Drake University President David Maxwell announced today the University has joined Planet Forward, a new consortium of colleges and universities dedicated to highlighting issues of sustainability through story-telling and student engagement. The consortium’s other four founding members are George Washington University, Middlebury College, the University of Arizona, and Sewanee University of the South. The consortium is based at George Washington University.
Planet Forward will promote and encourage discussion around members’ initiatives to tackle challenging global issues in the areas of energy, climate, and sustainability. Drake’s partnership with the organization will propel the University’s existing sustainability efforts through enhanced student learning and collaborative opportunities, Maxwell said.
“Planet Forward’s efforts are inspiring because they bring educated, passionate people together to engage some of our toughest and most pressing global issues,” Maxwell said. “As individuals, and as a campus, we can make significant environmental contributions. But in collaboration with others we can accomplish much more—and ensure that our graduates are prepared to be responsible global citizens.”
Drake has made major strides in campus environmental sustainability in recent years. The University’s Climate Action Plan, approved in June 2013, lays out Drake’s path to carbon neutrality by 2050. The University banned sales of plastic water bottles in summer 2013 after students lobbied for the restriction. Tray-less dining and single-stream recycling are two other relatively recent initiatives designed to reduce waste.
Drake has a thriving environmental science and policy program through which students explore connections between science, policy, economics, and society. Students collaborate with professors on research opportunities related to habitat restoration, land management, water quality, and other local issues. The University is also home to the Drake Environmental Action League, a student-run organization that promotes environmental stewardship through educational outreach programs.
“Iowa is a critical crossroads for politics, agriculture, and climate programs, and Drake has one of the premier environmental science programs in the state,” said David Courard-Hauri, director of Drake’s environmental science and policy program. “But our students often find it difficult to recognize the full extent to which they’re making an impact. This partnership will allow them to share ideas, teach them to communicate more effectively the purpose and results of their work, and to feel a greater sense of accomplishment.”
Drake Law School is home to the Agricultural Law Center, which has a 31-year history of legal research and policy action promoting better food and agriculture systems. The center’s projects include Greater Des Moines Buy Fresh Buy Local, which promotes the sale and consumption of local foods.
As part of Planet Forward, Drake and other member institutions will send students to the April 2015 Planet Forward Summit in Washington, D.C. Partnering schools will also provide content for a website and collaborate on internships, student engagement projects, and other sustainability programs.
George Washington University announced today that Tara Sonenshine, former United States under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, currently a distinguished fellow at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, will lead the strategic planning and stakeholder relationships with institutional partners for Planet Forward. Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Norman Borlaug and associate director of external affairs at the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M, serves on Planet Forward’s advisory board.
“This is an exciting time for colleges and universities around the country and around the world,” said Planet Forward founder Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. “We are delighted to partner with Drake University to combine multimedia story-telling with active engagement of policymakers by students around sustainability, climate change, food security, and the host of issues facing our planet.”