Supporting community colleges in educating for and building a green economy
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Story Snapshots

Community colleges are at the forefront of the green economy, aligning job training today with labor market needs of tomorrow.  On the way to full-blown “SEED Success Stories” these Story Snapshots offer glimpses of schools that have developed actionable programs and curriculum to help students take advantage of green collar opportunities. With support of business, federal, and state funding, these colleges are carving paths to green futures.

McHenry County College and Collaborative Prairie Restoration Efforts

In support of McHenry County College’s (IL) sustainability initiatives, a wonderful example of college and community collaboration occurred this past November at McHenry County College (MCC). The combined efforts of the Biology, Horticulture and Fire Science Departments as well as the staff from the Physical Facilities Department in conjunction with the Crystal Lake Fire Department and the McHenry County Conservation District brought one of our most precious resources back to life.

In the Fall 2012 semester, 27 fire science students and six instructors stepped out of their classroom in fire uniforms and walked onto a one-acre on-campus prairie to practice putting out a wildfire as part of their certification requirements. Area fire departments throughout the county support MCC’s fire science program during the year and this prairie burn was conducted in an effort to decrease invasive plant species and remove woody species that create shade.

MCC biology instructors Marla Garrison and Mark Kuhlman scheduled brush clearing and seed planting during the spring with a grant from the National Wildlife Federation to use for purchasing seeds. This was the first time that MCC Fire Science and Biology departments have collaborated on a prairie restoration since 1997.

“I’m very excited,” Kuhlman said, “the on-campus prairie is a valuable outdoor classroom that can involve many areas of the College. The outdoors is a good place to learn most any subject.” Kuhlman noted that prairie restoration is important because “the prairie is part of our American history, legacy and local environment. A tiny fragment of a prairie survives here,” he said.

Kuhlman said the on-campus prairie will be burned annually for three years to set back the invasive plants to give the native prairie plants a chance to get re-established. When the prairie is well-established, it may be used as a nursery for the 9.7-acre grassland and wetland in Chemung that was recently donated to the College for educational and outdoor laboratory use.

Fire Science instructor Chris Williams said the collaboration between the biology and fire science departments is an ideal situation for students and a boost to the whole ecosystem as well. Until now, fire science students have practiced putting out wild land fires at conservation sites throughout the county as part of their certification requirements. Now, they have the opportunity to practice on campus periodically, creating another outdoor learning space for students at the College.

Walla Walla Community College: Training Students in Emerging Green Fields

Walla Walla Community College (WA) has been awarded the 2013 Aspen prize. It was commended for tracking work-force trends and training students for emerging jobs in fields as diverse as wine making, wind energy, and watershed ecology. Aspen officials pointed out that about two million jobs are going unfilled nationally because employers can't find workers with the necessary skills and the college is trying to fill those gaps by working with local businesses to create programs in emerging fields while shrinking programs in others.

The college encourages staff and students to think green and has targeted the environment and education as two focus areas for a more sustainable campus. Sustainability has been stressed by a top-down approach, with the President and Vice Presidents leading the effort for faculty, staff, and students to access their individual actions in accordance with sustainable practices. The college has also developed a Capus Sustainability Plan to help guide their larger vision and goals. 

Learn more about sustainability at Walla Walla Community College through their Water & Environment Center.

Delaware Technical Community College: Preparing an Emerging Green Workforce

As runner up of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the overall category, Delaware Technical Community College has developed and implemented 10 program offerings that prepare students for employment in the state’s existing and emerging green workforce. These new programs include both associates’ degrees in energy management and solar and non-credit programs in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainable landscaping.

In addition, the College has recently launched its new Center for Industry Research and Workforce Alignment (CIRWA) which is working with local businesses, government and academia to bring to light new and emerging technologies, trends and occupations not captured in traditional workforce research and data. This Center is currently identifying key competitive niche markets that will provide opportunities for green business creation, expansion, employment, training and job growth.

The College’s existing programs have also been redesigned to incorporate up-to-date green workforce skills. One such example is the College’s automotive program which is now teaching students how to maintain and repair hybrid vehicles.

Other examples of Delaware Tech’s sustainability initiatives include:

  • The construction of two of three energy education facilities to provide hands-on learning for students in energy programs and consumer education
  • The commitment to reduce the College’s conventional energy use 20% by 2020 and reduce its carbon footprint by 20% through implementation of $7 million in energy conservation measures and planned installation of 1.9 mw solar panels at campuses statewide
  • The incorporation of sustainability into the College’s 2012-2016 Strategic Directions

Guam Community College Builds a More Sustainable Regional Green Economy

As runner up of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Community Engagement, Guam Community College (GCC) has taken a leadership role in the Micronesian Region through its institutional commitment and implementation of sustainability practices that serve as a model for the region. GCC’s sustainability efforts have led to several projects that prove GCC is a leader in green technology sustainability. Guam Community College serves as a catalyst in moving the island community towards building a more sustainable region and an economical green economy.

GCC’s two greatest accomplishments as the leader in green technology for the island and region includes the designation of being the largest civilian producer of renewable energy on Guam, and attaining the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for the College’s Learning Resource Center (LRC) in July 2011. The LEED Gold Certification is Guam’s first public building to receive this designation. Academic and organizational priorities include sustainability, alternative energy sources, and the development of a “greener” curriculum. GCC received a National Science Foundation grant of to provide training to faculty on solar energy and to develop curriculum and training for green programs. In addition to this, grant funding also allowed for outreach activities to include an alternative energy workshop for the College’s faculty and high school educators on Guam.

Photo: Instructors being trained in how to teach a photovoltaics installers course.

OSUIT: Strategic Partnerships Creates Successful Placement Model

As runner up of the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Strategic Partnerships, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology keeps curriculum up to date with the latest in industry trends and technology through a model that has proven successful and results in placement rates of graduates of well over 90%.

The institution decided to unite their long-standing partnership with industry, Workforce Investment Boards, community-based organizations, tribal entities, and other public agencies in the Eastern Region Green (ERG) Consortium. This allowed the group to more easily apply for federal and state funding to carry out education and training in green areas for both entry-level and incumbent workforces. ERG developed a charter which laid out the mission, principles, goals, and roles of each partner. As a result, OSUIT has also been awarded funding from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

ERG has also developed a leading-edge online video training system that is being considered by the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration as a “Best Practice” to be shared with the workforce community.

Northeast Community College: Quality Education & Rural Revitalization

As a runner up in the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Program Design and Delivery, Northeast Community College (Northeast) is committed to meeting the needs of its 20-county service area in northeast Nebraska. The addition of green energy programming helps to fulfill two of the College goals: to provide quality education and to expand partnerships with emphasis on rural revitalization.

Wind Energy

Northeast initially developed the Wind Energy Diploma which established the first Wind Energy program in the state. The success of this program was the door opener for Northeast in the green programming arena. The college now works very closely with area businesses and industries to ensure that training is meeting the standards for students to enter employment after graduation. Northeast soon discovered that an Associate Degree in Wind Energy Technology was needed and responded by developing a two-year associate degree. Northeast has also incorporated green trainings into a variety of other programs.

Strong Partnerships

Strong partnerships with area organizations and businesses support these initiatives. To broaden impacts, supporting partnerships have been formed with four-year colleges, universities, and representatives from state entities, public utilities, and heavy equipment companies. Without the critical support and connections with advisory boards, community leaders, and area employers, the college would not have such strong programs. Northeast has also woven green energy curriculum throughout its several applied technology programs and is experiencing high placement rates in jobs across the region.

For more information please contact:
Lyle Kathol, Dean of Applied Technology

- Northeast Community College
- Wind Energy Program

Moraine Valley Community College: Leading in Sustainability Governance

As a runner up in the 2012 Green Genome Award in the category of Governance, Moraine Valley Community College (IL) has a rich history of accomplishments and initiatives in sustainability. The development of their leadership team has brought the college closer to an integrated institutional approach to sustainability.

Sustainability at Moraine Valley began in the mid 70s when the college, understanding the importance of natural resource preservation, set aside 40 acres of its campus to be preserved as a nature study area to use as a living learning lab. Throughout the years, faculty encouraged environmental awareness through recycling and Earth Day celebrations. Their sustainability timeline shows historical activities and proactive leadership, which recently led to a formal adoption of a Board of Trustees Statement of Sustainability Commitment, the foundation of a Center for Sustainability, and the opening in 2010 of their Southwest Education Center in Tinley Park, their first U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certified Platinum building, and the first in Illinoise.

One of the most successful sustainability and green workforce programs the College offers is the Greening Your Curriculum-Prairie Project (GYC-PP) faculty professional development program of the Moraine Valley Learning Academy. Faculty from across disciplines are led through exploration exercises to green their curriculum. As a result of this ongoing effort, sustainability was added as a general education outcome by the college's Assessment office. Further developments from the GYC-PP is a rubric developed to assess the ability of courses to teach sustainability as well as the resulting sustainability literacy of the student.

These successes have brought the College closer to an integrated institutional approach to sustainability, green workforce and economic development. The College is a leader and integral player in its local community as well as regionally and state-wide. The leadership of its own greening practices, in curriculum, campus improvements, and resource development provides direction for its community as they embark on their own sustainability journeys.

Learn More at

For more information, please contact:
Stephenie Presseller
Sustainability Manager, Center for Sustainability
Moraine Valley Community College

Archive: Story Snapshots

This resource made possible with the generous support from the Kresge Foundation