Office of the President

October 5, 2018 - Our Commitment to Sustainability Efforts

Dear Campus Community,

I appreciate all who have asked about the future of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), and all who have articulated the importance of the ISD to the University’s mission. By way of this message, I am responding to comments and misperceptions about the campus’s commitment to sustainability. University leadership and I are deeply committed to our climate neutrality pledge and to re-energizing the campus’s progress on sustainability activities that span education, scholarship, service, and practice.

I invite everyone to join me in renewing our focus and commitment to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments from this day forward. After all, sustainability at Chico State is a pillar of our campus culture demonstrated by an enduring commitment to activities that reduce environmental impacts, embrace renewable resources, and promote economic and social equity. Through our efforts, we will focus on reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing community, and preparing students to be knowledgeable citizens who strive to mitigate climate change and build resilient economic and environmental systems. Our contributions to a sustainable future are interdisciplinary. Our trans-divisional progress and our newly strengthened potential have earned us—and will earn us—even greater national recognition and honors as we continue to lead the way within higher education. I expect that sustainability will remain a University priority in the new Strategic Plan and the new physical Master Plan, now and well into the future.

At the same time, I have made it clear to campus that we must work together to maximize the use of our resources and significantly reduce spending from campus reserves. Vice presidents were charged with examining division funding and expenditures, as well as determining ways to best utilize our resources to advance the University mission and strategic priorities. These assessments balanced needs against existing financial resources, current performance and productivity, and the potential for growth. Among the many adjustments made was the reassignment of the two full-time ISD staff positions to areas of great potential while maintaining our commitment to the This Way to Sustainability conference, our General Education pathway and minor in sustainability, the many other courses that include sustainability as a learning outcome, and the externally funded Resilient Cities Initiative and South Campus Neighborhood Project. As announced in an all-campus email from Provost Debra Larson on August 24, the administrative analyst role transitioned to the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (RAI), and the sustainability programs manager role moved to Facilities Management and Services (FMS). A search is currently underway to fill the latter role. These reassignments will enable progress toward our climate neutrality pledge through infrastructure improvements and related practices, and propel us as a world leader in an emerging scholarly and educational area in resilient ecosystems, specifically regenerative agriculture.

I am incredibly excited by these opportunities, as well as upcoming efforts we have planned. Dr. Nate Millard is serving this fall as the interim coordinator for the General Education Sustainability Pathway and its minor. Phase III of the four-phase Resilient Cities Initiative and South Campus Neighborhood Project is nearly done. Faculty Emeritus Jim Pushnik is the principal investigator (PI) on Chico State’s bid for Phase IV funding, bringing the project to completion in spring of 2019. Planning for this year’s This Way to Sustainability conference and the engagement of student conference leaders is well underway. FMS and RAI are working to re-energize the four student clubs of Sustainable Consultations of Office Practices (SCOOP), Green Campus Group, Alternative Transportation, and Eco Reps. The manager and staff of our ecological reserves have been actively exploring ways to contribute to our sustainability efforts through carbon offsets, educational activities, and wildfire mitigation techniques.

Finally, Provost Larson and Interim Chief Financial Officer Jeni Kitchell have reconvened the dormant Campus Sustainability Committee (EM 11-017). The committee’s charge is “to serve in an advisory capacity to all campus departments, colleges, and other entities in an effort to advance environmental, social, and economic sustainability” on campus and to provide “leadership in identifying mechanisms to integrate sustainability concepts into all core functions of the University.” Membership is inclusive of faculty, students, and staff from across the campus and their first meeting is scheduled for October 8. Provost Larson, interim CFO Kitchell, and the committee invite the campus to an open forum on sustainability on November 9 from 2-3 p.m. in Colusa Hall, Room 100 A/B to gather feedback toward supporting existing efforts, promoting interdisciplinary efforts, and establishing new activities. They welcome your ideas about the interdisciplinary leadership role of the Campus Sustainability Committee and transitioning the ISD to a self-sustaining structure.

In the meantime, moving staff positions from ISD to the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative and FMS is helpful in the following ways:

  • Although we have made some progress on the Climate Action Plan, there is much more work to be done. The sustainability programs manager will have ties to Academic Affairs while working closely with Mike Guzzi, the director of FMS who is also a Professional Civil Engineer, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), and Certified Energy Manager, as well as working with other members of FMS responsible for overseeing the reduction of our carbon emissions and implementing more environmentally sustainable operations on campus. This individual will work to keep our campus dashboards up to date and report to Second Nature on progress we make on our Climate Action Plan.
  • RAI, under the leadership of Cindy Daley, is gaining momentum and national recognition, thereby attracting potential partners and benefactors. Provost Larson has given the RAI three years to become self-sustaining with external funding, and she expects the initiative to accrue additional resources for the benefit of other campus sustainability efforts. RAI presents an important opportunity for campus and our sustainability efforts. RAI is developing a sustainable model that may be replicated by other faculty-led initiatives on campus.

Although we have witnessed many successes with our sustainability efforts, our efforts have lagged since about 2015. It is the right time to renew and revitalize our sustainability pledge and step up our actions. You have my sincere commitment to environmental, economic, and social sustainability and resilient systems. Please join me in taking our sustainability efforts to the next level and strengthening our position as a leader within higher education.

Gayle E. Hutchinson