Clarkson University is located in the far reaches of Northern New York State, beyond the Adirondacks on the southern flank of the St. Lawrence River Valley. It's surrounded by rolling hills, expansive landscapes, and lush wetlands, fields, and forests. The small towns in upstate New York have their ubiquitous strips, but they have downtowns reminiscent of the mid -twentieth century. It's a very interesting place.
In the midst of these fields are the towns of Potsdam and Canton, the locations of four universities—Clarkson, St. Lawrence, SUNY Postdam, and SUNY Canton. Last week I was hosted by Clarkson University, but I met with and visited all four campuses in an effort to consult with their sustainability directors. As I spent most of my time at Clarkson, I'd like to report briefly on my visit. Clarkson signed the Presidents Climate Commitment, and to celebrate the accomplishment, I met with President Tony Collins and other campus leaders. I also delivered a plenary address, The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus.
I derive inspiration and enjoyment from these visit because I get to see so many people doing great work. With each visit, I learn something new about the possibilities and potentials for a sustainable campus. Clarkson University has a great deal to offer. Their Institute for a Sustainable Environment offers undergraduate degree programs in Environmental Health Science and Environmental Science and Policy as well as Minors in Sustainable Energy Systems Engineering and Sustainable Solutions for the Developing World. Along with their Environmental Engineering program, the offerings in the School of Business, the support from the School of Arts and Sciences, and interdisciplinary graduate programs in Environmental Science and Engineering and Environmental Politics and Governance, there's an impressive portfolio of opportunities. Particularly impressive is the hands-on, applied research approach of these programs. Clarkson has five ongoing research initiatives that provide regional economic and ecological opportunities—the Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science, the Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, the Clarkson BioMass Group, the Great Rivers Center, and the Rivers and Estuary Observatory Network. That's a lot of programs for a small university!
The Institute for a Sustainable Environment is housed in an open concept, green building that epitomizes the research and teaching orientation of the school. I was very pleased to see the impressive first floor signage that explains the basic elements of building design and how Clarkson University research was instrumental in important aspects of the design process. The various bulletin boards demonstrate the vitality and relevance of student and faculty research.
In The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus, I describe the necessity of integrating all aspects of sustainability thinking. Clarkson's most important contribution is the close integration between research and infrastructure, and the application of that integration to community regional development. Accordingly, Clarkson is investing the sustainable future of the entire St. Lawrence region. I highly recommend that readers of this commentary visit the Clarkson website, and peruse the interesting initiatives of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment.