Higher education and sustainability


Anthony Cortese, Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow

What if higher education institutions took the lead in sustainability?

It could "become a model in its practices, in its planning, in its facility design, purchasing and investments and tie these efforts to the formal curriculum," said Anthony Cortese, Radford University's Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow for 2015.

"Imagine if you had the students working on understanding what the footprint of the institution is, and the looking at ways that could be changed, including their own behavior and including the behavior of the faculty and the staff and everybody else. This is an all-hands-on-deck working together to understand this."

Cortese, president of Second Nature, delivered his message to a crowd gathered March 25 at the College of Business and Economics building. During his three-day visit to campus, Cortese met with numerous classes, took a campus sustainability tour and met with the university's Sustainability Steering Committee.

Early in his talk, Cortese defined sustainability, saying "It's not primarily about the environment. It's about how we sustain a robust human society now and in the future where everybody has a decent quality of life."

He later complemented Radford's sustainability efforts saying "There's no better university that I've ever visited that is doing a better job on energy efficiency and conservation. What you're doing here with all your buildings is first rate."

Cortese's organization, Second Nature, is a Boston-based nonprofit that promotes sustainability at colleges and universities.

"Cortese's visit confirmed that we are indeed doing many positive things at Radford University, such as preparing a Climate Action Plan as part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment," said English Professor Rick Van Noy, a member of the university's Sustainability Steering Committee. "In meeting with students and faculty, he energized conversations among us about more work we might to do make sustainability part of our curriculum, our facilities and our daily lives."

Cortese serves as the co-director of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. In 2009, Radford President Penelope W. Kyle signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment pledge, which binds the university to evaluate its carbon emissions from greenhouse gases.

In addition, Cortese is the co-founder for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Higher Education Association Sustainability Consortium. He once served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program, which is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in Washington, D.C., brings prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders and other professionals to campuses across the United States for a residential program of classes, seminars, workshops, lectures and informal discussions.

For more than 35 years, Visiting Fellows have been introducing students and faculty members at liberal arts colleges to a wide range of perspectives on life, society, community and achievement. The Visiting Fellows program is available to all four-year colleges and universities.

Apr 1, 2015