By: Kate Luce
IU South Bend became the first regional IU campus to receive a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System designation (STARS). The STARS designation is achieved through reports given to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The award provides schools with a way to gain recognition for their sustainability efforts, create a baseline for improvement and give insight on planning and budgeting.
“It means we have done quite a bit of work, taking a close look at how we do everything because it really is a comprehensive assessment. We are looking at how we are taking care of the grounds, how much energy do we use, are students being supported, what is our focus on terms of affordability and diversity, what are we doing to minimize waste, what kind of classes do we offer, do they have a focus on sustainability?” Krista Bailey, director of the Center for a Sustainable Future, said.
“We are thrilled to be the first regional campus of Indiana University to receive this designation. It demonstrates that a greener campus is a priority for all of us and that IU South Bend is a leader in higher education sustainability. We are just getting started! I look forward to seeing future progress on sustainability initiatives as we strive for the next STARS rating levels,” Chancellor Susan Elrod, said.
The STARS designation has shown that IU South Bend is doing well in many areas: campus engagement, faculty research, academic courses, hazardous waste removal, diversity and affordability, campus-wellbeing and the materials purchased through IU.
“What we discovered as a regional campus is that there is a lot that we can do on our campus, as a regional campus. There is also quite a bit that we can’t really affect because it is an IU-wide initiative or process,” Bailey said.
This project started two years ago, as there was support from both students and former Chancellor Terry Allison.
“I don’t know if I would call it peer pressure, but being part of AASHE and going to the annual conferences with students, there was a little pressure from students. You would get to the conference and you would get your name badge and a ribbon. We have never gotten the ribbon because we never did the work,” Bailey said.
This was partly due to this being a massive project. A graduate student worked on it, and so did Bailey when she had the chance.
“I am just a quarter-time as director of the Center for Sustainability. I am teaching classes primarily. It is making time to assess what needs to get done, how to get it done and did we report it correctly. It is an incredibly detailed process. I had a graduate student working on it. They only have so much work-study money and time as a graduate student. He was putting in 10 hours a week, for 13 weeks, for four semesters,” Bailey said.
The project, however, could have taken less than two years, if the COVID-19 pandemic did not hit. The project was set to be completed in the spring 2020 semester.
As far as other regional IU campuses, IU Southeast is expected to finish the work to receive their report this spring. IU East, Kokomo, and Northwest are gathering information for the designation.
“As more regional campuses work on their STARS report. We can identify opportunities for the whole system. I suspect that could guide our actions forward as a collective group of sustainability initiatives across campuses,” Bailey said.
As far as what the Center of Sustainability is looking to work on, they are hoping the easiest and cheapest concerns can be addressed first.
To view the whole report, visit https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/indiana-university-south-bend-in/report/2020-12-17/.
For more information about the Center for a Sustainable Future, visit https://clas.iusb.edu/centers/cs-future/index.html