CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–February 5, 2016. Roosevelt University has received national recognition for its comprehensive approach to sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
Completing its first-ever sustainability self-assessment report in December 2015, Roosevelt has received a bronze rating from the world’s leading higher education sustainability organization and its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
“It is a long and in-depth process, and definitely not easy to get this kind of certification,” said Paul Matthews, assistant vice president of campus planning and operations at Roosevelt.
The bronze designation places Roosevelt among an elite group of higher education institutions – there are 274 in the Americas – that have been granted a STARS rating by AASHE.
Roosevelt is among only 10 universities and community colleges in the state of Illinois to achieve a STARS rating, and is one of only three institutions in the city of Chicago to be rated.
“We are proud to be counted among universities that have invested the time and resources into completing a thorough inventory of our sustainability efforts and initiatives,” added Matthews. “It is a good starting point from which we can begin building to improve our performance and our rating.”
Unlike many universities that categorize sustainability as chiefly an administrative function, Roosevelt has assembled a large team of administrators, faculty members and students to collaborate on ways to improve the University’s sustainability.
“We are unique in the way we have approached our sustainability projects and initiatives,” said Mike Bryson, professor of Sustainability Studies and director of the Sustainability Studies Program for undergraduates at Roosevelt University.
“Sustainability is a goal that Roosevelt’s administrative and academic sides are working on together,” he said. “But really, it is our students who deserve the most credit, for they have been driving our sustainability planning and our recent inventory,” Bryson said.
In 2014, students from the Sustainability Studies Program were instrumental in helping the University to develop and approve its first-ever five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan. One of the Plan’s highest priorities has been to inventory the University’s sustainability performance – a task that 19 students in Bryson’s Sustainable Campus course took on beginning in spring 2015.
“We broke into groups that looked at sustainability in the University’s academics, engagement, operations and planning and administration,” said Rebecca Quesnell, a May 2015 Roosevelt Sustainability Studies graduate who took the course and is now the University’s full-time sustainable operations coordinator.
“We did a lot of data gathering, and got a chance to learn all that has been going on with sustainability throughout the University,” added Maria Cancilla, a Roosevelt Sustainability Studies major who also took the course and then worked on the final report as a STARS intern in the fall of 2015.
Their efforts led to submission of the University’s first STARS report in December, and the subsequent bronze rating awarded by AASHE. You can see the University’s STARS report at https://stars.aashe.org/institutions/roosevelt-university-il/report/2015-12-18/
“I’ve obtained skills by going through the STARS process that will definitely be useful for my future career in sustainability,” Cancilla added.
Roosevelt was ranked highest in its STARS report for:
• Establishment of community partnerships, including for the RUrbanPioneers Community Garden in Schaumburg, as well as participation in Retrofit Chicago initiatives
• Inter-campus collaboration aimed at improving sustainability, including involvement with the Chicagoland Network for Sustainability in Higher Education, inclusion of the Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER) into Roosevelt’s science curriculum; and participation by Roosevelt students who have presented at local environmental conferences and also have worked to achieve the new STARS rating.
• Participation in public policymaking, including involvement in the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Working Group, the Schaumburg Bikeways Planning Committee and the Transit Future project.
• Sustainability outreach, including a GreenCampus website, Facebook page, and prominent display of signage and certification awards.
• Landscape management, particularly at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus, which has been designated a TreeCampus USA, National Wildlife Habitat and recently has been awarded ArbNet accreditation 1.
• Hazardous waste management, including involvement by Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy, Department of Biology, Chemistry and Physical Sciences and its housekeeping and painters’ shops in proper disposal of hazardous materials.
• Coordination, planning and government, including Roosevelt’s community-based approach to sustainability planning.
“We scored well in many areas, but our aim for the short and long term is to come up with even more ways to be sustainable and to improve our STARS rating,” said Bryson, who is offering an honors-level Sustainable Campus course during the current spring semester.
“Empowering our students has been an important ingredient in our success,” Bryson said.
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