UNCF Building Green Helps Minority-Serving Institutions Achieve Sustainability Objectives

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By Felicia Davis, Director, Facilities & Infrastructure Enhancement, Institute for Capacity Building, United Negro College Fund
(This article appears in the September, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The UNCF Building Green at Minority-Serving Institutions Initiative has emerged as the coordinating collective for sustainability efforts targeting historically black, tribal, Hispanic-serving and Asian American Pacific Islander, public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities. This visionary Initiative is funded by the Kresge Foundation and has been strategically supported by our partners. The Building Green Initiative partnership includes the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Second Nature. The Initiative also works with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Asian American Pacific Islander College Fund and American Association of Community Colleges SEED program to advance campus-wide sustainability at minority-serving institutions.

Increasing signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and LEED building are two specific program objectives. The Building Green Initiative hosts learning institutes, workshops and webinars that provide education and training for administrators, faculty and students engaged in advancing campus sustainability. UNCF seeks opportunities to partner in ways that leverage available resources to build capacity within partner organizations and their membership as a core partnership principle and Initiative goal.

In January 2012 the Building Green Initiative will enter its third year and is working to establish goals, objectives and funding for the next phase. During phase one of the program, 16 new Minority Serving Institutions signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Working with Second Nature to increase MSI signatories and following up with new and prospective signatories, we have determined that it is critical to establish a foundation or “institutional readiness” for advancing sustainability initiatives as a first step on the sustainability path. It is also important to educate campus leadership about the goals, expectations and costs associated with becoming a signatory to the ACUPCC. This will help to ensure that the university goals and timelines are in alignment with ACUPCC reporting requirements when the Commitment is signed.Presently MSIs outperform other institutions in compliance with reporting; however, many small MSIs lack the staff and resources to allocate to fulfilling ACUPCC requirements. UNCF is working to create a preparatory program that will enhance institutional readiness that also leads to signing and fulfillment of ACUPCC expectations. We are also working to provide comprehensive support enabling MSIs to move beyond existing obstacles and develop sustainability goals that are consistent with overall institutional priorities.

When queried about the highest priority needs for advancing campus sustainability, other than funding for building upgrades, the ability to hire sustainability staff was most often mentioned. Placement of fellows, providing training, and small grants are options under consideration for phase two of the Building Green Initiative. Significant challenges to this goal are financing and technical expertise. UNCF is participating on the ACUPCC Financing Sustainability Committee and has established a Technical Assistance Collaborative and a financing workgroup in an effort to identify solutions.

In addition to program components designed to provide institutional support and build capacity for sustainability activities, UNCF will continue to recognize MSIs for their sustainability efforts. Building Green Initiative partners are also encouraged to recognize sustainability leaders within their respective memberships. It is important to increase the value of campus sustainability beyond campus boundaries. UNCF will coordinate media outreach to ensure maximum visibility for MSI ACUPCC signatories and promote signing the ACUPCC within MSI media and networks.