Three representatives from the Middlebury College community participated in this year’s Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference and Expo in Nashville, TN. The conference took place in the Music City Convention Center which is working to achieve a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating. 1800 students, faculty, staff, and administrators from the US and abroad, attended the three-day conference, which focused on the theme of Resiliency & Adaptation.
Raj Patal, author, journalist, and food policy expert, kicked off the conference with his keynote address reminding the audience to “Break one small rule everyday.” These words set the tone for the days that followed. Presentations, speeches, and discussions focused on a range of topics that defied convention and presumptions. Themes included investing in energy efficiency through Green Revolving Funds, ecomusicology, and the expressive arts in sustainability.
Members of Middlebury College contributed to this multifaceted conference by sharing Middlebury’s environmental and sustainability story through a variety of presentations.
Jack Byrne, Middlebury Director of Sustainability Integration, facilitated two well-attended sessions. The first, “Turning the Campus Into a Living Laboratory via the Classroom and the Boardroom” explored the practice of bringing sustainability issues to the decision making level by facilitating connections between the administration and students. Byrne reflected on Middlebury’s own practice, which evolved over the past 20 years through trial and occasional error.
Byrne, along with Middlebury College Professor of Psychology, Michelle McCauley, and Skidmore College Associate Professor of Marketing, Elzbieta Lepkowska-White, presented, “Faculty Development Workshops: Planning, Implementation & Outcomes.” The panel discussion focused on Middlebury and Skidmore’s experiences in offering faculty development workshops for sustainability. McCauley shared the findings from an assessment of the workshops’ impact on Middlebury faculty teaching and research over the past four years.
Middlebury Sustainability Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Avery McNiff, presented on the panel, “Sharing your Sustainability Story: the Role of Communications” along with panelists from Oberlin College, Tufts University, Northwestern, and North Carolina State University. The panel focused on the role of a “sustainability communicator” on campus and shared effective methods for storytelling through writing, visual communication, dialogue, and social media.
“As in the past several years," said Byne, "this year’s conference reflected the growth and viability of sustainability frameworks in higher education, as evidenced by the participation of young, professional and very passionate attendees.”