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Santa Fe Community College: Organizational Change Built Around Sustainability

Santa Fe Community College (NM) (SFCC) was one of the first community colleges in the country to develop an explicit institutional “green” vision and mission, in this case tied to the deep-rooted environmentally conscious beliefs of the greater community. Sustainability and ecological awareness have now become guiding principles for all institutional practices from facilities planning to workforce development to academic programming. By incorporating these standards into campus policies, master plans, and mission statements, SFCC’s green activities are aligned together as part of a broader institutional mandate and likely to endure. The new Trades and Advanced Technology Center (TATC), is the culmination of this commitment to train the next generation’s green workforce.

History of Sustainability on Campus

Since 2000, through various planning documents including the Santa Fe Community College District Plan and the city’s development strategy, the city of Santa Fe, the county and the community college district have closely aligned themselves together and around a strong belief for resource conservation, community connectedness, and local economic development.

As the community set out to establish and market itself as a leader in clean energy (specifically around water conservation, solar, and other renewables), SFCC’s role was to build a skilled pool of energy workers and foster entrepreneurship opportunities in clean technologies. In 2004 SFCC began delivering classes through the Center for Community Sustainability, and in 2006, the college launched a certificate and an A.A.S. degree in Environmental Technologies preparing students for careers as green building project managers, energy auditors, environmental planners, utility regulations analysts and more.

Tying Academic Sustainability Education to Technical Training

SFCC’s—and the region’s—crowning achievement is the cutting-edge Trades and Advanced Technologies Center (TATC) which now enrolls more than 300 students. This Center was strongly endorsed by local legislators and community and business leaders. These developments represent the fulfillment of a long-time dream of President Sheila Ortego who said when the Center opened: "SFCC is now poised for world-class leadership to improve the environment.”


The installation of the 21st century Trades and Advanced Technology Center (TATC) is shown in the above photograph. This program is building on a base of existing offerings in the building trades (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, construction) and layering in advanced technologies and green curricula in areas such as biomass, green building, small wind, and solar. The outcomes of this strategy are a trained workforce for the 21st century who can integrate advanced technologies in the development of green jobs and grow businesses in an environment that requires a sustainable and renewable approach (Below Figure)


Beyond training for the future green trades, the college has also become one of the earliest two-year schools to infuse sustainability principles into its entire curriculum. This effort, still underway, will be a model for community colleges across the country.

Tying Training to Campus Greening

Following the guidance of SFCC’s Campus Sustainability Plan, the college has tied curriculum changes to a wealth of other green campus improvements.  These include the allocation of $7 million from a recently passed bond to campus greening projects, the promotion and use of alternative transportation methods that reduce SFCC’s carbon footprint, the integration of LEED building design in new public facilities that meet Silver standard or higher,  and many other campus-wide initiatives:

  • A biomass heating system that meets 85% of the college’s peak heating demand by burning wood chips acquired from nearby forest thinning projects
  • Campus-wide composting
  • A solar array system which produces 1 megawatt of solar energy to offset electrical energy uses
  • Acquisition of biodiesel buses to be fueled using products created in the college’s Biodiesel training program.

Santa Fe Community College, historically a liberal arts transfer college, has transformed itself into a leading clean technology school that embodies the tenets of sustainable development, community engagement, industry partnership, and student success. If you are interested in learning more about this vibrant college and community alliance, please follow the links and contacts below for more information:

Trades and Advanced Technologies Center (TATC)
TATC - Sustainable Technologies Program
TATC - Biofuels Program
TATC - Green Building and Construction Program

Randy Grissom
Director, Sustainable Technologies Center

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