Wells College is pleased to have Marian Brown join our community as the Director of the College’s new Center for Sustainability and the Environment. Founded as a place for students and faculty to come together and address the growing need for a more ecologically-conscious and sustainable approach to living, the Center is sure to become one of the community’s most important features under Marian’s leadership.
“Sustainability is an educational and an operational imperative—something that we all need to be learning about and doing,” said Marian. “It’s also an ongoing, long-term process. I hope that my office can be an open door for ideas, for suggestions, for anything. The level of interactivity and receptivity that I’ve already found on campus is amazing, and the potential here is to really get all the right things right.”
Marian’s work in sustainability is grounded in a career in education, science, organizational communications and community outreach. Not only has she served as a teacher, counselor, laboratory coordinator, and in varied administrative roles; she spent the last ten years working as Ithaca College’s Special Assistant to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for Sustainability and Special Assistant for Campus and Community Sustainability.
This work—supporting faculty efforts in the classroom, developing curriculum, managing projects, scheduling speakers, and much more—contributed to Ithaca College’s AASHE STARS Gold certifications in 2011 and 2013, AASHE Sustainability Leadership Award in 2008, and inclusion in the Princeton Review’s annual “Guide to Green Campuses.”
“To my mind, there are three interlocking parts of what makes a successful campus sustainability program. First of all is education—trying to get students and the whole campus more aware of their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and the ways in which they can become more sustainable. Then of course there’s the “whole campus” piece: how do we create a “living-learning laboratory” that really models and reinforces what the people on the campus are experiencing and learning? How are we changing organizationally to become more sustainable, and how are we creating new learning opportunities for students to research options for more sustainable campus operations? Finally it involves outreach as well; partnerships and relationships with others that will help us get the right information, advice, and counsel and share best practices with one another.
These types of partnerships are reflected in the community work that Marian is involved with outside of her professional roles. She has served as a founding board member or steering committee member of Sustainable Tompkins, the Sustainability Center, Ithaca Carshare, the New York Coalition of Sustainability in Higher Education, and more.
Now in her first month at Wells, Marian is already spearheading a number of efforts aimed at getting the College community involved and invested. From the adoption of an unofficial “mascot” (Orson the Owl) advocating sustainable choices to a new educational campus newsletter, information is now widely available on campus to help students make their own environmentally-ethical choices in regards to recycling or trash bin use, water use, food choices, means of conserving energy, sharing rides when possible, and more. Other arrangements will bring significantly more recycled-content paper into Wells’ printer rooms, increase the purchase of office supplies made from sustainable materials, and improve our campus waste management efforts, including commingled recycling and perhaps, in the future, compost collection.
“Again, our institutional focus on sustainability has the additional benefit that, if we can engage students in these relationships and activities, they’re gaining valuable career skills, life skills, and experiential learning opportunities,” Marian said. “It all adds to the richness of their learning experience, as well. A really valid educational experience – both in the classroom and outside it - goes along with our sustainability efforts. There is a strong academic component to the new sustainability minor that may get students interested in following this as a career path; they will be developing a certain set of skills and knowledge that’s very marketable.”
As the Center for Sustainability and the Environment settles into its new home in the renovated Zabriskie Hall this fall, we look forward to seeing more results of this collaboration and the ways that Wells’ students and staff contribute to a better, more responsible world.