Dr. Joseph Seabrooks, President, Cedar Valley College; Dr. Maria Boccalandro, Director of the Sustainable Communities Institute; Meghan Fay Zahniser, AASHE's Executive Director
(Dallas) – Cedar Valley College has won two awards from two different organizations for its efforts to create sustainable communities.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education announced on Sun., Oct. 9, that Cedar Valley had won the AASHE Campus Sustainability Achievement Award. Separately, the American Association of Community Colleges announced that the college had received the Green Genome Award in the community engagement category.
Practicing sustainability in all areas
Dr. Maria Boccalandro, director of the Sustainable Communities Institute at Cedar Valley, said the award from AASHE is particularly significant because the college was competing against more than 1,000 two- and four-year institutions, including universities that often have dedicated research groups and more funding. Cedar Valley, she said, won the Achievement Award based on the college’s comprehensive approach to sustainability.
"All schools in the Dallas County Community College District have four strategic goals," Boccalandro said. "We added a fifth: sustainability. We embedded sustainability in all other goals: student and employee success; institutional effectiveness; and community engagement."
"Our vision is sustainability in practice. We have very concrete practices on campus to become more sustainable. Those practices include quality of life, social justice, efficient buildings and stewardship of our natural environment," Boccalandro added.
Boccalandro stated that the college created various sustainability initiatives, including the Green Cord Program, which focuses on embedding sustainability practices throughout the entire curricula – approximately 200 green courses to date. The faculty-led program certifies instructors as "green," and students who take three "green" courses get a green cord when they graduate.
"I am delighted to see such distinguished and hard-working sustainability leaders recognized as AASHE Sustainability Award winners," said Meghan Fay Zahniser, AASHE’s executive director. "They are truly pioneering the campus sustainability movement, and their achievements represent big wins for our community."
Getting the community involved
In addition, the college offers the Living Lab Initiatives, a program led by the American Association of Community Colleges and the Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center. Under this initiative, the Sustainable Communities Institute at Cedar Valley works with faculty and facilities to look for areas where the campus can improve environmentally.
Cedar Valley was one of nine colleges that won the Green Genome Award in the community engagement category from AACC, which focuses on economic development within communities. Boccalandro said AACC saw that the college went beyond the curricula and Living Lab Initiatives by involving the region, including southern Dallas and northern Ellis counties.
Boccalandro said Cedar Valley and its community partners are actively involved in figuring out how to improve the quality of life in that area and how to prepare people for jobs, particularly in green careers.
"We started talking about sustainable development in the region," Boccalandro stated. "And we considered what types of jobs we can leverage in the area to preserve and enhance the environment as well as how to improve clean air and water now and in the future.
"The beauty of sustainability is that everybody can participate, whether you’re two years old or 100 years old; whether you have a doctorate or you’re a kindergarten student," said Boccalandro. "It’s about being better stewards of the resources we have."
Making sustainability a college effort
Boccalandro said sustainability has been a college-wide goal: "We have strong leadership and clear, strategic goals that focus exclusively on sustainability."
Dr. Joseph Seabrooks, who became president of Cedar Valley in September, applauded the institution’s sustainability efforts and the awards the school received.
"As the new president of Cedar Valley College, I am highly impressed that sustainability has been institutionalized through the vision and leadership displayed over the past several years," Seabrooks said. "These national awards recognize the strong commitment by our campus to a sustainable future and doing the right thing for our students and community. It means the world to us."
Boccalandro said the next phase for the school will be to make "sustainability sustainable" and to make Cedar Valley a "net zero" campus.
For more information about Cedar Valley’s sustainability projects, send an email to Boccalandro at firstname.lastname@example.org.