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By Adrien Tofighi, Program Assistant, Second Nature
(Review the symposium agenda, or download a PDF Summary of this post).

ACUPCC Logo

The 2012 ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium took place at Agnes Scott College, November 7-8th, 2012. ACUPCC Regional Symposiums are working sessions to foster dialogue and collaboration among ACUPCC signatories who are facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions.

The conference garnered participation from 45 colleges and universities, representing states throughout the Southeast, achieving cross-institutional dialogue, knowledge exchange, and the creation of new solutions to Climate Action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues. This conference marked the third regional symposium hosted by the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

David E. Shi, President Emeritus, Furman University

Opening Speakers

After a warm welcome by Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss, David E. Shi, President Emeritus of Furman University, opened the symposium on Wednesday evening. The keynote presentation, entitled “Sustainability in the South: An Oxymoron?” addressed some of the region’s most pressing questions regarding conservation, sustainability, and climate leadership.

Dr. Shi posed the questions: How can conservation thrive in a conservative culture, and how can higher education be the vanguard of cultural change? His talk shared statistics on the southeastern colleges and universities progress on climate and sustainability initiatives, and reviewed the need for campuses to move from singular sustainability projects to a centralized “hub” for large-scale transformational change.

Symposium Sessions

World Café: From Planning to Action

Participants kicked off the first full day of the conference with dynamic discussion and planning during the World Café, which allowed for reflections on leveraging campus resources in order to implement climate action planning solutions. Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU, the session focused around key themes related to communicating and engaging with the campus community.

Campus Sustainability Case Studies

Case studies from eight different institutions in three concurrent sessions were presented as a means to address the topically and geographically relevant problems that many campuses face, and share how these issues are being dealt with.

The first track, Financing, highlighted three institutions from North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. A team from Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) including Cassidy Cannon, Sustainability Director, Robert Gaines, Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Charles Hall, Director of Design & Construction, Dennis Leary, Facilities Director, and Kent Anson, Vice President of Higher Education for Honeywell Building Solutions presented on the campus’s experience leveraging a comprehensive energy savings program to address deferred maintenance, energy costs, and sustainability goals. Howard Wertheimer, Director of Capital Planning & Space also discussed the lessons learned in building the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (CNES), and Mitchell H. Payne, Associate Vice President for Business Affairs at the University of Louisville provided an overview of financing energy efficiency through energy savings performance contracting.

Hands-on learning at Furman University’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability

In the second track, Sustainable Food and Community Engagement, Furman University’s Katherine Kransteuber, Program Coordinator at the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability shared the interdisciplinary faculty-student research initiative designed to study and further sustainable agriculture on campus and in the Carolinas. Stephanie Sims, Implementation Coordinator at Office of Sustainability at the University of Florida provided an overview of UF’s broad approach to involving stakeholders and addressing challenges and opportunities in food systems through partnerships and innovative programming, which included strategies such as “Food for Thought” outreach campaigns and University extension efforts and the Office of Sustainability at the regional and state level.

The third track, Addressing the Challenge of Coal began with a presentation by Susan Kidd, Director of Sustainability at Agnes Scott College, discussing the institutional challenge of cheap coal, and the college’s focus on funding options for energy efficiency and renewable energy,. Matt Earnest, Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Bridgemont Community and Technical College showcased how the institution’s Sustainability Institute is bringing together multiple organizations with varying viewpoints to promote sustainability through workforce education, academic enhancement, and community development. Gordie Bennett, Sustainability Manager at the University of Tennessee Knoxville also provided examples of their institutional path to a cleaner campus by converting the nearly 50-year old UT Knoxville Steam Plant to 100% natural gas and fuel oil, with a focus on the decision making process that weighed the social and economic implications of going coal free in the Tennessee Valley.

Lunch with the President’s Panel

Second Nature President David Hales moderated the President’s Panel which included Elizabeth Kiss from Agnes Scott College (GA), Kenneth Peacock, Chancellor of Appalachian State University (NC), and Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College (GA), in a dialogue on how higher education in the Southeast can lead the way to a clean, green, and sustainable economy. Participants followed the discussion with a question and answer session on the challenges facing presidential leadership in supporting sustainability initiatives on campus.

Sustainability as a Pedagogical Process

To conclude the event, Tom Kelly, Director of the Sustainability Academy at the University of New Hampshire, facilitated a session to remind attendees of the broader goal of “educating for sustainability.” With the campus as a learning platform, every building, the food eaten, classes attended, grounds and landscaping, etc. “count as an opportunity to cultivate a global sustainability outlook.” This session presented a pedagogical process that considers building case studies from campus to guide the learning community to ask good questions, investigate, and find sustainable solutions.

Summary: Collaborating for Success

The ACUPCC Southeast Regional Symposium attendees created new strategies for climate leadership, shared the steps necessary for putting a plan to action in a region where sustainability can be challenging, and learned from both campus and industry leaders that the work they do is more vital than ever.

By providing tangible resources, contacts, and ideas to support both Presidents and their staff’s efforts on campus, with a regional focus highlighting the unique issues associated with electricity rates, government policies, energy supply, and public opinion of the region, institutions were empowered to create beneficial partnerships that will support their mutual development in the coming years. Participating sustainability teams made significant headway in overcoming the obstacles to fulfilling the Commitment, and creating lasting regional connections.

84 college and university, industry, and non-profit representatives participated in the Symposium, with attendance from Presidents and Chancellors, sustainability coordinators, facilities directors, faculty, students, and ACUPCC Corporate Sponsors.  Click here to view the list of attendees.

Thank You!

Second Nature would like to thank the staff of Agnes Scott College for their partnership in hosting the event, and Aramark for providing food for the event.  And a special thanks to all attendees who found exciting new opportunities for creating and implementing their Climate Action Plans, as well as creative solutions to the challenges of creating a sustainable campus.  Well done!

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For more information on upcoming ACUPCC events, visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org/news-events

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