Tufts Co-Hosts National Conference to Advance Sustainability in Higher Education

Event that aims to empower higher education professionals includes presentations by Tufts Office of Sustainability team and SMFA faculty

This month Tufts is co-hosting a national conference and expo to contribute new knowledge and scalable solutions designed to help universities and colleges respond effectively to the climate change crisis and achieve a more sustainable planetary future.

Billed as a “vital platform for networking, exchanging ideas, and forging meaningful connections,” the conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is expected to draw some 1,500 decision-makers from across the country.

AASHE is the leading organization for sustainability in higher education, with more than 900 members across the United States and Canada and 20 other countries. Earlier this year AASHE awarded Tufts its first gold assessment in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

Mike Howard, Tufts executive vice president, said Tufts’ sponsorship of the national conference reflects the university’s strong commitment to and ongoing investment in advancing the values and practices of sustainability.

“As a university, our responsibility to society and to the environment has never been more critical,” he said. “In our classrooms, our labs, in our energy-conscious buildings, we can and should model effective and integrated sustainability practices.”

Toward that end, this month’s conference, he said, is an opportunity to advance and accelerate progress on what can be difficult challenges confronted by small colleges and large universities alike.

The work of faculty, staff and students at Tufts to align solutions with emerging technology will be highlighted in sessions led by the Office of Sustainability team and SMFA faculty.

Dano Weisbord, AG01, chief sustainability officer and executive director of campus planning, will contribute to the keynote panel on campus decarbonization highlighting the strong partnership between campus operations and academic programs, like the Offshore Wind Energy Engineering graduate program, whose faculty and students are supporting the development of new wind energy off the coast of Massachusetts that is planned to provide more than 50 percent of New England’s power needs by 2050.

Tina Woolston, program director in the Office of Sustainability, will moderate a workshop on fostering regional collaboration to shape and meet municipal climate policies in the context of carbon-neutral goals in Boston and Cambridge.

Ann Ward, education and outreach specialist, will share her work designing “emotionally informed programming that supports climate-resilient student leaders” while Jennifer Reilly, communications specialist, will organize a networking event for early-career sustainability professionals.

The university’s commitment to sustainability and creativity will be showcased with a pre-conference tour at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA). The event, tailored for conference attendees, will include a visit to the studio of Tanya Crane, professor of the practice, who inspires students to transform unwanted jewelry into future heirlooms, demonstrating the art of recycling and renewal, and a tour of the school’s pollinator garden project, inspired in part by the Tufts Pollinator Initiative.

The tour also will include Double Arrows, the current exhibition at Tufts University Art Gallery’s SMFA at Tufts/Boston gallery. Featuring Aquinnah Wampanoag artist Elizabeth James Perry and guest artists working with sustainably harvested treasures, the exhibition includes hand-carved Wampum jewelry, hand-tanned deer hide, and woven fiber and reeds.

Together with co-hosts Northeastern University and Boston University, Tufts endorses the conference’s aim to fuel innovation across the higher education landscape as institutions sharpen their focus on campus decarbonization and climate resilience.

“When we share lessons learned and highlight positive change, we can inform, inspire, and energize others,” said Howard. “At Tufts, we see it as both privilege and obligation to take an active role in building those connections.”

Learn more about the AASHE Conference & Expo, October 29 – 31, 2023, at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, Boston.

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