Provost Beeson Names 2014-15 “The Year of Sustainability”

Issue Date: 
August 18, 2014

New and returning Pitt students who “think green” will find themselves in good company this fall.

A Sustainable Solutions Competition, a zero-waste Pitt Panthers men’s basketball game event, symposia, the planning of new classes on sustainability—all are on the docket for the 2014-15 school year, which Pitt Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson has named The Year of Sustainability.

One new initiative launched in July is a matching funds program, sponsored by the Provost’s Office, which considers requests for matching funds of as much as $10,000 to support lectures, seminars, workshops, and colloquia related to sustainability. Program proposals involving individuals from multiple departments are encouraged. Already approved are three initiatives conceived by the School of Social Work, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Chemistry at Pitt-Bradford.

“Sustainability is a topic that engages and excites our students both inside and outside the classroom, and one that gives our faculty the opportunity to have a powerful local and global impact through their research,” said Provost Beeson.

“Through generous gifts to the University and the hard work of many individuals across campus, it is also a topic that the University as a whole has embraced, not only as an interdisciplinary concern but also as a way of life. The Year of Sustainability is an opportunity to showcase the important advances that have been made at Pitt in this area, and to make even further progress towards a sustainable future,” she added.

As students move onto campus this week, signs of the University’s sustainability focus will abound. The Office of Student Affairs has selected a “green” theme for the Aug. 20 annual record-breaking attempt by Pitt’s first-year students. Organizers are hoping to attract an estimated 3,800 of Pitt’s new students to form an image of the world globe with LED lights. Pitt is actually trying to reclaim its Guinness record—the largest torch-lit image formed by people—that it broke in 2010 when first-year students used glow sticks to spell out P-I-T-T.

“From Day One on campus, we want to get freshmen thinking about sustainability,” said Gena Kovalcik, codirector for administration and external relations, at Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. The center is part of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Kovalcik credits Pitt’s Sustainability Task Force with creating a broad-based agenda involving all aspects of the University. Established in September 2013, the committee’s 22 faculty members represent an array of schools and departments.

“The committee was asked to devise a way to make The Year of Sustainability tangible. And we wanted to ensure that people internally and externally know this year’s emphasis,” Kovalcik said.

Pitt has an impressive track record in sustainability, including serving as home to five LEED Gold-Certified buildings. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the national benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. The University was also called one of the “most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada” in the The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges, published in 2014.