Friday, September 19, 2014

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U.Va. Vies for Another Sustainability Title

The University of Virginia has been named to the “Sustainable 16,” a list of colleges and universities applauded for their environmental academics and sustainability practices.

The schools also make up the field of the “Environmental March Madness Tournament,” an NCAA Tournament-style competition designed to evaluate colleges and universities on environmental degree programs and curriculum, environmental opportunities for students and campus sustainability efforts. Participating schools will be winnowed down to an “Environmental Eight,” “Finest Four,” and finally to the “National Champion.”

The “Sustainable 16” was selected by a team of judges put together by Enviance Inc., in partnership with GreenBiz Group and Qualtrics. Enviance is an environmental software company, Qualtrix provides an online survey platform and GreenBiz Group is an environmental media company.

Faculty and students at the participating schools are encouraged to support their entries with short essays, social media or video submissions on why they should be named “National Champion.” The entries are due by March 8. The “Environmental Eight” will be announced March 22.

“I am pleased that we have made it into the Sustainable 16,” said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator for U.Va.’s Facilities Management. “And I am sure we will be going much further into the process with the array of sustainability initiatives we have at U.Va.”

The other schools, which were not ranked, are: Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Emory University, George Mason University, Michigan State University, Middlebury College, Montana State University, Ohio State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of the Pacific, the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The national champion will receive $5,000 and a faculty member will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to San Diego to lead a panel on educating future environmental professionals at a conference in April. Two students with the most compelling supporting materials and tournament participation at the “Finest Four” level will receive Google Nexus tablets.

“The next step will be promotion in social media,” Morris said. “And they have asked for some specific data supporting our sustainability efforts, such as course descriptions, videos and more in-depth information.”

Sustainability employee Rosemary Han found the contest.

“After reading that it was a competition to find the top colleges and universities that have demonstrated commitment to sustainable practices and success in environmental academics, I knew U.Va. had a shot in the competition,” Han said.

Han, of Richmond, is a French and religious studies double major in the College of Arts & Sciences who graduated in December and is now a temporary worker at the University.

“I pulled together a lot of information for the initial application, including information about our sustainable practices and activities as a university and a summary of the types of degrees, research opportunities and innovative faculty at U.Va. who are committed to environmental studies/sustainability,” she said.

The University is also competing in the RecycleMania challenge, where it is defending its “Gorilla Prize” in Virginia. Several U.Va. departments have been recognized by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as “Exemplary Environmental Enterprises,” and the University has received numerous environmental citations during the past several years.

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