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New committee to promote university engagement in sustainable practices

The new Sustainability Committee at Ohio University will allow for greater collaboration between the university and Athens residents to address issues of sustainability.

Along with the Sustainability Committee, three new hubs will be created, Jim Sabin, university spokesman, said. The hubs will not be physical spaces but rather strategic approaches to sustainability initiatives, called “engagement ecosystems” on the Office of Sustainability website.

The committee was created by OU President Duane Nellis. It will be co-chaired by Executive Vice President and Provost Chaden Djalali, Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Shaffer and Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina.

Elaine Goetz, interim director of sustainability, said the hubs will foster connections between faculty, staff, students and Athens residents who are working on sustainability initiatives that have been identified as priorities in the Ohio University Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. The three hubs will each tackle different areas of the action plan.

“Sustainable infrastructure hub, sustainable administration hub and sustainable living hub are the names of the three hubs,” Goetz said in an email.

Each hub has four subcategories that meetings will address. The sustainable infrastructure hub will not only be concerned about buildings, but will also discuss water, waste and energy, according to the the hub website.

Each hub will be run by three faculty coordinators and will be supported by the Office of Sustainability, Goetz said. Hubs will include monthly seminars and bi-weekly newsletters.

“All will be welcome to attend Hub seminars and other Hub events,” Goetz said in an email.

The hubs are not meant to be just a university function. Community members can be a part of the hubs, and the hubs are attempting to link the sustainability efforts of the Athens residents and OU.

Geoffrey Dabelko, director of Environmental Studies and associate dean, is optimistic about the role of the hubs in Athens.

“I am confident that the commitment of the people on campus will make this new effort a success,” Debelko said in an email. “As someone who focuses heavily on sustainability in national and international contexts, I am looking forward to ways we can innovate through the hubs to bring in these connected contexts that do not feature prominently in the university’s sustainability or climate action plans.”

Goetz said the university and Athens both have strong sustainability programs, but they don’t always collaborate. 

“The restructuring creates a central organization for collaboration and synergisms,” Goetz said in an email. 

The restructuring will have no additional costs to the university, Goetz said. All costs associated with the hubs will be covered by existing budgets. Coordinators of the hubs will each receive a $10,000 taxable stipend.

The university is searching for sustainability hub coordinators. The coordinator position is restricted to faculty members. Hub coordinators will each receive support and aid from staff members and the Office of Sustainability. 

Dabelko wants any interested faculty members to apply, as they each have unique perspectives on sustainability.

“Sustainability has many dimensions and we should not prematurely judge the skill sets that faculty have for innovating in sustainability,” Dabelko said in an email. “The hub coordinators will be selected through a rigorous selection process and we want to be sure we have an inclusive call for expertise and ideas to tackle sustainability ideas.”


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