Universities across the region pledge commitment to sustainability

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UOG President Thomas W. Krise shares the outcome of the Presidential summit among the panel of island university and college leaders (From left) Seok-eon Song, president of Jeju National University; Elsa Manarpaac, president of Western Philippines University; Robert A. Underwood, president emeritus of University of Guam; Krise; Frankie M. Eliptico, interim president, Northern Marianas College; Mary A.Y. Okada, president of Guam Community College; and Theresa Koroivulaono, president of the College of the Marshall Islands.

Guam – Eight island college and university presidents made collective commitments toward sustainability during a summit at the 10th UOG Conference on Island Sustainability. The commitments promote cross regional partnerships in seeking indigenous solutions to island problems.

During the summit, the presidents of the University of Guam and Guam Community College met with their counterparts from the Northern Marianas College, the College of the Marshall Islands, the University of Hawaii, Western Philippines University in Palawan, JejuNational University in South Korea, and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

The university heads shared the different initiatives that they have implemented to promote sustainability in their communities, including successful renewable energy and green transportation projects. They also shared their sustainability challenges, including waste reduction and food security.

Elsa Manarpaac, president of Western Philippines University shared how the university protested a proposed coal-fed power plant in Aborlan, a coastal town in Palawan. Concerted efforts from community groups, including the university, helped block the planned development. Palawan has a biosphere reserve, which has been designated a UNESCO heritage site.

David Lassner, University of Hawaii president, said their university has adopted an institutional policy on sustainability. The university and its different units is also working on projects that explore different dimensions of sustainability. According to Lassner, their Maui college is also on track to become the first college campus in the United States that generate 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

Below are the main points of their commitment:

  • Seek indigenous/island solutions to island problems;
  • Connect heads of research with one another; 
  • Connect heads of workforce development with one another; 
  • Create an inventory or website to connect best practices or solutions, and; 
  • Exchange visits among institutions to foster future exchanges of faculty, staff, and students 

“Universities were not built for themselves — they were built for their communities,” said Dale Webber, pro vice chancellor and principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica. “We are islands apart, but we are all in this together.” 

At the end of the summit, UOG president Thomas W. Krise acknowledged the role universities play in helping society figure out how to meet current island sustainability challenges.