University of Dayton joins Second Nature commitment affirming higher ed’s role in shaping climate-resilient communities

By Shaw Robinson

University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina signed Second Nature’s Resilience Commitment focused on climate adaptation and community-building to address a changing climate and resulting extremes.

“In lockstep with the commitment, we believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by providing the knowledge, research, practice and informed graduates to create a positive and sustainable future,” said Paul Benson, UD provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. “Together, these commitments challenge the University to take meaningful action through our planning processes to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to collaborate with other organizations in the Miami Valley in planning for climate resilience.”

“Climate resilience” is a term widely used to refer to the capacity of social, political, economic and ecological systems to adapt, reorganize and transform in the face of a changing climate, according to Benson.

“We recognize that mitigation and adaptation are complementary strategies for reducing the likelihood of unmanageable change, managing the risks, and taking advantage of new opportunities created by our changing climate,” Second Nature writes in its climate leadership statement.

The University’s first step toward affirming this commitment is to form a universitywide council that will oversee development and implementation of climate action and resilience planning — the UD Climate Action, Resilience, and Environmental Sustainability (CARES) Council.

“As the commitment states, technology, infrastructure, global interconnectedness, and our greatest asset — engaged, committed, smart students — allow us to explore bold and innovative solutions, and to lead in climate action and sustainable solutions,” Spina said. “This body should be empowered with the authority necessary to implement the carbon and resilience commitments, and should include high-level participants who have the ability to enact elements of the plan.”

Chaired by Spina and supported by Vice Chair Ben McCall, executive director of the Hanley Sustainability Institute, the council includes representatives from academic affairs, finance, student development, the office for mission, university advancement, facilities, marketing and communications, the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community and the student government association.

“As UD celebrates this fall another top-20 ranking as one of Sierra’s ‘cool schools,’ we remain mindful of the importance of continuing to make substantial, well-planned progress toward fulfilling our climate leadership commitments,” Benson said. “This will require focused attention and continued collaboration from every corner of the University.”

UD also is part of Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment; “We’re Still In,” which supports climate action to meet the Paris Agreement; the Global Catholic Climate Movement; and the U.N. Global Compact — the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. UD is the only Ohio college or university part of Second Nature’s carbon and resilience commitments.

The University of Dayton is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the nation, according to The Princeton Review Guide to 399 Green Colleges.

The University also has a gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE); its score ranks in the top 3 percent of all rated schools, first in Ohio, and second among all U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. The University earned perfect or near perfect marks for academic research; diversity and affordability; sustainability coordination and planning; purchasing and public engagement; and innovation and leadership.

The AASHE 2019 Sustainable Campus Index lists the University of Dayton among its top performers in the categories of research and purchasing. UD is one of just three Ohio institutions listed as a top performer in any category.

This spring, the University of Dayton board of trustees approved bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in sustainability, which students can start this academic year. The majors add to UD’s related academic offerings that include a minor in sustainability, a 12-credit-hour graduate certificate in sustainability and a master’s program in renewable and clean energy.

Many of the University’s sustainability education initiatives received a boost in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation. The largest single gift in University history also established the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

Read more about the University of Dayton’s sustainability initiatives in its complete STARS report.

For more information or interviews, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at 937-229-3391 or [email protected].

Source: University of Dayton News