The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been selected to receive a 2014 Climate Leadership Award by Second Nature, a national nonprofit that works to create a healthy, just and sustainable society by transforming higher education.
The awards are presented annually to the signatory institutions of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) that demonstrate innovative and advanced leadership in education for sustainability and climate mitigation and adaptation. The university’s nomination for the Climate Leadership Award was based in part on the in-depth climate-related research taking part on the campus and the university’s efforts to infuse sustainability across its curriculum, encourage student-led sustainability projects and investigations, and build partnerships that foster sustainability in its community.
“We are truly honored to receive the 2014 Climate Leadership Award,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “Sustainability plays an increasingly prominent role in the curriculum at UMass Amherst, and the true reward of a commitment to sustainability is the awareness it creates among UMass Amherst students, and the numerous real-world solutions to climate challenges that they will develop in the years to come.”
This year, the award program’s fifth, drew the most competitive pool of nominations to date. The winners were among 20 finalists chosen by Second Nature’s board in five Carnegie categories that represent the diversity of higher education institutions across the U.S.UMass Amherst was chosen as co-winner with Western Michigan University in the category of Doctoral Granting Institutions. There are currently 684 colleges and universities that have signed the Climate Commitment.
UMass Amherst signed the ACUPCC in December 2007, and approved a Climate Action Plan in 2010 to identify strategies to help the campus reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Since that time the university has gone on to receive multiple state and federal recognitions for its green campus operations, sustainable dining, and sustainability focused research and academics. Some of these recognitions included winning the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge for the university’s on-campus permaculture gardens, being honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its waste and recycling efforts, and receiving a six million dollar grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy in support of the campus’s energy research.
To date, more than one-third of all majors at UMass Amherst now offer opportunities to learn and practice sustainability across disciplines, with courses taught by faculty members who are passionate about changing society and protecting the environment. In addition to maintaining one of the largest student Eco-Rep programs in the country, the university also oversees a Sustainability Curriculum Initiative program, which supports teaching faculty interested in revising existing courses to include or augment sustainability topics by addressing the interconnections between economy, society and environment.
Alongside these green curricular efforts, UMass Amherst continues to oversee a number of nationally recognized climate-related research programs including the Northeast Climate Science Center, the Wind Energy Center, and the newly formed Energy Extension Initiative, which will focus on promoting the adoption of renewable energy technology and energy efficiency activities across the state of Massachusetts.
“The United States National Climate Assessment demonstrates that human-driven climate change is no longer a problem for the future—it has moved firmly into the present as campuses and communities across the country increasingly feel its impacts. There is much more work to be done as we prepare to live in the climate of the future,” said David Hales, president of Second Nature. “More than ever, higher education has a critical role to play as this year’s Climate Leadership Award winners demonstrate with their leadership and exemplary actions.”
More information about UMass Amherst’s sustainability initiatives, including its Climate Action Plan, can be found at www.umass.edu/sustainability.