Luther Board of Regents affirms Green Initiatives in strategic plan

March 06, 2009

College's governing board identifies environmental sustainability as a long-term goal

The Luther College Board of Regents has approved the college's Sesquicentennial Strategic Plan for 2008-12, a plan that includes a landmark initiative for Luther's quest towards carbon neutrality.

Taking the college through its 150-year anniversary in 2011-12, the strategic plan is titled "Transformed by the Journey." It identifies three imperatives and specific strategies by which the college will achieve those imperatives.

The three strategic imperatives of the plan are: connecting faith, learning and the larger world; connecting people, place and the Luther experience; and connecting sustainability, stewardship and global citizenship. The plan will guide Luther's decision-making up to and beyond the sesquicentennial celebration in 2011.

Luther College President Richard Torgerson identified sustainability as a central theme.

"We had just completed one five-year plan, and during the preparations for a new round of planning, President Torgerson decided sustainability would be integral after signing the President's Climate Commitment," said James Martin-Schramm, Luther professor of religion and member of one of the three strategic planning task forces. "He knew the only way to make the commitment he made truly institutional would be to put it into the strategic plan and work toward carbon neutrality while making sustainability a part of every student's education."

"The college's mission statement was recently revised and emphasizes stewardship of place," said Martin-Schramm. "Now, the content of the Presidents Climate Commitment has been integrated into our new five-year strategic plan."

Teams comprised of regents, alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff drafted the plans proposals under the leadership of President Torgerson and Karen Martin-Schramm, assistant to the president.

One of the goals in Luther's five-year strategic plan is to cut the colleges carbon footprint in half. Already, the college has reduced its campus carbon footprint by 15 percent and plans to make further investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems to reach the 50 percent goal.

The college is currently trying to raise $2 million for these initiatives as part of a larger $50 million Sesquicentennial Fund related to the strategic plan.

"The strategic plan focuses on ways to achieve the goals set out in [the Presidents Climate Commitment] so that Luther is a model, not a mirror, of society," said President Torgerson.

Luther already implemented notable changes in its dining services, increasing local food purchases, decreasing solid waste production and decreasing water and paper consumption. Other plans for the near future include implementing additional energy efficiency upgrades and constructing or remodeling buildings to LEED standards, which recognize design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

"The final part of the [strategic] plan, 'Connecting Sustainability, Stewardship, and Global Citizenship,' looks at ways Luther might prepare its graduates with the skills and knowledge to lead society in a more sustainable direction," said President Torgerson.

In shifting Luther's campus culture towards sustainability, $5 million (10 percent) of the Sesquicentennial Fund seeks endowment support for a new Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC). The goal of the center is to catalyze change and be an educational resource for businesses, churches, governments and communities in the region.

"The Center for Sustainable Communities will integrate multiple aspects of a sustainable community food, energy, education and sustainable business and entrepreneurship," said President Torgerson. "At the same time, it will offer Luther student interns as resources, providing young people with practical educational experiences."

The Center for Sustainable Communities endowment initiative will provide funding for a campus sustainability coordinator, two student sustainability internships, programs for sustainable food production, energy and business systems, and youth environmental education.

"With sustainability, there needs to be both personal commitment and an institutional ownership in order to success," said Martin-Schramm. "It is rare to see sustainability goals articulated in a strategic plan such as this."

The plan also created a new Campus Sustainability Council with broad campus representation, currently led by Craig Mosher, Luther associate professor of social work. The council's committees, made up of faculty, staff and students, address specific sustainability issues including energy, food, water and land use.

"The council was established to monitor progress toward achieving the sustainability goals articulated in the new five-year strategic plan," said Martin-Schramm. "There is a significant overlap between the center and the council because it would be odd for Luther to go into the community to promote sustainable communities and not model sustainability itself."

"Luther College has articulated its mission vis-a-vis the strategic plan, and the Board of Regents, with their approval, showed they believe this is an important part of the mission of the college," said Martin-Schramm. "It says a lot about their trust and affirmation of President Torgerson's leadership and vision that they are actively involved and supporting the administration in these sustainability initiatives."

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