Goals for UMACS
UMACS works to encourage the sharing of information and resources on campus sustainability through a variety of means, including regular meetings, this website, and moderated email discussion lists. Another top priority is to encourage campuses to establish ongoing environmental audits and greenhouse gas inventories. Data from these audits could be shared with UMACS members to help them evaluate their own campus performance against real-world benchmarks from similar schools in our area. Breaking down barriers to collaboration between campuses and between academic/professional staff/students at individual schools is our third area of interest.
Colleges and universities are in a unique position to shift the future of our world. Places of higher education foster the desire for growth and learning, among students as well as faculty and staff. If the education the students receive involves learning about the distinct environmental issues facing our world, as well as the concrete solutions for overcoming the worst problems, they will become leaders of a generation that turns the tide toward a sustainable future. This education not only comes from the classroom, but from the daily operation of the campus. Every decision a college or university makes can contribute to the sustainable vision with which a student comes away.
Why target higher education in our work for sustainability? Why do we need a regional campus sustainability organization? Whether acting alone or in concert, the potential for colleges and universities to serve as change agents for sustainability is great. Institutions of higher education are major players in regional, state, and local economies, and are responsible for educating the next generation of leaders in government, business, and our communities. While many individual institutions have made significant advances toward sustainability in education and practice, we need more collective effort and coordination on this front in our region. Schools that do attempt to raise the profile of sustainability on their campuses often end up "reinventing the wheel," making the same mistakes as other institutions, or may fail to recognize when opportunities present themselves. Faculty/staff/students working in isolation, often against the dominant campus culture, can quickly become demoralized.
UMACS was established in 2005 to address these problems by encouraging networking, information sharing, cooperative research, and by hosting regular meetings to bring together academic and operations people from a variety of campuses as well as students active in sustainability on their campuses. This will not only yield greater efficiency, but we hope will prompt successful schools to share their models/lessons with others and provide needed encouragement those just starting out on a path to greater sustainability.
The first UMACS conference was hosted by St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict in May 2006. Dr. Derek Larson from St. John's was the driving force behind both the birth of UMACS and the first conference. Without the vision, leadership, and energy that Larson brought to this project, UMACS would not exist. The second UMACS conference was held in April 2008, at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The third biennial conference took place April 2010 at the University of Wisconsin River Falls through the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development.
Support for UMACS
A grant from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance supported initial planning and the first regional conference in 2006. Additional support for the first conference was provided by The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, two Catholic, Benedictine schools working in partnership in central Minnesota. Support for the 2008 conference was provided by a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
UMACS is currently a volunteer operation. We have no paid staff or annual budget and are governed by a volunteer steering committee. If you would like to volunteer your services send an e-mail via our contact page.