Building a Sustainable Future in Higher Ed featuring Dr. Anthony Cortese
Led by guest speaker Anthony Cortese, Principal of the Intentional Endowments Network, 40 higher education leaders came together at the Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal's historic Museum of Archeology & History for a collaborative discussion at First American's Peer Discussion after the NACUBO Annual Meeting.
Business leaders gathered after the NACUBO Annual Meeting in Montreal to explore how to preserve the best of an institution's past - staying true to the core mission and values -while building to ensure a more sustainable future. The content and discussion of the evening was focused on building bold, integrated strategies for affordability, diversity and sustainability for higher education to fulfill its critical role in meeting society's needs. Below are some of the key themes and take-a-ways from the evening's discussion.
Integrating Sustainability into the Mission
The myth about sustainability is that it is just about the environment, whereas it actually is about much more than that. Anthony Cortese described it as "the ability to do something positive over and over again", explaining its not just about the environment, but rather its about how we can create a stable society to sustain life on earth. He also refered to it as one of the biggest challenges higher education has ever had to face. "If higher education is the institution that has been designed for the long run and that educates everyone in society, there is a responsibility to try to help during this challenge," says Cortese. Throughout the evening, guests explored ways they can integrate this model into the mission of their own colleges and universities, to create a healthy, just and sustainable society.
Developing a Long-Term Strategy
During the event we discussed the importance of having a long-term strategy for affordability and diversity as part of the sustainability agenda. While most schools agree that a strategy is needed, guests shared throughout the evening that they are at various stages of planning that strategy. The schools that have a strategic plan shared that they spend at least a year developing that strategy and still feel as if they have more progress to make. Many business officers also shared that they have robust environmental sustainability programs on campus, but that they generally feel like their overall strategy around sustainability needs work and that it can't be a "one size fits all" approach. The schools that shared they do not yet have a formal, documented strategy in place acknowledged that they have many initiatives in various different areas and that they have started having the appropriate conversations with their board of directors to drive change at their schools.
The Pivotal Role of the CBO
There are intense pressures on business officers about lowering costs, reducing debt for students that graduate, providing increasing amounts of access to needy students and improving graduation rates. This has many business officers focused on using sustainability as a way to stabilize costs and avoid future costs. College and university business officers have a unique role in that they touch so many different facets of an organization - all centered around spending or saving money. One guest from the evening states, "when you think about sustainability, you may be spending money in the short-term, but when you really think about it in the long-term, you are saving money." With their growing and evolving role in helping to evolve higher education, business officers can make an impact by helping to prepare their institutions for the future in this way.
About the Peer Discussion:
Each year, we hold our annual Peer Discussion to create a unique forum where business officers can collaborate on key challenges within higher education that are important to them. This year, we collaborated around the topic of sustainability, which is an important topic to many schools, as well as to us at First American.
About Our Guest Speaker:
Dr. Anthony D. Cortese is a pioneering leader in education for sustainability. He has been a co-founder and leader in many sustainability organizations for higher ed, including AASHE, Second Nature and the ACUPCC. He is also currently a principal of the Intentional Endowments Network to foster sustainable investing. Click here to learn more about Dr. Cortese.
Pointe-à-Callière Museum is a museum of archeology and history in Old Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was founded in 1992 as part of celebrations to mark Montreal's 350th birthday. The museum has collections of artifacts from the First Nations of the Montreal region that illustrate how various cultures coexisted and interacted. Pointe-à-Callière is one of Canada's National Historic Sites and it has received more than fifty national and international awards, including those in museography, architecture, and for cultural, educational and community activities. To learn more about the venue, click here to visit their website.