A new vision for higher education is required to address the
profound challenges that face our society in responding to the
unsustainable and environmentally destructive practices of our
time. The past two years has seen the evolution of a new network
of individuals and organizations, the Higher Education Network
for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE). This network seeks
to make education for sustainability and the environment a foundation
of all aspects of higher education: teaching, research, operations,
purchasing, and collaboration with local communities.
Numerous and diverse groups and individuals in community colleges,
liberal arts colleges, universities and professional schools across
the nation are currently pursuing innovative strategies in environmental
and sustainability education. However, existing efforts too often
occur in isolation, remain small scale and provide little opportunity
for cross-fertilization. Individual faculty, staff and administrators
have no national forum where their work can be reported, reviewed,
acknowledged, and advanced.
HENSE has come about through the vision and dedication of many
individuals who feel the need for a national, broad-based initiative
to coordinate, support, and expand existing efforts to bring sustainability
and environmental awareness into every sector of the academy.
In January 2000, forty key individuals from colleges and universities,
higher education associations, non-governmental organizations
and foundations met at Clark Atlanta University and clarified
the functions, organization and priority projects of HENSE.
A Brief History
In March 1998, the North American Association for Environmental
Education (NAAEE) and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), supported
by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, held a symposium
on "Academic Planning in College and University Environmental
Programs" on Sanibel Island, Florida. This group of 80 stakeholders
in environmental studies, environmental sciences, and environmental
education participated in defining the needs of faculty in higher
education environmental programs, and higher education's responsibility
in fostering a sustainable world. In October 1998, FGCU convened
a 12-member ad hoc planning group on Sanibel to sustain the momentum
of the symposium. Here they formed the "Sanibel Group"
and proposed the creation of a new national initiative to rapidly
accelerate higher education's critical role in creating a sustainable
After careful consideration on the part of many involved in early
discussions of the initiative, the name Higher Education Network
for Sustainability and the Environment was chosen. A Steering
Committee for HENSE was formed in March 1999 to replace the Sanibel
Group (see Addendum). With new funding from the Nathan Cummings
Foundation, planning began for future meetings, announcements,
and a process to gather input on the network design from a wide
spectrum of constituents. Both the Sanibel Group and the Steering
Committee made particular efforts to be diverse in gender, age,
geographic representation, ethnic background, and in comprising
individuals from both the environmental and sustainability fields.
In May 1999, the HENSE initiative was announced at the "National
Town Meeting for a Sustainable America" in Detroit, Michigan,
to a large and enthusiastic audience. It was clear that a new
network such as HENSE was desirable to many working in higher
In late September 1999, the concept of HENSE was presented at
Ball State University's "Greening of the Campus III"
conference, and 85 participants filled out a detailed survey on
the idea. A large gathering came together on the final day of
the conference to discuss HENSE and voice their thoughts and concerns.
While people expressed wide-ranging opinion as to the proper functions
of such a Network, there was consensus that such an entity was
needed. In October, the Northeast Environmental Studies (NEES)
group held a meeting and also participated in the HENSE survey.
In November, HENSE functions and organizational options were discussed
at Second Nature's Northeast Regional Workshop involving over
60 educators. Earlier that month, the HENSE Steering Committee
met in Boston to assess HENSE's evolution to date and plan for
the meeting in Atlanta in early 2000 to further define its functions
An Organizational Model
In the process of gathering input on HENSE, the Steering Committee
took an inventory of the field to identify who is working to develop
and promote higher education for sustainability and the environment,
and the particular expertise and tasks that various individuals
and organizations bring to this effort. After reviewing many organizational
models employed by existing professional societies, networks,
coalitions, and NGOs, the Committee recommended that HENSE pursue
a hybrid organizational structure most consistent with that of
a coalition/network comprised of both member organizations and
individuals. This concept was considered by the Atlanta participants
and, based on these discussions, HENSE's present form and direction
As a broad-based and integrating network, HENSE aspires to support
and strengthen the various isolated efforts in the field, as well
as to inspire and initiate new activities. While HENSE should
eventually be incorporated and become a 501(c)(3), it is starting
as a "virtual" organization, in which network members
assume responsibility for key tasks on behalf of HENSE. Existing
organizations, such as NAAEE, NEES, the National Wildlife Federation's
Campus Ecology Program, the World Resources Institute (WRI), Second
Nature, ULSF, Northern Arizona University, and Ball State University,
are identifying the functions they can best perform for the network.
These functions include handling membership, publishing a newsletter,
managing a HENSE website, sponsoring faculty development workshops,
planning and conducting conferences, and many others.
Fundraising for HENSE will focus on support for the HENSE tasks
and projects carried out by the partner organizations, institutions
and individuals, and for a HENSE "Secretariat," located
in an organization or university that contributes something to
its support. (ULSF is currently the acting Secretariat for HENSE
and will receive phone calls and answer inquiries until a permanent
Secretariat is chosen - see contact information below.) Initial
funding for HENSE will come from both membership (individuals,
institutions, and member organizations) and grants.
This organizational structure should convey HENSE's primary goal:
to support, celebrate, and expand existing efforts to promote
education for sustainability and the environment. As such, it
is meant to ease concerns that HENSE will compete with these efforts.
Indeed, a successful HENSE will stimulate new funding and support
for existing organizations and new initiatives.
HENSE Funded Projects
The goal of the next phase in HENSE's evolution is to pursue the
most critical initiatives identified in Atlanta, expand the network
membership and further develop the organizational structure. With
support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, HENSE will fund the
following seven projects (some of which are ongoing) in the next
year, to be implemented by various teams who volunteered in Atlanta:
- A seminar for 25-35 key university presidents and trustees
on the importance of education for sustainability and the environment
will be held at Oberlin College in the early fall of 2000. Leaders:
Bob Wilkinson, Associate, RMI; David Orr, Professor, Oberlin
College; and Tony Cortese, President, Second Nature.
- Faculty development strategies will be designed to support,
revitalize and reward faculty who are committed to education
for sustainability and the environment, and help others build
their commitment. The project team will focus on ways to support
institutional change that will encourage interdisciplinary teaching,
research and service for sustainability. It will focus on ways
to transcend the regional, ethnic, class and disciplinary boundaries
in order to form a common language of connection and commitment.
These strategies will eventually be disseminated through the
HENSE website, newsletter and professional meetings. Leaders:
Peggy Barlett, Professor, Emory University; Geoff Chase, Dean
of Liberal Studies, Northern Arizona University; and Robert
Ford, Professor and former Provost, Southern University.
- A HENSE team will complete a comprehensive review of over
250 U.S. campus environmental assessments. The project will
produce a) a collection of all extant campus environmental assessments
as of February 1, 2000; b) a searchable database that contains
up?to?date contact information as well as an overview of each
assessment project; c) an evaluation of current "best practices;"
d) guidelines and a template for performing exemplary comprehensive
campus environmental assessments; e) a review paper summarizing
the above research to be published in an accessible, widely
circulated journal, such as Industrial Ecology or the International
Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. Leaders: Harold
Glasser, Professor, Western Michigan University; and Jessica
Stine, NWF Campus Ecology Program.
- An electronic journal, the Journal of Environmental Studies,
will be developed by the Northeast Environmental Studies (NEES)
group for innovative teaching and learning strategies for environmental
studies faculty and others. A special emphasis will be on service
learning, especially work in helping local communities in which
the universities are located deal with environmental problems
and/or become sustainable communities. This peer-reviewed journal
will help spread innovative teaching and learning and provide
venues for publication for environmentally interested faculty
which will enhance their academic credibility and legitimacy,
particularly for tenure and promotion decisions. HENSE will
support drawing up guidelines for authors and editors and criteria
for journal articles as well as develop the web pages to get
the journal up and running. Leaders: David Furmage, Professor,
Colby College; and Eric Pallant, Professor, Allegheny College.
- Second Nature will establish a HENSE website (www.hense.org)
in late spring 2000. The website will include the HENSE mission
and background; HENSE governance and structure; current and
ongoing projects; contacts, events, and publishing venues; links
to databases for higher education stakeholders related to implementing
sustainability on campus; and hard links to hundreds of other
important sites and databases (such as those of Second Nature,
WRI, and NWFs Campus Ecology Program). As other HENSE projects
are completed (see below) they will be added to the site. Leader:
Kim Shaknis, Second Nature.
- ULSF will create a HENSE newsletter and membership strategy.
HENSE will strengthen linkages with higher education stakeholders
and organizations such as NAAEE, NEES, American Association
of Higher Education (AAHE), Association of Governing Boards
of Colleges and Universities (AGB), the Association of (College
and University) Physical Plant Administrators (APPA), and many
- HENSE will further develop its organizational structure in
preparation for a meeting in fall 2000 at which a larger number
of individuals and organizations than the current 40?50 will
finalize the governance structure and publicly launch HENSE.
Leaders: Geoff Chase, Dean of Liberal Studies, Northern Arizona
University; and Wynn Calder, University Leaders for a Sustainable
In addition to projects receiving funding from HENSE, participants
at the Atlanta gathering committed themselves to many other projects
to be undertaken through HENSE. The following projects received
particularly strong support. They demonstrate both a deep sense
of need for transformation in higher education and the enthusiasm
of those working in education for sustainability and the environment.
- Case Study Project - Developing comprehensive and in-depth
case studies of colleges and universities that have successfully
transformed curricula, operations, etc., for critical analysis
of more and less effective initiatives.
- K-12 Involvement and Cross-Fertilization - Developing network
and programmatic linkages between those working in K-12 and
those in higher education.
- Disciplinary Strategies Working Group - Focused effort to
research the needs, language, research agendas, etc. of various
fields to determine effective ways of getting sustainability
and environment more integrated into those disciplines.
- Being a Conduit for Educating Foundations - Making foundations
aware of the work of HENSE, its participating institutions and
individuals, to build interest in funding these activities.
- Social Marketing Project - Examining new strategies for promoting
sustainability in the context of higher education institutions.
- Making Campuses "Climate-Neutral" - Working with
colleges and universities willing to become climate-neutral
in a specified time period, and fundraising for this project
under the HENSE name.
- Government, Industry & Academic Relations - Exploring
how to build better relationships between the three sectors
on sustainability and environment issues.
- Changing Accreditation Standards - Working with accreditation
associations to include standards for environment and sustainability.
- Celebrate Best Practices - Planning and sponsoring an annual
award ceremony to recognize and celebrate best practices at
colleges and universities.
- Database/Clearinghouse Development - Assessing existing informational
databases related to HENSE; designing strategies for assimilating
and disseminating that information to best serve HENSE's goals;
developing HENSE databases beyond those already in existence
(e.g., database on where to publish; HENSE peer review network).
- HENSE Listserv and On-Line Archive - Managing a listserv
and creating a searchable archive on the web.
- National Forum on University and Community - Developing a
proposal for a national meeting to explore the new role of the
university in the community.
HENSE seeks to make education for sustainability and the environment
a foundation of higher education learning, research, operations
and community outreach, and to strengthen environmental degree
programs. We believe that a new national network can foster a
strategic effort to galvanize institutional change. HENSE will
build bridges, coordinate efforts, and create opportunities for
synergy by bringing this agenda to a much larger audience.
We invite you to join HENSE and make higher education the leading
sector in developing a comprehensive vision of education for sustainability
and the environment. This initiative can have a major impact on
higher education and on the future if we act now.
The Interim Steering Committee and Contact Information
Following the Atlanta meeting, a new Interim Steering Committee
was established to guide HENSE through its next phase. We will
be adding new members to ensure broad diversity and commitment
from higher education stakeholders. This committee will function
as the decision-making body for HENSE until the official governance
structure is finalized at the fall 2000 meeting.
ULSF is the "acting" Secretariat for HENSE until a
permanent base is established. You can call or email HENSE for
information and updates at 202-955-3682 or HENSEinfo@aol.com.
HENSE Interim Steering Committee
Director, University Leaders for a Sustainable Future
President, Second Nature
Assistant Professor, Center for International Education, University
of Massachusetts, Amherst
Sustainable Development Officer, University of Texas-Houston
Director, U.S. Business Education, World Resources Institute
Dean of Liberal Studies, Northern Arizona University
Director, Center for Environmental Citizenship (student organization)
James L. Elder
Professor of Chemistry and Former Provost, Southern University
& A&M College
Academic Program Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies Program, Western Michigan
Acting Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental
Director of Environmental Affairs, Middlebury College
Manager, National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program
Professor of Environmental Studies, Oberlin College
Na'Taki Y. Osborne
Sustainable Communities Organizer, National Wildlife Federation
Director, Environmental Leadership Program
Lecturer in Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa
Emeriti Steering Committee Members
Associate Director, Partnerships, Clark Atlanta University
Peter Blaze Corcoran
College of Arts and Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University
Director of Procurement and Contracting, Rutgers University
Professor of Environmental Science, Allegheny College
The Math Forum, Swarthmore College
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