Leaders Gather at the Green California Community Colleges Summit
by Racquel Palmese
California’s community colleges play a central role in a movement that is redefining our economy and our culture, with a pivotal role in training workers for the green economy. As a system, they have a unique opportunity to act as showcases for green building and sustainability programs in communities throughout the state.
At the 2009 Green California Community College Summit, leaders from the system met in Pasadena to gather information and resources that could help them address the challenges they face. The state's largest conference addressing sustainability at community colleges, the event took place at the newly renovated Pasadena Convention Center from October 5–7.
“The lion’s share of higher education in our state is done by our California community colleges,” said Dr. Lisa Sugimoto, president of Pasadena City College, as she welcomed attendees at the opening session. “With the breadth of contact we have with our communities, it’s no wonder we have an obligation to ensure that those who come through our doors understand their responsibility to the future of our environment and to the natural resources that are precious to our very survival.”
Tuesday’s keynote speaker, David Crane, special advisor to the Governor of California for Jobs and Economic Growth, observed that, “sustainability is not possible unless governments employ policies that successfully grow economies while achieving environmental and security goals.”
"This approach has been the driving force behind our Administration's environmental policies," said Crane, "and as a result, California is at the forefront of the fight against global warming, with the nation's lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita, while continuing to hold the distinction of having the highest gross state product in the nation." To view his entire presentation, click here.
The student body at California’s community colleges accurately reflects the state’s diversity, and Wednesday’s speakers spoke powerfully and passionately about the necessity of helping students from all backgrounds find opportunities in the green workplace. Timothy A. Simon, a commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission and a member of the newly created Green Collar Jobs Council, is actively involved in developing strategies to maximize green jobs within emerging sectors such as transportation, energy and housing.
“There is no question that our community college, non-profit, faith-based and community-based organizations play an integral role as partners in the implementation of our energy policies,” he told attendees.
Apollo Alliance president Jerome Ringo, the leader of one the most influential organizations working for the development of green jobs, stressed the importance of developing new energy infrastructure to combat the worst effects of global warming. He evoked his personal experiences with the changing planet, from visiting the shrinking ice cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro to multiple evacuations from his Louisiana home in recent years due to hurricane activity in the Gulf.
“We have a common movement now that can galvanize America in a way that has not been seen since the civil rights movement,” said Ringo, “and that’s the green movement.”
“The most important component of that is education,” he told the crowd. “You are the catalyst of a successful green movement.” To view Mr. Ringo’s
remarks, click here.
Major developments in green technology, from advanced solar panels and battery storage, to green building concepts and environmentally preferable printing, were on display in the exhibit hall. Sponsors shared much needed information with more than 800 attendees representing most of the 110 college districts in California and from as far as Virginia.
Usually isolated at far flung campuses, attendees were grateful to interface with exhibitors. “We need to make connections and look for best practices,” said Paul Mrowczynski, an instructor at Feather River College.
“We want to show that any office can go green,” said Jeff Stein of Economy Office Supply. “We want to make sure that community colleges know what the alternatives are, and this is a good way to be able to expose people to our products. We’ve also had a chance to remind people that many of the products they are already using have recycled content, so they’re already making a contribution to the environment.”
The Summit’s Buyer-Vendor Lounge, provided a unique opportunity for community college purchasers and facilities staff to meet with event sponsors. The lounge was open for 2 hours on each day of the event, with sponsors pre-scheduled for 15-minute meetings with buyers. Sponsors were able to schedule as many as seven separate meetings with community college purchasing agents.
“I think the best thing was learning about products that I had no idea were available,” said Allan Hansen, Director of Facilities at West LA College. “A lot of this information needs to get out to architects and engineers for new construction.”
“The format was 180 degrees from the customary norm with the buyer being at the table and the vendors coming in to engage the conversation, said Bill Englert, Director of College Facilities at Los Angeles Harbor College. “It is in this way I found it fun and interesting.”
Michael Jung is Director of Purchasing for Chaffey College. “I thought it [the lounge] was a creative way of ensuring your vendors have an opportunity to talk to some buyers at the show, he said. “From my perspective, it kind of made me feel ‘special’ because I was there and you arranged for me to meet with people I needed to meet with. It is like a qualified cold call.”
The education program at the Summit included day-long, pre-Summit workshops as well as a slate of shorter concurrent sessions on the next two days. Panels, presentations and workshops addressed such crucial topics as California’s new building codes and regulations, federal stimulus dollars for community colleges, financing and funding renewable projects. A session by the U.S. Green Building Council, “Preparing Tomorrow's Green Associate,” introducing the organization’s new green certification.
Speakers in the educational program came from state and local government, community college districts, green companies and non-profit organizations. Dave Walls, executive director of the California Building Standards Commission and David F. Thorman, California state architect; to Barbara Halsey, executive director of the California Workforce Investment Board and Barry Sedlik, chair of the California Green Collar Jobs Council.
A one-day curriculum workshop organized by Dee Patel, sustainability expert for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), amounted to a “summit within the summit.” With its own keynote speaker and breakout sessions, the workshop brought together faculty and administrators from middle school, high school, community colleges and four-year universities who shared their experiences, courses and best practices.
“Green Technology is very thoughtful about the information it presents and it’s never skewed in any direction,” said Patel of the education program. “You present it and leave it to the attendees to explore…you bring the international, state and national perspective.
“The opportunity you provided to LACCD speaks to the vision of the organizers,” she added. “You provided a forum that I think is a godsend to many people, especially small colleges that can’t participate in a debate that can be international.”
Note: A number of speakers have made generously made their presentations available to session attendees and other interested parties. Click here for these resources.
With multiple events going on at the same time, the atmosphere in the convention center was dynamic. Designated networking tables were available to those wishing to interface about topics including funding, green building, student resources, workforce development, energy and green purchasing.
Denise Youmons is marketing director at VBN Architects in Oakland. “We came last year and it was a really incredible experience,” she said, “primarily because of the bringing together of facilities people, who we normally interact with, with the curriculum developers and administrators from the community colleges. We design green buildings, so it makes sense to hear from all sides.”
A Resource Center provided more chance for dialogue and information, and a Curriculum Showcase allowed attendees to view examples of green curriculum and share curriculum development expertise and experiences with colleagues. In the Resource Center, attendees met with representatives of organizations with resources for community colleges. Important among these were student-based groups, which play an important role in developing sustainability programs at many campuses.
Phyllis Chestang, a faculty member at the University of Phoenix, brought information about the university and about Southern California Edison’s sustainability programs. “I think the conference has been outstanding,” she said. “It’s great opportunity to show your support and interest and to inform the attendees. It’s wonderful for all that. [As an attendee] I’m focusing on classes about the green workforce so I can share this information with my students.”
In what has become an important ongoing element of the each Green Technology Summit, space was provided to "Partners in Learning" who desired to meet onsite during the conference. This year’s participants were California’s Green Workforce Coalition and the California Green Collar Jobs Council.
In addition, the Los Angeles Community College District hosted a Green Jobs Fair at the convention center in conjunction with the Summit. The event enabled students from the community college system were there to learn more about green business opportunities.
The second annual Green California Community College Leadership Awards were announced at reception on the first day of the summit. Awards were presented in five categories, recognizing deep commitments to campus sustainability.
In the category of Green Curriculum, the Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies at De Anza College won the award for not only being the first community college building in the U.S. to be certified with the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest certification – Platinum - but because the building itself teaches about energy resources and stewardship. Pat Cornely, Director of the Kirsch Center accepted the award.
The Industry Award was given to PMSM Architects. PMSM has created green building projects that include the sports pavilion at Santa Barbara City College, the Wray Theatre and music building at Rio Hondo College, the campus master plan at Cuesta College’s North County Campus and many others. Accepting the award for PMSM was Vivek Jonathan Harris, director of Community College Design; and Thea van Loggerenberg , director of Community College Design.
The Pioneer Award was presented to the College of Marin’s board of trustees, which in 2004 passed an environmental stewardship and sustainable facilities resolution. Among its many green projects, the board has supported the college in committing all seven of its recent building modernization projects to being LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the USGBC. Philip Kranenburg, president of the board of trustees, accepted the award.
The Instructor Award went to Dr. Karon Klipple, chair of the Environmental Stewardship Committee at San Diego City College. She has worked tirelessly to affect a wide-ranging environmental sustainability policy at SDCC which contains a mandate that all new construction must meet a minimum of the USGBC’s LEED Silver rating. Klipple is probably best known, though, for as the inspiration behind the college’s urban farm, which has led to the first sustainable urban agriculture certificate program in Southern California.
The annual Green California Community Colleges Summit is developed under the guidance of an advisory board comprised of leaders from the public and private sector, and the work of defining the themes and programs for each Summit is a year-long process. The next Summit will take place in October, 2010. Check the Green Technology website for dates and information.
While the 2009 Summit has passed, the feedback from past attendees makes it clear that its real impact is only beginning to be felt.
Jamie Smith, a chemistry technician instructor at Irvine Valley College took a vacation day to attend the summit. “I attended last year,” she said, “and I was motivated enough to start a committee of classified employees. We didn’t see the district moving fast enough for us, so we started recycling batteries and CFL lights and ink cartridges – things that were easy to do. We got in touch with a new student group, the Green Team.”We’re hoping to get started with sustainability projects,” she added. “People are starting to get onboard. They see me and say, ‘Oh, there’s the green lady!’ I wish I could bring more of us here. This is a great educational and motivational tool.”
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