Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC)
Environmental Literacy Workgroup
Workgroup Overview :
With approximately 20,000 students located at the UConn Storrs campus alone, the University of Connecticut is aware more than ever of its impact on the local environment and has therefore increased its efforts to educate students, faculty, and staff regarding their daily impact upon important natural resources. To further these efforts, the Environmental Literacy Workgroup strives to identify areas of improvement in environmental awareness and education, as well as to advertise and promote environmental leadership and community efforts throughout the UConn community. Through the addition of academic courses, hosting environmental speakers series and "green" career panels, and developing numerous additional environmental outreach and education events, we continue to make UConn an institute of environmental stewardship and progress.
2008-2009 Workgroup Initiatives:
- Establishment of an environmentally themed first-year learning community - "EcoHouse".
- Continuation of efforts to develop an Environmental Studies academic program option for undergraduate students.
- Develop educational recommendations, which will increase awareness and understanding of climate change and the principles of environmental sustainability, for inclusion in the University’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).
2008-2009 Teams of the EL Workgroup:
Addressing "High Priority" Initiatives
- Environmental Learning Community ("Eco-House") Team.
Through a collaboroative effort with the Office of First Year Programs and Residential Life, a new environmental learning community is in the works. The community will be focused around themes of environmental awareness and sustainability both at UConn and within the greater community. Initially, it will be open to first year students from all academic disciplines in order to foster an exchange of diverse perspectives and ideas. Incoming freshmen are always seeking ways to get involved on campus and this learning community will give them a chance to learn, work, and socialize with students who share their passion for the environment from day one. A pilot version of this community will be operational beginning fall 2009!
- Environmental Studies Team. Development of an Environmental Studies program (actual format - e.g. certificate, undergraduate major, etc. - to be determined). Currently the University of Connecticut offers a minor in Environmental Studies, but students looking to pursue Environmental Studies or Environmental Policy at the major level must go through the Individualized and Interdisciplinary Studies Program. As a result of an initiative spear-headed by Professor Tim Byrne, the university may soon offer students an official option for majoring or receiving a certification in these fields.
- Climate Action Plan - Educational Component Team. During the 2008-2009 academic year, a team of University faculty, staff and students will be charged with overseeing the Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC) requirement that goals related to academics, research, and outreach be incorporated into the University's Climate Action Plan (CAP). The team will be responsible for ensuring a seamless blending of any education-based CAP components developed and the current Academic Plan.
Ongoing Survey Measures Success of Environmental Awareness Efforts:
A campus-wide student environmental awareness survey was designed in 2004 to gauge student awareness on current environmental issues, particularly those issues directly related to the University. Respondents expressed their opinions and views on campus-driven initiatives, perceived advances in sustainability, and proposed areas for improvement. The results of the survey are used as a tool to help guide and improve the Environmental Literacy Workgroup's focus and success.
During the spring of 2005, surveying efforts were expanded to include faculty and staff perceptions of the university's environmental progress. The new survey gauged faculty and staff interest in each of the focus areas (at that time) of the workgroup, as well as several program initiatives, to determine which programs the workgroup should concentrate on during the upcoming academic year.
The next survey is scheduled for the spring of 2010.
Past EL-Related Initiatives and Events at UConn*
Hillside Environmental Education Park (HEEP).
Due to the hardwork of past EPAC Land Use and Sustainable Development members, the University of Connecticut now has its own on-campus natural "jewel." The HEEP provides a convenient and rich landscape for student research projects or to supplement in-class coursework.
In the fall of 2007, the state DEP approved a Remedial Action Plan to close the UConn landfill and former chemical pits and remove leachate-contaminated sediments from wetlands located along the landfill perimeter. These actions, along with associated wetlands mitigation projects and long-term groundwater monitoring program, will provide a sustainable solution to the site’s past environmental problems. A permit for the closure of the landfill required the University to establish a permanent 64-acre preservation area adjacent to and north of the former dump site/current parking lot and parallel to North Hillside Road. The area is mostly wooded, connects to a town-owned nature preserve and includes a large wetlands system with a Great Blue Heron rookery. Working with professor Kristin Schwab and her students in the Landscape Architecture program, UConn developed and implemented plans for a nature park that include hiking trails, boardwalks and observation decks, with educational signs describing diverse ecosystems. Whether its for research or pleasure we encourage you to visit the HEEP today!
- Organization of the Focus the Nation teach-in. During the last week of January 2008, UConn participated in Focus the Nation, a national climate change awareness and education event. Between the teach-in components and associated events, over 3000 UConn students, faculty, staff, and community members participated
- More than 50 faculty participated in the climate change teach-in by reserving their class period for that week for a discussion of climate change within the context of their discipline.
- A free showing of the new environmental documentary "The 11th Hour"
- A national webcast entitled "The 2% Solution"
- A faculty panel discussion about what UConn's role as an institution in higher education should be in addressing climate change.
- November Climate Change Conference. On November 1, 2007, University members, Mansfield town residents, and state and town officials met to discuss the science and policy of climate change. More than 130 people attended the conference and the level of discussion indicated a large support base for sustainability initiatives. Panelists, including EPAC faculty members, Kathleen Segerson, Richard Parnas and Michael Willig, gave lectures relating disciplines from the physical and social sciences to the topic of global climate change, and poster exhibits from UConn graduate students, environmental non-profit groups, and state and town officials were also on display. Lynn Stoddard, of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, concluded the event with an encouraging presentation about state and individual action. To view pictures, presentations, and abstracts click here.
Environmental Leadership Awards Recognize “Champions and Change Agents.” During UConn’s Earth Day celebrations during April 2007, well-deserving students, faculty, staff members and others were bestowed biennial Environmental Leadership Award (ELA) plaques and special recognition certificates. The ELA ceremony recognizes individuals and teams who have truly gone beyond the call of duty in their efforts to raise environmental awareness and promote a “greener,” more sustainable UConn.
- Academic Colloquium - Our World: The Environment. In late Spring of 2007, Provost Peter Nicholls convened the “Academic Plan Implementation Colloquium – Our World: The Environment.” Approximately 40 faculty members from a wide range of academic departments gathered to develop innovative proposals and potential action items for research, teaching, and outreach designed to enhance environmental awareness and educational offerings at UConn. These proposals were focused on the four main themes outlined in the new Academic Plan: Understanding Human Impacts on the Environment, Cleaner Technologies, Environmental Policy, and Urban Issues. The colloquium was chaired by EPAC members, Eric Schultz (EEB) and Kathy Segerson (Economics), who have participated in similar discussions over the years as members of EPAC’s Environmental Literacy Workgroup. A common theme raised during prior EPAC workgroup meetings and among colloquium breakout groups, was the need for an environmental studies major at UConn. As always, this precipitated plenty of discussion about how best to establish such an interdisciplinary program within the University’s existing academic framework.
- Environmental Expressions literary contest. Environmental Expressions was a student literacy contest held in the Fall 2006. Students were encouraged to submit short essays, poems, quotations, slogans, and photographs that supported themes of environmental sustainability and an appreciation of UConn’s natural surroundings. Participation was strongest in the category of photography, with more than 80 photographs submitted. Contest winners received cash prizes in addition to gift certificates and merchandise donated from area businesses. Winning photographs, poems and lyrics have also been used throughout the UConn Office of Environmental Policy website.
- An Environmental Career Panel was organized in cooperation with the Career Services center on campus.
- In June 2005, the Environmental Literacy Workgroup met to discuss the results from the first Environmental Awareness survey distributed in 2004. From these results, the workgroup began the planning process to implement some of the most popular suggested initiatives:
- Development of an environmental policy speakers bank.
- Establishment of a Sustainability and Environmental Policy Center to the Office of Environmental Policy.
- A Residential Life Awareness campaign including a section of the website devoted specifically to providing environmentally-related ideas and resources for UConn Community Assistants.
- Hosting an on-campus screening of The Day After Tomorrow and information booths on Global Warming (September 9, 2004).
- Organized an annual location for the Society for College & University Planning (SCUP) national Campus Sustainability Day (November 4-5, 2005).
- Promoted environmentally-related general education course development through lectures and workshops in coordination with the Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL)
- Philosophy professor, Len Krimmerman developed a new interdisciplinary course with his Philosophy 200 Honors students: Global & Local Environmental Problems, Prospects, and Solutions (GALEPPS)
- Developed several website components to further environmental literacy and to encourage students to pursue environmental plans of study and careers. Webpages targeting increased student involvement include the Scholarships & Internships webpage and the Majors & Minors webpage.
Not all of these initiatives were carried out under the direct leadership of the EL workgroup. The intiatives presented here are meant to provide a 'big picture' of environmental literacy efforts carried out at the University of Connecticut in affiliation with the Office of Environmental Policy and/or the Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC). Wherever possible, credit has been given to the individuals primarily responsible for the development and oversight of the efforts.
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Page last updated 10/01/2008