In furthering its commitment to both environmental and economic sustainability, Pacific University is launching a collaborative center for its students, faculty, staff and community partners.
The Center for a Sustainable Society will open July 1 and be directed by retiring College of Arts & Sciences Dean John Hayes, who will transition to the new role in a part-time capacity.
"The center will strengthen the university's longstanding commitment to sustainability, as articulated in the Vision 2020 strategic plan," Hayes said.
A staunch proponent of environmental sustainability, Hayes has guided the college to unprecedented growth during his nine years at Pacific that began in 2003.
During his tenure, enrollment grew by one-third, and several new undergraduate majors were added, in addition to an acclaimed Master of Fine Arts in Writing program.
Hayes holds a doctorate in biochemistry (Purdue '71) and is experienced in the development of alternative energy sources. He served for many years on the board of the American Solar Energy Society, including a stint as vice chair.
Sustainability is a key pillar of the university's mission, and Hayes said the center would build on numerous recent successes in this area.
In early 2007, Pacific launched a university-wide initiative to “green” campus offices. More than 150 Pacific employees joined together in a grass-roots effort to modify habits and adopt more eco-friendly practices throughout the institution.
Pacific's business decisions have also incorporated sustainability. All construction since 2003, six buildings in all, have earned LEED certification for sustainable design and functionality. Additionally, the university has partnered with both cities to install electric car charging stations near the Forest Grove and Hillsboro campuses.
Pacific's administration determined that a dedicated office could best utilize resources toward this goal by centralizing current and future initiatives.
"The center will be the catalyst to further cultivate sustainability within the institution's academic curriculum, as well as all facets of university life and business, both on and off campus," Hayes said.
He added that the center would actively seek to expand existing partnerships and form new ones to ensure students continue to have collaborative opportunities within the university's mission of teaching and learning.
"In staying true to civic engagement, another of the university's pillars, the Center for a Sustainable Society will foster a value of sustainability throughout our academic departments and the community," he said.
"It will also serve as a resource to assist the university's administrative departments and external partner organizations in developing and maximizing sustainable practices."
An existing partnership between the University and multiple organizations, including METRO, has resulted in Pacific's B Street Permaculture project, an environmentally friendly farm in which students and local residents grow and harvest produce among other things.
Terry O'Day, professor and project director, sees the new center as an entity that can help bring both internal and external partners closer together.
"A dedicated center will foster even better synergy both within university departments and with outside partners," O'Day said.
In addition to METRO, Hayes said likely partners would include other government agencies — including the cities of Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Hillsboro — as well as entities such as schools, Clean Water Services, regional businesses and social justice organizations. The objective, Hayes said, is to make the region one of the most sustainable in the country.
That goal starts with continued focus on the university's inner workings.
Ramona Ilea, associate professor of philosophy and chair of the university's Sustainability Committee, said the university recently evaluated itself using the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE)'s rating system and received a bronze rating.
"The rating indicates the University is headed in the right direction, while also showing us the necessary steps we must take to be among the gold-rated institutions," she said. "The Center for a Sustainable Society demonstrates the University administration's commitment to reaching that level."
Another newly approved initiative that is likely to increase the university's rating is the installation of a number of sortable recycling bins on the Forest Grove Campus. The development of an award that recognizes an academic or administrative department for excellence in sustainable practices has also been approved to take effect next year.
"The continuing partnership between Pacific University and the City of Forest Grove is further evidenced by this commitment to sustainability on behalf of the University," Forest Grove mayor Pete Truax said. "The wider community of Northwest Oregon will benefit greatly from this leadership supplied by Pacific and Dr. Hayes."