|November 21, 2002
Volume 33 Number 7
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Our Vision and Mission: Connecting pieces of the puzzle to make CSU, Chico a green campus
Scott G. McNall
Everyone puts a jigsaw puzzle together in her or his own unique way. Some assemble the border first, while others work on a recognizable figure or structure. Even if the puzzle is complex, eventually, everything comes together: clusters of colors and shapes are joined; we find the missing piece on the floor; we connect the last pieces of the border. The result is pleasing because out of many little pieces we have created something that is coherent.
We are now very close to joining together pieces of programs, land acquisitions, research, and service efforts, which will allow the university to increase its distinction. Those pieces add up to a portrait of a "green" campus, one dedicated to preservation and study of the environment; one committed to academic programs which sustain that effort; and one committed to preserving the quality of life that draws faculty, staff, and students to this community. Let me identify and describe the pieces of the puzzle and explain what we can do.
Academic programs. We now have bachelor's and master's degrees in environmental sciences. Faculty contribute courses and expertise from the Colleges of Natural Science; Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology; Behavioral and Social Sciences; Agriculture; and Communication and Education. For eight years, when there has been faculty recruitment in these colleges, we have asked, "How would this hire contribute to the development and expansion of courses and research in the area of environmental sciences?" The result has been that many new positions have contributed to this cross-disciplinary effort. We also have a minor in environmental studies, with the majority of the courses being offered in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Growing interest in environmental studies will probably result in a major in environmental studies to complement the major in environmental sciences.
Research. We have recruited new faculty and staff who contribute to the growth of research on the environment. For example, we have a Water Quality Laboratory, which supports faculty and student research in agriculture, engineering, and the natural sciences. Last year, new laboratories were funded in the College of Natural Sciences to expand opportunities for environmental research. The Bidwell Environmental Research Institute was created in 2000 to integrate environmental work across campus, to identify funding opportunities, and to help faculty and staff implement their research agenda. As a result, $5.5 million in environmental research took place on this campus last year. Students have significant opportunities to work with faculty whose career focus is environmental research.
The preserves. We are fortunate to have not only a beautiful campus, but also a significant preserve system established to create living laboratories. These preserves provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and student research, and they connect to our local community in a positive way. Our three major preserves are the Eagle Lake Field Station; the 80-acre Honey Run Preserve, 15 minutes from campus; and the 4,000-acre Big Chico Creek Preserve, which is about 20 minutes away and connects valley ecosystems to those in the Sierra Nevada. Those people responsible for managing these resources are doing an excellent job to ensure that faculty, students, and staff who are interested in the environment and want to link their research to the preserves are able to do so.
The community. In acquiring the preserves, we were clearly concerned about the community. We took the opportunity, through public and private funding, to set aside 4,000 acres that would not be developed -- the goal was to protect and preserve the environment that makes this community a special place to live. The acquisition of the land was also designed to provide an opportunity for K - 12 teachers who look for opportunities to deepen their students' knowledge and experience of the world in which we live. Thanks to faculty and staff efforts, we are successful, although we want to expand our efforts. To better manage the land, to make it accessible in appropriate ways, we need to secure an endowment for the preserves, and we are working on that.
New buildings. We are working to find funds for a new classroom and laboratory on the Big Chico Creek Preserve. One goal is to create a "green" building, i.e., one that does not create waste, is energy efficient, and uses solar power as its chief source of energy. This building can stand as a demonstration project for other buildings, both new buildings and remodels, on campus. Our long-term goal, then, in recognition of impending climate change that will impact the world's ecosystems, is to find ways to reduce the campus's use of carbon-based fuels.
The completed puzzle. We have a happy conjunction of events and individual commitments that can add up to something very special. We have faculty and staff research and teaching programs that can support continued development of environmental studies and the environmental sciences. We have an associated students organization that has a long interest in environmental projects. We have community leaders who care about the environment and especially about the university. We have faculty whose research interests lie in the changing nature of ecosystems and the impact of these changes on society. My colleagues, Dennis Graham and Paul Moore, have a personal interest in this topic and are responsible for programs that would help us move toward becoming a green campus. After consultation with President Esteban and with his encouragement, the three of us will form a small task force to begin discussions about how to realize our vision and mission. I know that many of you will want to participate in this effort, and I look forward to hearing from you.
We cannot become a green campus overnight, but we can and should set a target date and work systematically toward this goal.
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