First-Quarter, April 2013
We believe that we can best walk the talk by embracing sustainability
broadly (see the University’s Sustainability Charter) – DOWNLOAD PDF.
learning chartered by the International
endowed and cash-strapped, liberal arts
adopting elements of sustainability in
and associated “wild” environment; the
their connection to nature and
the complex interactions of people,
laboratory. We recognize the four fundamental resources that both constrain and enable all
that we do at Urbana University: human, economic, natural, and spiritual. Our
sustainability portfolio includes a continuum from incorporating a sustainability
ethic into all that we do to taking tangible steps to ensure learning through
action and practice.
We’ve hired a campus University Sustainability Coordinator (Dr. Tingting Cai,
co-author) to orchestrate sustainability related efforts, ranging from curricular
design, teaching, grant-making, and action implementation. For example, we’re
creating the John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) Sustainability Project (The
Project) at Urbana University. The Project focuses on energy use reduction and
alternative energy generation and demonstration.
The Project entails significant energy efficiency improvements to the University’s
base plant, as well as incorporating renewable energy technologies on campus.
These do and will include use of wind energy electricity generation, solar photo-
voltaic electricity generation, solar thermal water heating, geothermal heating
and cooling of residential space, biogas production and use, and intensive
greenhouse production of food stocks. We also envision a green roof retrofit or
inclusion of the concept in future construction.
We’re developing a major in environmental studies and sustainability-related
emphases in multiple degree programs, as well as creating and launching a
certificate programs for on-site and online delivery.
Investing OPM – We jokingly say that “in 2008 our UU endowment lost $14
billion,” and then after a pause we add, “less than Harvard’s”!
Our current endowment is ~$2.5 million, 25 percent higher than before the
market collapse. We take light-hearted solace that the period of financial turmoil
was a good time not to have any money. The old saying that “Necessity is the
mother of invention” applies powerfully to our embrace of sustainability at
We’ve watched other deeply endowed universities celebrate (and boast) their
sustainability accomplishments (e.g., a new LEED-certified student center; an
elaborate and state-of-the-art sustainability classroom and laboratory building; a
new sustainability director and a cadre of associated staff; a new endowed chair
Here at what I came to in mid-2008 as a university in financial peril we had no
resources to redistribute. We had only Dr. Jones’ passion for adopting the tenets
of sustainability across campus and a 128-acre, then 158-year-old university. Dr.
Jones added Mr. Ron Dodson to the University’s governing Board and together
they began the task of walking the talk without benefit of available resources.
Instead, we embarked upon seeking partners, champions, volunteers and that
wonderful resource we have come to call OPM (Other People’s Money)!
Johnny appleseed educational Center and Museum
at urbana university – The RENOVATION | PLAY VIDEO
Our first step engaged a corps of consultants who shared our passion for finding
a way for other cash-strapped institutions (to include universities and other
entities with “campuses”) to emulate what we do here.