Higher Education

Contact: Debra Rowe 
EducatingForASustainableFuture (at) gmail.com 

To see more resources regarding Sustainability in Higher Education, click here.


For resources relating to higher education and sustainability, please visit the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.


Primer for college presidents, trustees, and senior administrators on ESD.

National Update on Higher Education Activities: Creating The Triple Bottom Line of Healthier Ecosystems, Social Equity, and Healthier Economies
By Debra Rowe, President

U.S. Higher Education National Associations Networks Recognized as Valuable Models by Leaders in European Union and Latin America
The Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability (DANS) and the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC) were described during my keynote speech at the Perspectives on Sustainability in Higher Education conference in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Leaders active in the U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development from both the European Union and Latin America commented on the usefulness of DANS and HEASC as conceptual models. These leaders found the DANS and HEASC resources materials and systems approaches useful in planning their own next steps on infusing sustainability into higher education. They requested copies of the publications and professional development opportunities highlighting sustainability in both the academic disciplines (e.g. the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Religion) and the professional staff associations (e.g. for the presidents, housing officers, trustees). Congratulations to DANS and HEASC members for their international contributions to education for a sustainable future!

DANS includes participants from twenty national academic disciplinary associations (e.g. the American Sociological Association, the Engineering Education Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science). DANS participants are working on national initiatives about the infusion of sustainability research, knowledge and action into curricula, academic standards and policies, and public awareness projects. HEASC includes the professional associations for the presidents of community colleges and state colleges and universities as well as the professional associations for higher education trustees, business officers, facilities directors, student affairs officers, procurement officers and other key higher education positions. HEASC is working to help infuse sustainability principles and practices into curricula, operations and facilities, purchasing, research, student life and community partnerships.

Convening of Global Leaders in Sustainability Education at MIT
Experts in sustainability education from multiple European countries, the United States, and some Asian countries convened to discuss major issues in sustainability education for colleges and universities. Tom Kimmerer, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and I attended. The participants are developing four articles covering the following topics: Myths and Visions of Sustainable Development; Curricula and Pedagogy for Sustainable Development, Transforming the University to Include Sustainability, and Universities As Agents of Change. The group discussed:


  • the sustainability learning outcomes and pedagogies simultaneously being developed in multiple countries, including the competencies to help shape the society in which one lives;the role of higher education institutions to educate the public, the journalists and the legislators as well as the traditional student body;
  • the need to engage as many parts of society as possible in both the envisioning of possible scenarios of sustainable living, and an informed discussion of the common components of what constitutes quality of life across these scenarios.


The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Invites Luncheon Speaker on Educating for a Sustainable Future
DANS and HEASC members assisted me in the development of a luncheon presentation to the CHEA group. Response, even in the midst of the Spellings Commissions activities, was quite positive and many accreditation agency and other participants asked for specific follow up actions.

President’s Climate Commitment Over 600 college and university presidents have signed onto the commitment to make their institutions carbon neutral to reduce the dangers of climate change.

Media interest in the national trend in higher education to update all parts of the campus to include sustainability
There has been a noticeable interest from the media in the national trend toward sustainability. Leaders from DANS, HEASC, and the U.S. Partnership have received multiple calls from national newspapers and magazines (e.g. Time, Newsweek) asking for information for articles they are working on. Currents, a Newsweek related magazine that is published for college campuses, is planning a special focus for this fall.

Science magazine, the esteemed journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, published a policy forum highlighting this national trend in their July 20th issue, authored by Debra Rowe. A link to the article can be found at www.heasc.net (click on "Resource Center").

Webinar on the basics of sustainability education, national trends and resources, and campus based examples available online
DANS and HEASC sponsored a webinar at the beginning of this summer for the higher education community entitled "Education for a Sustainable Future." Presenters were Judy Walton (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), Terry Calhoun (Society of College and University Planning), and me (U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development).

The webinar covered the basics of sustainability and education for sustainability, specific examples on campuses, and national trends and resources. The webinar (resource links, visuals and audio) is available to all for sharing with their members/constituencies at www.heasc.net (click on "Resource Center").



2008 Executive Summary of International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice Report

2008 International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice Report


July 28, 2008 -- The Princeton Review Gives Hundreds of Colleges 'Green Ratings' in Annual College Guides and Website Profiles of Schools -- The Princeton Review is now using a "Green Rating" of colleges -- a measure of how environmentally friendly, responsible, and committed the institutions are...[Read More..


November 2005
The U.S. Partnership is pleased to announce that over 14 U.S. higher education associations - including some of the largest and most prominent - are engaged in either national initiatives, national partnerships or substantial programming and projects concerning education for sustainable development. These include:



  • American Association of Community Colleges
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • American College Personnel Association
  • American Council on Education
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities
  • Association of College and University Housing Officers
  • Association of College Unions International
  • Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International
  • Association of Physical Plant Administrators of Universities and Colleges (Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers)
  • National Association of College and University Business Officers
  • National Association of College and University Food Services
  • National Association of College Auxiliary Services
  • National Association of College Stores
  • National Association of Educational Buyers
  • Society for College and University Planners

July 2005
As of the beginning of July 2005, over 11 National Higher Education Associations have engaged in formal partnerships, project collaborations or national initiatives to promote education for sustainable development. The U.S. Partnership higher education sector is delighted with this positive response.

Dr. Debra Rowe, Higher Education co-chair of the U.S. Partnership  of Education for Sustainable Development, presented on June 3rd to the Coalition of Higher Education Management Association (http://www.chema.org/). CHEMA includes the national associations that address higher education student life, facilities, purchasing, business operations, food consumption, housing, student union activities, college/university planning and more. These organizations set the context for formal learning and also provide informal learning. Dr. Rowe was asked to address opportunities for sustainable development within these associations and their members. Her talk included the following:

A campus could "practice what it preaches" and make sustainability an integral part of operations, planning, facility design, purchasing and investments, and tie these efforts to the formal curriculum. The university is a microcosm of the larger community. Therefore, the manner in which it carries out its daily activities is an important demonstration of ways to achieve environmentally and socially responsible living and to reinforce desired values and behaviors in the whole community. These activities provide unparalleled opportunities for teaching, research and learning. By focusing on itself, the university can engage students in understanding the "institutional metabolism" of materials, goods, services and transportation and the ecological and social footprint of all these activities. Students can be made aware of their "ecological address" and they can and would be actively engaged in the practice of sustainable living. (from Cortese and Rowe, document handed out at the CHEMA meeting)

Most of the associations at the CHEMA meeting expressed great interest in starting national initiatives to show how sustainable development practices, policies and modeling can be integrated into their members’ activities. Each national initiative would highlight via a web page, presentations and publications, successful precedents, technical and informational tools, projects the member institutions can implement, and communication vehicles so colleges and universities can easily understand their next steps of engagement in sustainability.

The Higher Education Sector also met with the presidents and/or vice presidents at many of the National Higher Education Associations for Presidents. Leaders from these associations all expressed some degree of interest in education for sustainable development with a variety of opinions as to how they might be able to work with us. Each association offered ways to get information on education for sustainable development to their member presidents, vice presidents and college staff and faculty through a combination articles, electronic communications, presentations at meetings, integration into existing program initiatives, and more.

For example, a presidential panel on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was part of the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual conference this past spring. An article in the convention issue (April ‘05) of AACC’s journal was also published.

Partners engaged in education for sustainable development for higher education presented at multiple conferences for the Association of American Colleges and Universities and a recent article appeared in their Peer Review publication. Presentations are scheduled for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities as well as the facilities managers (APPA) and planners (SCUP) associations, to name just a few of the many activities.