Minority Serving Institutions Building Green

September 7, 2010

By Felicia Davis, Building Green Program Director, United Negro College Fund

(This article appears in the August, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Institute for Capacity Building has embarked upon an ambitious endeavor to catapult minority-serving colleges and universities into leadership roles in the transition to a sustainable green global economy.  Elevating the critical need for emissions reductions and social, economic and environmental responsibility is central to the mission of higher education institutions.  Energy efficient upgrades, LEED certified building, and interdisciplinary sustainability studies are key elements in campus-wide sustainability efforts.  Minority-serving institutions are in a unique position to make a quantum-leap by embracing and aggressively pursuing carbon-neutral campus infrastructures.  These institutions can turn liabilities, such as older inefficient buildings, into assets by adopting LEED standards for new and existing buildings.  They can lead the way to a sustainable future.

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) in North Carolina, under the leadership of Chancellor Dr. Willie Gilchrist, is the first institution to sign

Above - Felicia Davis presents ESCU Chancellor Willie Gilchrist award as first ACUPCC signatory since start of Building Green initiative

the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) with encouragement and support from the UNCF Building Green Initiative.  The ECSU Center for Green Research and Evaluation has embarked upon a ground-breaking plan to develop a modern, large-scale green economy in rural northeastern North Carolina by cultivating a “triple bottom line” approach to research and community development.  In keeping with the UNCF Building Green Initiative goals, ECSU is forging relationships with organizations – including universities, community colleges, public agencies, businesses, and nonprofit partners – that can help the university accomplish ambitious sustainability goals.  Focused on social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the rural 21 county service area, the ECSU Green Center places the creation of green jobs industries high on the agenda.  Plans to train local workers for jobs retrofitting campus buildings while developing new green industries are high priorities in keeping with the North Carolina Green Economy Initiative.

Spelman College, located in close proximity to the Institute for Capacity Building in Atlanta, generously provides program support on multiple levels.  Spelman Facilities Director Art Frazier and President Beverly Tatum have been instrumental in setting a high standard for HBCUs with the LEED Silver Certification of their new dormitory.  Inspired by the UNCF Building Green Learning Institute held this summer in San Antonio, Dr. Tatum signed the ACUPCC and announced her “Sustainable Spelman” vision for “environmental, personal, and communal” sustainability during her August 26th Convocation address.

Next spring the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building (ICB) will mark its five year anniversary celebrating significant success in addressing the unique challenges confronting small private historically Black colleges and universities.  UNCF ICB enjoys deep relationships with its 39 member institutions and provides results-driven support in the areas of Institutional Advancement, Enrollment Management, Curriculum and Faculty Enhancement, Fiscal and Strategic Technical Assistance, and Executive Leadership and Governance.  The Building Green Initiative is a program of the Facilities and Infrastructure Enhancement Program.

Leveraging partnerships, ICB is extending its reach to include all minority-serving institutions.  The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and American Indian Higher Education Consortium enjoy similar relationships with public Black, Hispanic and Tribal colleges respectively.  These organizations, along with Second Nature, a thought leader accelerating movement toward a sustainable future with a focus on higher education leaders, have partnered with UNCF to implement the Kresge-fundedBuilding Green at Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Initiative.

As a first step in building an MSI green network UNCF hosted a series of three Learning Institutes earlier this year that featured inspirational environmental speakers such as Antonio Flores, Majora Carter, Winona LaDuke, Bob Stanton, Roger Rivera, and Anthony Cortese.   Each Institute featured sessions on energy efficiency and retrofits, financing green building, and historic preservation and sustainability.  Participating institutions are now eligible to compete for one of ten planning grants established to support the development of campus Climate Action Plans.  This fall, Second Nature, Clean Air-Cool Planet, and National Wildlife Federation will conduct workshops addressing climate action planning, greenhouse gas inventory preparation, and other campus sustainability topics.  UNCF has also partnered with Southface to establish a special training series for MSI facility directors.

In addition to providing education, resources, and planning support, UNCF is committed to distributing institutional best practices and highlighting sustainability trends at Minority Serving Institutions.  In collaboration with the Sustainable Endowment Institute UNCF will release an MSI Green Report based upon MSI sustainability survey results.

The UNCF Building Green Initiative enjoys support from industry leaders including HOK and Woodline Solutions, Citigroup, and Grant Capital Management to expand LEED building, green operations and financing support.  In addition to providing the Building Green Training Series and MSI Green Report the initiative will award ten Climate Action Planning grants for Minority Serving Institutions.   Ultimately, the Building Green Initiative seeks to contribute to the development of MSI Green Centers of Excellence.  The Kresge Foundation has provided the opportunity for UNCF to assemble resources needed to galvanize a diverse and innovative community of institutions with a focus on sustainability.  Interested parties are invited to visitwww.UNCFBuildingGreen.info for additional information.

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