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By Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
(Download the symposium agenda, or a PDF version of this summary here.)

ACUPCC LogoThe Southwest Regional Collaborative Symposium – the second regionally focused conference hosted by Second Nature and the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment – took place at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona March 1st– 2nd, 2012.  ACUPCC Regional Symposiums focus on fostering collaboration among ACUPCC signatories facing similar challenges and opportunities in their geographic regions.  With attendance by 38 universities and organizations throughout the Southwest, participants sparked cross-institutional dialogue and solutions to Climate Action planning, curriculum reform, and other key issues.

Keynote Speaker

Diana Liverman, Co-Director,
University of Arizona Institute of the Environment

Sharing highlights of her research focusing on the science of human dimensions of global environmental change – including vulnerability and adaptation, and climate policy, mitigation and justice – Diana Liverman opened the conference by underscoring the need for leadership in higher education on sustainability. Diana is a fellow in the Environmental Change Institute and member of editorial boards for Global Environmental ChangeAnnals of the Association of American Geographers, and Climatic Change. She currently chairs the Science Advisory Committee for the ICSU Global Environmental Change and Food Systems program (GECAFS) and served on the UK Human Dimensions of Global Change Committee.

Symposium Sessions

World Café: From Planning to Action

Participants discuss taking climate action planning to the next strategic level during the World Café.

Facilitated by Bonny Bentzin of GreenerU this high-energy discussion focused on creating campus engagement with the Climate Action Plan as a living and strategic institutional document. Participants delved into dynamic planning and long-term visioning during the World Café, reflecting on the CAP planning process, how to move the campus forward by assigning priorities, key stakeholders, and core values, and engaging with regional partnerships and initiatives.

Sustainability as a Pedagogical Process

Southwest Regional Presidential Panel. From left: Michael Crow, Arizona State University, Jan Gehler, Scottsdale Community College; John D. Haeger, Northern Arizona University; and David J. Schmidly, University of New Mexico.

ACUPCC signatories have committed to take actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for all students. This session identified best practices for integrating sustainability into the curriculum, how to engage diverse stakeholders, measuring outcomes, and applying the concept of “group intelligence” to curriculum development. Teams of participants each developed their own pedagogical approach to achieving the learning outcome of creating a global sustainability outlook. Facilitated by Cindy Thomashow, Education Manager, AASHE and Tom Kelly, Director Sustainability Academy, University of New Hampshire.

Presidents’ Panel

Presidents from institutions in the region joined in a dialogue on how higher education in the Southwest can lead the way to a clean, green and sustainable economy. Moderated by the President of Arizona State University Michael Crow, the panel included Jan Gehler, President of Scottsdale Community College, John Haeger, President of Northern Arizona University, and David Schmidly, President of the University of New Mexico.

Conversation centered on the innovation opportunities inherent in achieving carbon neutrality on college and university campuses. President Gehler remarked: “Whether president, vice president or member of the faculty, we must model the way,” a sentiment expanded by President Crow who stated, “I am a teacher. That’s what I do. But I think more important than that, the institutions themselves have to teach.”

The panel also discussed the positive returns of sustainability as a sound business model in an era of budget reductions coupled with enrollment growth.  President Haeger underscored this idea by reminding the audience, and panel, that infusing a sustainability emphasis into the administrative structure – whether it is building green buildings or buying fuel efficient cars – is another way presidents can lead in creating a sustainable economy.

Institutional Case Studies

Three distinct educational tracks included case studies from institutions across the southwest.

The Energy Efficiency track highlighted Energy Conservation at Alamo Colleges with John Strybos, Alamo Colleges, Using the Design-Build Approach to Meet Energy Reduction Goals with Allen Shiroma, University of California, Irvine and Shaun Ayvazi, Siemens, and financing techniques from Norm Tarbox of Weber State University, who presented Funding Energy Efficiency Projects through a Green Revolving Loan Fund.

The second track, on Sustainability in the Curriculum included Regional Sustainability Policy and Workforce Development Efforts at Santa Fe Community College by Randy Grissom from Santa Fe Community College (NM), Growing Sustainability Literacy at Northern Arizona University, from the Seeds of the Ponderosa Project to the Global Learning Initiative with Rod Parnell of Northern Arizona University, and The Odyssey of Creating a Sustainable Campus at UNM: Assets, Barriers, and Strategies with Bruce T. Milne at the University of New Mexico.

Track three, Sustainable Resource Management, featured waste, water, and food strategies with Nick Brown of Arizona State University and Pat DeRueda from Waste Management presenting Roadmap to Zero Solid Waste, Joe Abraham, University of Arizona, sharing research on Sustainable Water Management, and a highlight of a community college student-centered Sustainable Food Systems Program by Shannon Corona of Rio Salado College.

Summary: Collaborating for Success

Bringing a regional focus unique to the demands of Southwestern higher education, symposium attendees created strategies and solutions for addressing the key issues facing schools, their staff, faculty, students, and administration.

The words of keynote speakers, session case study leaders, and participants highlighted the role of every individual working towards campus sustainability as a “teacher” of the vital work in moving higher education towards a just and sustainable future.

110 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. The conference was held at Arizona State University in the historic Old Main Building at the Tempe campus.

Thank You!

Second Nature would like to thank the staff of Arizona State University for their partnership in hosting the event, Aramark for providing sustainable and delicious food for the event, and all attendees, who found exciting new opportunities for creating and implementing their Climate Action Plans, and creative solutions to the challenges of creating a sustainable campus.

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