Creating a more sustainable world presents universities with extraordinary leadership and research opportunities
At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston on February 18th, the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI) led a symposium focused on innovative university programs designed to address the challenges of sustainable development. The symposium included presentations by six academic leaders from across the U.S. who are immersed in, and learning from, novel institutional strategies for developing solutions to pressing societal problems at the intersection of economic, social, and environmental issues. Following the presentations, the speakers participated in a panel discussion highlighting the best practices that are emerging from these pioneering initiatives.
Presenters David Hart, Jonathan Foley from the University of Minnesota, and Lisa Graumlich during the panel discussion.
Since its founding in 2009 with a $20M NSF EPSCoR grant, SSI has become a national and international leader in the emerging field of sustainability science. A program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center, SSI connects interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students with diverse stakeholders from government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to tackle challenges in Maine.
The AAAS symposium provided an opportunity to share SSI’s strategy for connecting scientific knowledge with societal action with an international audience. David Hart, Director of the Mitchell Center, notes, “SSI's overall strategy is based on strong university-community partnerships that blend state-of-the-art scientific research with a commitment to real-world solutions.” The event in Boston gave SSI the opportunity to think beyond Maine and lay the foundation for national and international collaborations. “Bringing historically separate academic units and cultures together requires conversations and trust”, noted Lisa Graumlich, one of the presenters and Dean at the College of the Environment at the University of Washington.
The interactive symposium was moderated by Laura Lindenfeld, UMaine professor of Communication and Journalism. Major lessons emerging from presentations included the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork, long-term partnerships with stakeholders, and an entrepreneurial university culture. The audience for the symposium included researchers, students, university leaders, and Nobel Prize winners. Hart concludes, “We are excited by the opportunity to bring together the leaders of these innovative programs and explore new collaborative opportunities for creating a sustainable future.”
View a video of the symposium...
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