WMU Recognised for Sustainability Leadership
Climate change stands as one of the most pressing global challenges today, and students at Western Michigan University (WMU) are taking proactive steps to effect change long before their graduation.
Through immersive learning experiences tailored to bridge the sustainability skills gap, the university has gained recognition as a prominent performer in the 2023 Sustainable Campus Index.
Published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Campus Index acknowledges outstanding achievements by universities and colleges in the realm of sustainability. These accolades are conferred across various categories and assessed through the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System.
Jeff Spoelstra, the director of Western's Office for Sustainability, emphasises the institution's commitment to promoting transformative sustainability practices and climate change justice at both local and global levels. He underscores the significance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a comprehensive framework guiding their efforts.
Meghan Fay Zahniser, Executive Director of AASHE, extends warm congratulations to Western Michigan University for their remarkable achievements. She highlights how their dedication to fostering sustainability initiatives serves as an inspirational model for peers and future generations. Their actions exemplify the profound impact institutions can have when they prioritise sustainability and translate it into tangible action.
One noteworthy initiative that has captured AASHE's attention is the Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact. This initiative recently embarked on its second competition in the fall of 2023. In its inaugural year, the challenge called upon interdisciplinary student teams to develop innovative solutions, be it a product, service, business concept, or public policy, addressing one or more of the 17 UN Sustainability Goals.
Dr. Neil Drobny, Programme Director and Affiliate Faculty in Western's Haworth College of Business, underscores the transformative impact the Bronco Challenge had on participating students. They reported substantial gains in their understanding of sustainability's real-world significance, leading some to reconsider their career trajectories. Dr. Drobny even mentions a student who switched majors, guided by the newfound sense of purpose nurtured during the challenge.
Among the winning projects were Seed, a venture aimed at reducing equity gaps and enhancing nutrition, food security, and community engagement through urban gardening. Another standout project, "Aquaponics in Education," focused on developing a curriculum centred around aquaponics to encourage sustainable thinking among students. "Off-Grid Stadium Lighting" proposed the creation of a solar-powered lighting system for Western's soccer field.
These projects competed for a prize pool of $19,000, generously contributed by sponsors from various industries, including the Haworth College of Business and the Office for Sustainability.
Dr. Timothy Palmer, Director of Western's Center for Sustainable Business Practices, underscores the college's ongoing sponsorship of the Bronco Challenge as it aligns seamlessly with their mission to nurture responsible business leaders. It offers an invaluable opportunity for business majors and minors to collaborate with students from diverse disciplines, collectively exploring solutions to society's most pressing challenges.
The resounding success of the inaugural Bronco Challenge has garnered increased support from industry sponsors and heightened interest from students as it enters its second year. Registration remains open for students to join the challenge until Friday, November 10, the deadline for submitting project proposals.
As Jeff Spoelstra aptly notes, young leaders are taking proactive steps to address pressing global issues without delay. They are spearheading innovative ideas, harnessing resources, and illustrating how to reduce carbon emissions while also caring for one another. Investing in students and initiatives like the Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact underscores a commitment to rapid action and positive impact for the sake of our planet's future.