Tuesday November 1, 2016

Sustainable Impact

The University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute has made a visible, positive impact on the campus and surrounding community in the two years since its launch. Its accomplishments include working with community partners to establish an urban farm on a former vacant lot in East Dayton and collaborating with the University's chief financial officer to create a new revolving green fund for energy-saving improvements to campus operations.

George Hanley '77 and Amanda Hanley established the Institute in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from their foundation and challenged the University to become a national leader for innovation in sustainability education. They will visit Dayton this week to tour the urban agriculture site, Lincoln Hill Gardens, and meet with University students, staff and faculty to discuss the progress of ongoing sustainability efforts.

To date, the Institute has awarded two rounds of faculty scholarship grants totaling $380,000 to teams from the University of Dayton Research Institute, the Schools of Business Administration and Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences. It has hosted sustainability-related conferences and programs including the 2015 Divest-Invest Conference, and co-sponsored recent speaker James Balog, an acclaimed photographer and founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, who spoke last month as part of Sustainability Week and the University Speaker Series.

In addition, the Institute has worked to expand and create sustainability-focused opportunities for faculty development and for students seeking degree programs and experiential-learning and study-abroad experiences. Fifteen new sustainability course proposals from 11 departments received grants.

“The Institute is providing support and leadership in a way that is designed to complement the sustainability education taking place through existing programs and departments,” said Don Pair, College of Arts and Sciences associate dean for interdisciplinary research and experiential initiatives, and acting head of the Institute.

A summary of the Institute’s accomplishments during its first two years can be found on its website, or by following this link (pdf).

This fall, the Institute will launch an international search for its first executive director, who will start in July 2017.

Pair said many of the Institute’s initial successes stem from University partnerships, as well as faculty- and student-led research projects. For example, Lincoln Hill Gardens grew from course work in the sustainability, energy and the environment minor, and existing relationships with East End Community Services and Mission of Mary Cooperative.

Students are involved in every aspect of the Institute’s operation — from staffing and administration to project conception and execution — in keeping with its educational goal.

Meg Maloney, a junior from Chicago who is majoring in environmental biology, was serving as president of the University’s Sustainability Club last year when Pair invited her to join the Institute’s executive committee. As the student representative, she brings her fellow undergraduates’ perspective to strategic planning discussions and also helps raise awareness on campus.

“I am always out on campus gauging what people think about the Hanley Sustainability Institute,” Maloney said. “I like to bring the things that students are talking about into the meetings, because I think that is important.”

Matthew Worsham ’15, a Hanley Institute graduate assistant from Loveland, Ohio, is on the advisory committee for the Green Revolving Fund, an initiative built on a 2012 student-led research project. The University invested $1 million to seed the fund, which encourages the campus community to look at the entire campus as a laboratory and testing grounds for energy-saving ideas. Efforts are underway to match the $1 million and grow it annually.

Worsham, who will receive his master’s degree in renewable and clean energy in May 2017, is working to expand student engagement with the Green Revolving Fund. In the coming weeks he will bring a group of undergraduates to O’Reilly Hall, office of the College dean, to replace the building’s fluorescent lighting with more energy-efficient LED lights. Those students will then use what they’ve learned to similarly upgrade the lighting at the Stuart Residence Complex.

“The goal there is not just to make this an energy-savings campaign, but really to expand engagement throughout the UD community in energy issues — especially bringing in students from outside of the traditional energy or sustainability tracks,” Worsham said.

The Institute also supports the University’s international sustainability efforts, such as funding students Claire Garbsch and Emily Skill’s 10-day service-learning trip to Guatemala with the School of Engineering's ETHOS Center in May. There, the students helped build aquaponics systems for two communities — one to provide food for a boys’ orphanage and another for a 16-year-old girl who will sell the fish and produce it generates to fund her college education.

Aquaponics involves raising both fish and plants together in one integrated system, explained Garbsch, a junior from Cincinnati who is majoring in dietetics. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water in which the fish live.

“You can harvest the fish and harvest the fresh fruits and vegetables, so everything in the system works together and it’s sustainable,” Garbsch said. “Both projects were really rewarding.”

Skill, a fifth-year student from Oakwood, Ohio, who is majoring in geology with a sustainability minor, is an intern at the Hanley Sustainability Institute and a resident assistant for the Sustainability Integrated Learning-Living Community. Last year, she was sustainability chair in the Student Government Association.

Skill said sustainability interest and efforts have noticeably increased among students, staff and faculty since the Hanleys made their generous gift.

“It really prompted a lot of dialogue and interest about the topic,” she said.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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