PSU faculty take sustainability lessons learned on the road to Bogota
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: November 3, 2017

Building on a growing relationship between Portland State University and Universidad EAN, a private university with 7,500 students in Bogota, Colombia, two of PSU’s most experienced sustainability faculty spent a week in South America presenting a workshop aimed at increasing expertise around the creation of sustainability partnerships and fostering an already growing network of sustainability entrepreneurs on the campus in Columbia. 

Jennifer Allen, associate professor of Public Administration and Institute for Sustainable Solutions Faculty Senior Fellow joined David Ervin, ISS Senior Research Faculty and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Management and Economics led a week-long workshop to share lessons learned at PSU about embedding sustainability into academic and operations programs in a university setting, including exploration of methods for measuring progress and impact. 

The workshop, attended by more than a dozen faculty and staff at EAD, included ample time for group discussion and project development. Participants in the workshop are actively developing and implementing University programs — such as stakeholder engagement with campus and local organizations involved with sustainability, and developing baseline sustainability curriculum — as well as entrepreneurial ventures with a sustainability bent. 

Ervin said one of the participants is working on a natural fragrance startup that would make use of and celebrate Colombia’s rich plant biodiversity while providing jobs for rural workers redeploying from the drug conflicts in the country’s recent past. 

“This was a great example of integrating the social dimension of sustainability with the economic and environmental purposes,” Ervin said. “One big message we shared with them was the need to build social capital on and off campus through partnerships.” 

Allen and Ervin gave detailed reports of sustainability programs at PSU — including the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (now embedded in the ISS Healthy Neighborhoods work), and other initiatives—that have united multiple disciplines and engaged community partners, developing enriching experiences for students while having a positive impact on the region’s sustainability. Allen and ISS Director Robert Liberty also presented at a public event celebrating EAN’s 50th anniversary – Liberty presented on the University’s work on Climate Resilient Cities and Allen on the role of universities in advancing sustainable development. 

The workshop and other presentations were well received. 

“I think that we, as PSU, do not fully appreciate all that we have accomplished and the leadership position that we hold both nationally and internationally in academic sustainability,” Ervin said. 

The workshop was just the latest in an ongoing and growing relationship between EAN and PSU that began when Ted Khoury, associate professor of business management and strategy and ISS Faculty Fellow, was invited to teach a class at EAN last year. That connection developed into a project to facilitate EAN students participating in PSU’s Social Innovation Certificate program online and joining a social innovation summer field study with PSU students in Bogota over the summer.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Abby Chroman, program manager for Impact Entreprenurs, “and we’re excited to host our EAN colleagues here in February as special guests to our annual Elevating Impact Summit in February.”