Ushering in a New Green Era at Villanova
In concert with worldwide Earth Day celebrations, Villanova University hosted the International SustainAbility Conference on April 22–25, 2009. With a keynote address delivered by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and over 150 attendees from five continents, the conference achieved its two principal objectives. First, it sparked interdisciplinary conversations about the scientific, humanistic, political, economic, and ecological challenges and opportunities of sustainability. Second, it established Villanova as an academic center of environmental responsibility.
“The quality of the conference presentations was consistently outstanding,” said conference co-organizer Dr. Paul Rosier. “We’re proud of the achievements that collectively formed the intellectual heart of the event: the discussions that occurred among attendees, the high level of student involvement, the participation of all four Villanova colleges and the School of Law, and the emphasis on integrating sustainability into curricula.” Rosier explained that student participation was a key part of the event’s success. Students presented at the conference, joined sessions, and wrote follow-up reports for their Villanova coursework. Student contingents from Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Temple, NYU, and The New School were also in attendance.
In addition to the presentation sessions, the conference hosted an Earth Day fair, an Earth Day discussion led by students, a viewing of “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, Chanticleer Garden and Wissahickon Watershed nature hikes, an organic dinner, and a live performance of “Sense of Wonder,” a play based on the life of noted ecologist and author Rachel Carson. Media outlets including NBC, FOX and KYW Radio came to campus to cover Kennedy’s keynote address, and Villanova’s video recording of the keynote and a number of sessions will be available on iTunes U.
“We’re very grateful to the university administration,” said Dr. Francis Galgano, conference co-organizer. “Without the support of the President’s Office, the VPAA’s Office, and Father Kail Ellis, none of this would have been possible. We also couldn’t have done it without the help of so many staff who supported the effort—especially Angelina Fondaco in the Department of Geography & the Environment and the Villanova Creative Services team.”
The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007—publicly establishing a Villanova commitment to sustainability that had quietly thrived for more than 30 years. As a manifestation of its commitment to environmental education and protection, Villanova launched a Year of Sustainability in 2008–09. Led by an interdisciplinary executive committee of faculty members—including conference organizers Rosier and Galgano—this initiative was launched with the 80th Anniversary of the Mendel Medal Celebration.
The SustainAbility Conference represents the culmination of the Year of Sustainability, but it is viewed by the organizers as a beginning—not an end. “It’s our intention that the Year of Sustainability will help to usher in a new era of environmental responsibility to our campus,” said Galgano. “Although the Year of Sustainability spans a limited period of time, the long-term priorities it addresses have no such limit. Our hope—through the conference and the year—is to strengthen the foundation of the Villanova commitment to sustainability for generations to come.”