Hope College, in partnership with Albion College, Antioch College, DePauw University and Oberlin College, has been awarded a grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association as part of the GLCA’s “Expanding Collaboration Initiative,” funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The project’s purpose is to foster programs of teaching, research, and outreach across college campuses to heighten awareness of how human behaviors affect the well-being of the natural environment, as well as the sustained vitality of human society in local settings and the broader global context.

The project, which is called “Environmental Dashboard Implementation in Multiple GLCA Colleges to Foster Collaboration across Campuses,” includes collaborative initiatives that seek to educate populations--on college campuses, in public school systems, and in local communities--about how changing practices can result in a more vibrant and sustained future for humanity.   

The Environmental Dashboard (www.EnvironmentalDashboard.org), developed at Oberlin College, is a communication technology that combines real-time display of water and electricity use in buildings, organizations and whole communities with photographs and words contributed by community members that celebrate positive thought and action. Using electronic signs and websites, Environmental Dashboard employs compelling graphics to reconnect people with the natural world by making flows of resources visible and promoting sustainable behavior. 

During the next two years, a core team of faculty and staff across campuses of the five participating GLCA member institutions will work to install the Environmental Dashboard technology to engage their respective institutions in curriculum development, research and community outreach around the tool and instill cross-campus dialogue and collaboration. They will be joined by an extended team of up to 25 faculty of multiple academic disciplines in addition to staff members who will be recruited through a series of workshops and outreach initiatives that will take place on the five campuses in the spring of 2015. The project seeks to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including faculty, staff, administrators, facilities personnel, sustainability officers and students in the participating campuses to make Environmental Dashboard a common digital platform for communication, collaboration and creativity.

“The GLCA Environmental Dashboard project is a very promising new endeavor,” said Steven Bouma-Prediger, who is a member of the core team leading the project and a professor of religion and associate dean for teaching and learning at Hope.  “We at Hope are excited about collaborating with our colleagues at our sister colleges in order to learn how we can make our campuses even more sustainable.”

“We hope to install technology—for example, meters hooked to flat screen tvs, in a number of buildings that will allow us to get real-time information on electricity usage,” he said.  “This is will help us to act wisely to decrease our energy usage.”

The project is led by Md Rumi Shammin, associate professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College, in collaboration with 16 faculty and staff members from the five campuses as part of the core team. In addition to Bouma-Prediger, the core team at Hope includes Greg Maybury, director of operations, and Carl Heideman, director of process and innovation.

Hope’s participation in the project complements a variety of other initiatives at the college, where sustainability is an ongoing process that includes not only individual and departmental efforts but the coordinating work of a Sustainability Advisory Committee “Green Team” comprised of faculty, administrators and students.  Activities and practices at Hope have ranged from green purchasing policies, increased recycling and trayless dining to reduce food waste; to the creation of academic minors in both environmental science and environmental studies; to campus-wide exploration of environmental themes through events like the Critical Issues Symposium, which focused on water and food in 2009 and 2010 respectively.  Hope is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The college is a partner with the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works in the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, which was established in 2014 and is based at Hope.  Also in 2014, Hope received statewide recognition for its environmental stewardship through its grounds management practices with certification from the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program.

Founded in 1962, the GLCA is a non-profit organization governed by 13 selective liberal arts colleges in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Its purpose is to strengthen and extend education in the tradition of the liberal arts and sciences.  GLCA often works conjointly with similar associations of liberal arts colleges to enhance the strength and vitality of member institutions.  In addition to Hope, the members of GLCA are Albion, Allegheny, Antioch, DePauw, Denison, Earlham, Kalamazoo, Kenyon, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan, Wabash and the College of Wooster.