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The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), a collaborating society of Sustainability and Climate Change, recognized the 2020 winners of its annual Sustainability Awards at a virtual event in December 2020. The winners were recognized for their progress in sustainability science, campus achievements, and student leadership. AASHE presents its annual awards to the institutions and individuals that are advancing sustainability both pedagogically and in practice within the field of higher education.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

This award is meant to honor those leaders who have made significant contributions to the advancement of sustainability in higher education over their lifetimes.

Nan Jenks-Jay, who recently retired as the dean of Environmental Affairs at Middlebury College, is a leading voice for the environment and sustainability in higher education. She played leadership roles in the development of Environmental Studies programs at Williams College, University of Redlands, and Middlebury College. In addition to her work as an educator, Jenks-Jay also pioneered a wide variety of campus sustainability strategies—from green buildings and on-site composting to sustainable purchasing, fuel switching, and land conservation—that have helped to make Middlebury an internationally recognized leader in sustainability. She has published and presented widely on her work and served as an advisor to multiple sustainability organizations, including AASHE. See the interview with Jenks-Jay in this issue.

AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser congratulates Nan Jenks-Jay, 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner.

Campus Sustainability Achievement Award Winners

This award honors higher education institutions for the successful implementation of projects that significantly advance sustainability.

Palo Alto College’s Community Garden opened in October of 2019 as a space to grow food, cultivate community, and improve food security for the greater Palo Alto Community. The stated goals of the Community Garden include providing horticulture and agriculture students with experiential learning experiences; eradicating food insecurity on campus and the surrounding community by providing fresh grown produce to the on-campus food pantry and donations to the San Antonio Food Bank for community distribution; and combating nutrition-related chronic health issues by educating the community about the benefits of eating fresh produce and healthy living.

Community Garden group photo
 

Pennsylvania Higher Education Cohort Timeline
 

Dickinson College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, and Muhlenberg College, four independent colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, formed a collaboration to explore renewable energy solutions, develop a strategy, and implement a combination of onsite and large-scale offsite projects that will result in each institution sourcing 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Serve-Learn-Sustain’s Affiliated Courses Program, a program that helps faculty integrate sustainable communities education into their courses, with an emphasis on experiential learning through community partnerships.

Ruth Yow describes the winning Georgia Tech program during the AASHE Awards presentation.
 

Participants and facilitators from the Greenspace Town Hall interact.

Campus Sustainability Student Leadership Award Winners

This award honors students and/or student teams from higher education who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting sustainability on campus.

Sarah Swiersz, Emma Roehrig, Dempsey Perno, Celina Lezcano, and Jady Chen at the University of Central Florida for Greenspace Sustainability Design Town Halls and Make-A-Thon were recognized as Campus Sustainability Student Leadership Award Winners. Their project was a model for empowering campus communities to lead the design of sustainable spaces and places, a student-led partnership that focused on a campus community-driven process for designing a new green space on campus.

Honorable Mention Tyler Warnock and Katherine Liu at the University of Calgary for Building Campus Capacity for the SDGs: A Case Study of the SDG Summit Conference. The annual training conference aims to engage youth with the Sustainable Development Goals through immersive opportunities for learning, discussion, and networking.

Campus Sustainability Research Award Winners

The Campus Sustainability Research Award recognizes research that contributes to the advancement of higher education sustainability.

Frances Duncan, Aidan Coffin Ness, Emelyn Chiang, and Kelsey Towne at Smith College for “Reducing Smith College’s Dining GHG Emissions: An Analysis of Beef and Milk Substitutions.” This undergraduate research paper quantifies the carbon emissions and costs savings that Smith College could achieve by substituting turkey, tofu, or black beans for beef and switching to plant-based milk substitutes, such as soy or almond milk.

Nuria Bautista Puig at Carlos III University of Madrid (Spain) and University of Gävle (Sweden) for “Unveiling the Path towards Sustainability: Scientific Interest at HEIs from a Scientometric approach in the Period 2008-2017.” This dissertation investigates the patterns of sustainability research from 2008–2017 and proposes a methodology for classifying the scientific output in relation to each UN Sustainable Development Goal.

Graphic recording from the University of Calgary’s 2019 SDG Summit

Scott Munro Strachan, Stephen Marshall, and Paul Murray at University of Strathclyde (UK), and Edward J. Coyle and Julia Sonnenberg-Klein at Georgia Institute of Technology for “Using Vertically Integrated Projects to Embed Research-Based Education for Sustainable Development in Undergraduate Curricula.” This research article describes a practical and scalable method of integrating SDG research and research-based education within undergraduate curricula implemented by the University of Strathclyde.

Joshua Long, Joanna Mendez, Keara Hudler, Lilly Dennis, and Nataley Ford at Southwestern University, and Muriel DiNella at University of Sydney (Australia) for “Intersectional Sustainability and Student Activism: A Framework for Achieving Social Sustainability on University Campuses.” This research paper notes a significant disconnect between rhetoric and action in higher education’s commitment to the social aspects of sustainability and suggests intersectional sustainability as a framework for addressing this disconnect.

Ryan P. Shea, Matthew O. Worsham, Andrew D. Chiasson, J. Kelly Kissock, and Benjamin J. McCall at the University of Dayton for “A Lifecycle Cost Analysis of Transitioning to a Fully-Electrified, Renewably Powered, and Carbon-Neutral Campus at the University of Dayton.” This research paper analyzes the cost-effectiveness of four primary emissions reduction strategies and finds that achieving a carbon-neutral campus by 2025 would increase the 30-year lifecycle cost of University of Dayton’s energy systems by only 2.4 percent.

The winners of the AASHE 2020 Awards

Ana Rita Amaral, Eugénio Rodrigues, Adélio Rodrigues Gaspar, and Álvaro Gomes at University of Coimbra (Portugal) for “A Review of Empirical Data of Sustainability Initiatives in University Campus Operations.” This research paper catalogs and classifies the actions and initiatives higher institutions are implementing to advance sustainability (as reported in scientific publications and case studies). It finds that increasing energy generation on campus and decreasing energy consumption in buildings are by far the most commonly implemented strategies, though there is limited information about the impact of these strategies.

Since its beginnings in 2006, more than 100 winners have been recognized through AASHE’s esteemed award program. To read more about the association’s awards programs, visit https://www.aashe.org/get-involved/awards/.

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