Central New Mexico Community College

Central New Mexico Community College supports and promotes a college-wide integration of sustainability concepts into the curriculum. The “Campus as Living Lab” model creates opportunities of communication between departments, and uses a variety of campus facilities to create new and innovative educational opportunities. Community partnership is an essential component of the college’s mission and vision. Central New Mexico Community College strives to be the leader in its community regarding climate change. Across campus, there are seven LEED-certified buildings and four rooftop photovoltaic arrays. These renovations are embedded into the curricula as educational resources, and the college is confident that students will not only learn themselves, but also will spread their knowledge about sustainability to others.

Student Preparedness           

Today’s students demand cross-disciplinary curricula that encourage critical thinking and effective communication skills, especially in the STEM fields. In order to satisfy this need while fulfilling the school’s commitment to the ACUPCC, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) has developed a “Campus as a Living Lab” model that utilizes campus facilities, technologies, renovations, retrofits, events, and other projects to teach current learning outcomes in existing courses in innovative and interesting ways, while integrating sustainability concepts across academic curricula.

What is unique about the model CNM has created is the fact that a faculty member serves as a “liaison” between the Facilities office staff and interested faculty. This has allowed an unprecedented level of communication and collaboration between college departments that traditionally have little or no awareness of one-another. Additionally, the resulting collaboration between and among faculty members has allowed for students to participate in cross-disciplinary academic work. For instance, one of the college’s sustainability goals is to reduce waste, and one of the linked “Campus as a Living Lab” projects is to compost food waste using vermicomposting (worm composting) bins. The Facilities office purchased the bins and faculty are using them to teach students to use microscopes in Biology classes, to conduct research in English classes, to prepare presentations in Communications classes, and to learn about soil production in Geography classes, to name a few.

This emerging model has begun to leverage CNM’s sustainability initiatives by enabling faculty, students, and Facilities staff to work together to create new, innovative educational opportunities.

Climate Innovation

Central New Mexico Community College’s Vision is: “changing lives, building community.” Their Mission is: “to create educational opportunities and community partnerships while pursuing a level of community college excellence that is worthy of local and national recognition.” The Vision and Mission are central to CNM’s efforts to prepare both campus and community to be able to adapt to climate change; CNM strives to be recognized leaders in their community regarding climate change mitigation efforts. Central New Mexico Community College’s role at the moment is to lead by example.

For instance, all new construction and renovation projects at CNM earn LEED certification. Across all CNM campuses there are seven LEED-certified buildings and two more LEED renovation projects on the horizon. Central New Mexico Community College hosts LEED tours of these buildings, bringing students along with other members of the community, into spaces that exhibit the best examples of high-efficiency, environmentally friendly design.

Additionally, CNM participates in the RecycleMania competition, an international competition between colleges and universities to increase recycling rates. Faculty use the RecycleMania competition as a Campus as a Living Lab and Service Learning opportunity, engaging student volunteers and educating community members about the importance of recycling, but also getting them involved by giving them the knowledge and resources they need to be able to educate their families, neighbors, and social networks about Albuquerque’s single-stream recycling initiative.

CNM has attracted substantial press coverage during the last two RecycleMania competitions, which has helped to spread the college’s message to the surrounding community. See www.cnm.edu/about/sustainability for additional information.

Creating Opportunity

Central New Mexico Community College’s CLL program has been central to their recent efforts to conserve energy, increase efficiency, and help to produce clean energy.

In order to reduce energy costs and reliance on fossil fuels, CNM has installed four rooftop photovoltaic arrays, totaling about 190kWh and saving the college almost $800,000 over the lifetime of the panels. These solar panels not only produce electricity, which flows into the local energy grid, but they also serve as educational resources for students.

The School of Adult and General Education (SAGE) utilizes real-time data from an interactive web-based “dashboard” linked to the solar arrays to teach introductory math courses. Technical writing students research solar power in order to write formal proposals to CNM’s Executive Team asking them to support the installation of additional arrays. Chemistry classes use the panels to teach students about electron transfer. Etc.

All of these examples indirectly help to reduce energy use and energy demand in the campus community. Since CNM is a 100% commuter campus, and the average age of CNM’s students is 26-32, most of students have families, jobs, and other community connections. The students take their acquired knowledge with them into their homes and workplaces rather than into dorms and cafeterias. CNM is confident that its students are learning how to reduce resource use and demand during their time at CNM and are spreading that knowledge to others.