and a variety of commercial and noncommercial entities concerned with food and energy sustainability.

I believe in the connection between our effectiveness as a regional anchor for sustainability scholarship and practice, and our increasing public support and expanding donor base.  Our College Development office has weathered some lean times, but recently we have experienced a significant increase in donor activity, including a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor, which we announced in late August 2011.   (more…)

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By Timothy P. White, Chancellor of University of California, Riverside and Co-Chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee
(This article appears in the July, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


In February 2012, the ACUPCC will turn five years old. At this time five years ago, the initiative was an idea, just starting to build momentum. That momentum has now propelled the initial idea into one of the most important climate change initiatives in the world.

Timothy P. WhiteThe higher education sector in the US is responsible for many of the world’s most influential ideas, values, and leaders. With a critical mass of these institutions — nearly 700 strong, representing 6 million students — now making real progress towards climate neutrality, the ACUPCC is laying an important foundation in creating the clean, green economy.

Looking ahead to the next academic year, the ACUPCC Steering Committee has identified three key ideas about how to build new momentum for this critical initiative.

First, we aim to ensure that all ACUPCC institutions are fulfilling their pledge, and realizing the benefits of a proactive climate action plan. In practice, the best metric for measuring fulfillment is the reporting rate — the percentage of ACUPCC schools that are up-to-date in publicly submitting their greenhouse gas inventories, climate action plans, and progress updates. At present, 66% of the network is in good standing with their reporting. We have a goal of increasing that number to at least 80% within the next twelve months.

Second, the network has identified four important, timely topics to focus on in the coming year: (1) financing sustainability projects; (2) addressing the academic component of the Commitment; (3) evaluating higher education’s role in adapting to the impacts driven by climate disruption; and (4) engaging with our international counterparts to support our mutual goals.

And third, we plan to make a concerted effort to increase the size and diversity of the ACUPCC network. Forty-five new signatories joined the network in 2010. We would like to see one hundred new signatories join in the next twelve months, with a special focus on minority-serving and under-resourced institutions.


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by Diana Van Der Ploeg, President of Butte College.  This blog article was originally published on the AASHE blog

My eight-year tenure as President of Butte College ends this week on an exciting note: Butte College is now the first college in the history of the U.S. to go grid positive, meaning that we will generate more power from onsite renewable energy than our campus consumes. We are, in effect, our own renewable power plant.

At Butte College – located in Oroville, California, about 75 miles from Sacramento – we began installing solar panels on campus several years ago, and we now have 25,000 of them. Thanks in part to a generally sunny climate in our part of California, our solar panels will generate a combined 6.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to power over 900 homes or take over 600 cars off the road.Butte Solar

Our solar project was completed in three phases – the first concluded in 2005; the second in 2009; and the third this week. In order to get financing on the best possible terms, we relied on lease revenue bonds, where energy cost savings are used to satisfy the debt obligation, for phase one. We relied on bank financing for phase two. For phase three, the largest phase, we used a combination of federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and our own funds.

Because our solar panels will produce more electricity than we need, we’ll not only eliminate our utility bill, we’ll also be able to sell the excess electricity back to the power grid. Over time we will see substantial financial benefits – we estimate we could recoup as much as $50 million to $75 million over 15 years – that we can use to help improve academic offerings or expand student enrollment. At a time of tight budgets for states and colleges all over the country, finding innovative ways to save money wherever we can is crucial.

Yet these cost benefits are not the only, or even the primary, reason for our decision to pursue an aggressive renewable energy strategy. We believe that institutions of higher education have a particular responsibility to seize the mantle of environmental leadership. As educators, we are well positioned to demonstrate how we can better manage our use of the earth’s limited resources so that they’ll continue to be available for future generations and how we can reduce carbon emissions in the face of mounting evidence of the threat of global climate change.

When we boost our renewable energy portfolios, improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, recycle, and provide transportation alternatives to commuting by car, we serve as a model for our students and the broader communities we serve. We ask our students to carry that lesson with them after they graduate by signing a voluntary pledge to take the environment into account in their working lives and improve the environmental practices of the organizations where they work.

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The following was authored by Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow for the 2007 ACUPCC Annual Report. View the report in full here. View the school’s progress on the ACUPCC Reporting System.

Photo courSandy Johnson adjusts the mortarboard on her daughter, Candi Swaim, prior to the Spring 2009 Convocation of Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability. Ms Swaim, of Show Low, AZ, is part of the first graduating class from GIOS.tesy of Arizona State University

Photo courtesy of Arizona State University

As a founding member institution of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Arizona State University continues to maintain a strong institutional commitment to the reduction of carbon emissions on our four campuses.  We are proud of our accomplishments thus far.  During the past year, ASU has instituted a number of organizational changes to improve our ability to deal with climate change and other sustainability issues.  We have established an Office of University Sustainability Practices charged with facilitating the realization of our carbon neutrality goals.  Consistent with our institutional commitment to sustainability, four recently completed buildings have been recipients of a LEED designation, including a platinum rating, the first such certification in Arizona.  All new campus buildings will henceforth be required to meet a minimum standard of LEED silver certification.


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