Portland coalition launches sustainability education network
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: June 10, 2014

The Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN), a coalition of regional educators, students, and organizations committed to promoting sustainability in the region, celebrated its launch last week with an event at the World Forestry Center in Portland. 

Representatives from Portland State University served on the coordinating committee for GPSEN, which was designated a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on education for sustainable development by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability

The designation places the Portland region in a global network of educational institutions and organizations mobilized to support sustainable development in their communities. There are more than 100 RCE’s worldwide. Oregon joins Michigan and Virginia as the only U.S. states to have a designated RCE within their borders. 

The goals of the GPSEN include supporting the development of collaborative partnerships, conducting outreach, offering educational and research opportunities, and leveraging regional expertise to achieve collective sustainability objectives. 

GPSEN’s mission in shorthad: educate, inspire, engage. 

Kim Smith, a sociology professor at Portland Community College and coordinator for GPSEN, said she would like to see the network focus on transformative education and research, as well as a concerted outreach effort to share sustainability knowledge with the region. 

“We need to model and share our good work in our own communities,” Smith said. 

The Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative, launched by PSU this week, is an example of the kind of community-based learning and outreach that GPSEN intends to expand. 

Debra Rowe, a national sustainability education advocate, professor of energy management at Oakland Community Collge, and senior fellow with University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, joined last week’s celebration by phone and reminded those present that the U.S. looks to Portland for models that work—but that there’s still much work to be done. 

“We still have not come close to shifting societal norms,” she said.