College of Sustainability honoured with international award
Clark Jang - October 7, 2013
On Sunday, the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded Dal’s College of Sustainability with its prestigious Campus Case Study Award.
The AASHE is an international organization devoted to promoting sustainability in higher education throughout North America. A small delegation of Dal representatives was on-hand in Nashville, Tenn. to receive the award at the annual AASHE conference.
“It adds to a sense that we got early on from a lot of people in other parts of the world that this seemed like an innovative and interesting approach to doing sustainability education,” said Steven Mannell, director of the College of Sustainability, speaking to Dal News in advance of the ceremony.
The submissions were judged, among other criteria, on the overall impact of the project, innovation, and the extent to which the case study includes multiple aspects of sustainability.
The college’s entry focused on its planning, design, implementation and outcomes. It emphasized the Environment, Sustainability & Society major — the first program of its kind in Canada — the engagement of five different faculties and seven undergraduate degrees, and the college’s problem-solving and hands-on approach to learning.
Prof. Mannell said that in speaking with the AASHE, he’s learned that very few winning submissions are academic in nature; most focus on administrative, operational or student life sustainability projects.
“I think it’s a reflection that there are relatively few academic programs in North America working on sustainability, certainly not at an undergraduate level,” he said.
By Dalhousie, for Dalhousie
The award reaffirms the cutting-edge work undertaken by the college, which was also recognized by UNESCO and the UN Decade for Education in Sustainable Development (ESD) as a "World Good Practice in ESD” in 2009.
“It’s world class,” said Susan Tirone, associate director of the college. “It’s really something that’s being noticed right around the world.”
“This is kind of the equivalent of having an article published in Science or Nature, within that peer group,” she says. “It’s recognized as something robust, something valid.”
Prof. Mannell (left) says one of the most unique aspects of the college of Sustainability is that it was built from within the university — by Dalhousie, for Dalhousie. In contrast, the more common practice is for universities to hire experts from outside the institution to run campus sustainability initiatives.
“Dal faculty got together and said, ‘We need to do something different,’” he says. “And with the support of students and the support of senior admin, we put something together from inside.”
A collaborative approach
While implementing sustainable practices and programs is becoming a hot topic at universities, Prof. Mannell believes there’s often more talk than action. What’s remarkable about Dal, he says, is the level of commitment the school towards making sustainability a reality — both in education and practice.
“The five years of the college and the Office [of Sustainability] being in existence, along with the great work of students and the DSU Sustainability Office, build on many more years of other work in environmental science, development studies, management and other places,” he says. “It’s a long tradition at Dal and we’ve just tried to focus it.” (Fourth-year ESS student Rob MacNeish is at the AASHE conference referencing the DSUSO.)
In addition to receiving the award and presenting the case study at the conference, the college is also collaborating with DSUSO and the Office of Sustainability to present a panel in the near future on the unique Dal collaborative approach to promoting sustainability through the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability and the joint efforts of faculty, staff and students.
Along those lines, Prof. Mannell says credit for the award belongs to the hundreds of faculty members, students and administrative staff who worked together to provide insight, evaluation and feedback on the college.
“It’s really an award to the Dal community for a vision of sustainability.”
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