Supporting community colleges in educating for and building a green economy
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Hillsborough Community College: A Successful Comprehensive Approach

Hillsborough Community College (FL) has a record of environmental stewardship that dates back to the earliest days of the college’s existence. One of its first signs of commitment was a community-based environment of resource and education center, the Institute of Florida Studies. Over the next four decades, the college embarked on a variety of activities focused on sustainability and the development of a green workforce, including building strategic partnerships and engaging the community along the way. New academic programs in environmental science, aquaculture, engineering technology, and alternative energy were established and existing programs including architecture, early childhood education, and automotive technologies, were updated to include green technologies or sustainability-related learning outcomes.

“We recognize that to be successful, sustainability must truly become part of the fabric of the college’s culture.”
- Ken Atwater, president
Yet, as significant as these individual activities were, they did not function collectively to produce the type of synergy needed for systemic change within the institution. Two pivotal actions, however, did: the signing of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and the engagement of a small group of volunteers who assembled to form a Green Team, later the Sustainability Council, focusing on environmentally oriented projects. From these actions, three strategies emerged as critical to moving the college toward an integrated and comprehensive sustainability action plan. The strategies were: 1) mobilizing the disparate grassroots efforts to develop personal connections, leverage expertise for future planning, and generate the synergy needed to pursue more large-scale projects; 2) aligning sustainability initiatives with broader college priorities as a means of fostering new partnerships and promoting a “value-added” view of sustainability among college leaders; and 3) building “collaborative knowledge partnerships” among colleges, private firms, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to promote program development and entrepreneurship within the green sector.

The comprehensive approach has been successful for the college because it works from and builds on the college’s strengths, operates from the perspective that sustainability is a systemic issue and must be addressed in a multifaceted manner, and leverages the college’s twin priorities of education and community engagement. Perhaps one of the most significant achievements for the college that highlights its commitment was the opening of the SouthShore Campus, which was designed and built for Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The campus incorporates numerous sustainable features including a rainwater recycling system to service restrooms, a raised HVAC system for greater heating and cooling efficiencies, maximum use of natural light and cutting-edge lighting technology, landscaping with all native plants, and on-site renewable energy. “We recognize that to be successful, sustainability must truly become part of the fabric of the college’s culture,” said Ken Atwater, president of Hillsborough Community College.

“We’re seeing this occur every day. It’s not just about operations, or curriculum, but sustainability is now a core institutional value, and we will continue to build upon this commitment as we plan for the future.”

Picture: Students analyzing electric and hybrid vehicle technologies

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