VisionIn these times of challenge and uncertainty, the University of Kansas has an opportunity to meet the demands of a new age by embracing sustainability. As we prepare to move in new strategic directions and transform the way we operate as a campus, sustainability can enhance our efforts to achieve the core mission of the institution. This Sustainability Plan is offered at a time in history where we can more profoundly benefit from the integration of sustainable practices into our operations, teaching, research and service. Embracing this Sustainability Plan will help the university make smart economic decisions and reduce our social and environmental impacts. It will also help us recruit and retain exceptional, involved and diverse students, faculty and staff. Moreover, implementing the activities in this plan will foster a campus and a community that is more engaged, adaptive and efficient. As we grapple with today's realities and the coming challenges facing higher education, KU's three-pronged sustainability focus will hedge against risk and underpin broad success.
Students, faculty, and staff have worked collaboratively to research and develop sustainable practices such as community gardens.
Photo: KU University Relations
Visualizing the campus as a "living laboratory" for hands-on learning and exploration is one important avenue for achieving this engagement. The campus and immediate community will serve as an engaged learning laboratory where students are able to explore campus and community operations, contribute to data collection and analysis, and evaluate more sustainable options for campus operations. By enhancing service-learning opportunities, students will obtain real-world experience and take an active role in their education. Working in partnership with campus staff to advance the University's core functions, students will learn from successes and failures and leave KU with knowledge and skills that will set them apart from other graduates.
The campus and immediate community will also serve as a place for engaged research where students, faculty and staff form research partnerships on campus and in the local, regional, and global community. The living laboratory will provide a test bed for faculty research on issues of sustainability that impact both our campus and the broader community. Researchers will use the campus as a laboratory to examine theories and practices and develop new knowledge and technologies to serve KU, Kansas, and communities throughout the globe.
Through these academic pursuits, we will also foster the development of an engaged campus community. Efforts to create a more sustainable future will be visible in classrooms, offices, dining areas, residence halls, and on walks across campus. These experiences will be reinforced through informal learning opportunities and avenues for individuals to contribute to sustainability initiatives. Interpretive signage and interactive displays about sustainable features, projects, and progress towards our goals can be placed throughout the campus.
Lecture series, workshops, and conferences will not only foster discussion about our role in advancing sustainability, but inspire action through initiatives on campus and in the community. If we empower students, faculty, and staff through meaningful participation, we will also be building a more vibrant and resilient community.
Students in Studio 804 working with Professor Dan Rockhill on the construction of a LEED platinum home in Kansas City.
Photo: KU University Relations
The benefits of sustainability's engagement focus are many. Recruitment, yield, retention, commitment, learning, research, and community support all benefit from an engagement focus that puts people into a more personalized context of leadership and excellence.
AdaptiveAs the University of Kansas becomes an engaged campus, we will increase our awareness of new conditions and our changing environment, encouraging us to be an adaptive campus, one that is prepared to embrace the cultural and institutional change necessary to become a truly sustainable institution. With our sights set on a sustainable future, the university must ensure that environment, economy and equity are core values, and are woven throughout campus administration, planning, academics, operations and campus life.
The development of a comprehensive sustainability plan is an important step forward in this process. By identifying opportunities throughout a range of campus activities, we will be better prepared to face the challenges of global change. However, the plan must remain a living document with continued input and involvement from the campus community. The plan itself must remain adaptive, flexible enough to allow us to act on new opportunities and address unforeseen challenges as they arise.
The University of Kansas must be adaptive in our approach to education. Examining issues through the lens of sustainability will help faculty and students understand how their disciplines contribute to sustainable solutions. Engaged learning through participation in the "living lab" will expand that understanding and help build important skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. Since many of the challenges that our graduates will face will require interdisciplinary solutions, adapting our teaching strategies will better prepare them to be successful in this rapidly changing world.
We also must adapt our operational activities to meet the needs of our new sustainable vision. This will require shifting the focus from a system designed around economic outcomes to one that factors in ecological and social performance as well. Along with immediate benefits, we must consider our external impacts to avoid environmental degradation or disproportionate social and economic consequences resulting from our actions. And because sustainability should be thought of as a process occurring over a multi-generational timeframe, we must replace our short-term expectations with a long-term perspective. Integrating life-cycle analysis into our operations to evaluate the true impacts of a decision from cradle to grave - from raw material to disposal - is a more holistic approach and captures the real costs and benefit of our actions. In order to achieve this, we must institutionalize sustainability and empower students, faculty and staff at all levels to make decisions that will contribute to achieving our sustainability goals.
As we approach the sesquicentennial of our institution, it is appropriate to begin preparing for the next 150 years. Using the tenets of sustainability as our new framework, we will position the University to be adaptive to local and global change in ways that will sustain the core values of our institution.
EfficientThe University of Kansas is expected to be a good steward of its public and private resources while carrying out its mission. However, limited resources require KU to be more creative than ever to provide high quality service to its students and the State of Kansas. To sustain KU for future generations, we must provide our human resources the tools needed to use natural and capital resources more efficiently, achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort, resources, and expense. Doing so will reduce our material use and greenhouse gas emissions and free up dollars for education and research.
By utilizing the campus as a living laboratory and engaging students and faculty in campus projects, KU can find ways to complete tasks more efficiently. University faculty and students hold an array of talents in the fields of physical, natural and social sciences, design, arts and humanities. Connecting their knowledge, skills and resources with campus staff would bring together the most informed and capable people to identify opportunities and implement solutions. Collaboration among students, faculty and staff will help us to adapt our methods to run the university more efficiently while providing students and faculty learning and research opportunities. Data collection is an important area in which faculty, students and staff should work together to collect, analyze and share baseline and dynamic data more efficiently.
The KU Biodiesel Initiative converts used cooking oil donated by KU Dining Services facilities into fuel for the campus fleet.
Photo: KU University Relations
Whether collaborating with talented students and faculty to collect and analyze data or making smarter, more sustainable purchasing decisions, KU will realize the financial benefits of adapting to a more efficient institution, one that uses all of its resources to their fullest potential.