USF Launches Nation's First School of Global Sustainability

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 11, 2010) The University of South Florida launched the nation’s first School of Global Sustainability Thursday, an innovative effort aimed at preparing students for a new generation of “green collar” careers and finding solutions for a world challenged with the protection of its fragile environment and limited resources.


The school unites USF’s world-class researchers in water, clean and renewable energy, climate change, coastal environments, human health and sustainable cities in programs which recognize the worldwide challenges to creating sustainable systems.


The School of Global Sustainability also will help educate a new workforce for the new green economy - estimated to create 2.5 million new jobs in coming years.


The school’s formal launch came with the start of a two-day conference at the Marshall Student Center featuring some of science’s leading thinkers on climate change and sustainability. The conference will continue on Friday; admission is free and is open to the public.


To watch a USF netcast of the keynote speakers and faculty panels, click here. A full program of the conference events and the School of Global Sustainability Web site can be found here.


A crowd of several hundred were on hand for the morning’s keynote address by Lonnie Thompson, director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at the Ohio State University who served as an adviser for the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Thompson’s studies on retreating glaciers in the Andes and the demise of the famed snows of Mount Kilimanjaro provided some of science’s most dramatic evidence of climate change.


“The 21st century has two main problems: How we’ve gotten along with each other – which has been a problem for awhile – and how we get along with the planet,” Thompson said. “The two are interwoven. I don’t know what it will take for us to realize we are all in this together.”


Also in attendance were representatives from USF’s partner universities from around the world including Ewha Woman’s University President Bae-Yong Lee of South Korea.

USF President Judy Genshaft presented Lee with the President's Global Leadership Award for her work in promoting global cooperation and her efforts to build a campus which emphasized studies and outreach in multiculturalism and the promotion of world peace.


“When events and relationships tie people together like this, we call it ‘in-yeon’ in Korea,” Lee said. “I am thankful for this award, and that USF and Ewha have this ‘in-yeon’ that binds us together.”


USF’s School of Global Sustainability will not be a traditional bricks-and-mortar school but will use online learning and the latest technological advances to allow students to complete programs efficiently. A worldwide search is underway for a director to lead the school, whose first class of graduate students will enroll in summer 2010.


Its first degree program, a master’s degree in global sustainability, will initially focus on water with other concentrations being developed in such themes as food security and health, natural environments, gender, ethnicity and class, global citizenry, climate change, coastal wetlands, the history of sustainable communities and megacities.


The School of Global Sustainability will incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to learning which will allow students and researchers to explore issues through the lenses of corporate social responsibility, public policy, poverty reduction and education – particularly in the areas of science, technology, math and engineering which are crucial to the development of sustainable technologies.


“The University of South Florida is committed to creating a 21st century which is healthy, sustainable and prosperous for both Florida and for communities far beyond our borders. This school is a major step in that direction,” said USF President Judy Genshaft.


“The School of Global Sustainability will leverage USF’s existing strengths to build new opportunities for our students and faculty. We are dedicated to preparing our students to face the challenges of the world we know now and of the world that will exist in their lifetime.”


The school’s estimated $3 million annual budget will be funded through tuition of students who enroll and faculty research grants and private and corporate gifts.


The creation of the School of Global Sustainability caps a nearly two-year planning process at USF to create the first school of its kind with a worldwide focus. And while the school’s focus will be global, it will draw on USF’s local roots in a major coastal city facing the challenges of climate change, protection of threatened natural resources and population growth.


Complete information about the School of Global Sustainability, including an application, can be found here.


The creation of the school is the culmination of several key events to focus on sustainability, which has become one of USF’s signature initiatives.


In 2006, the university announced its Sustainable Healthy Communities Initiative, followed by President Genshaft signing the American Colleges and University President’s Climate Commitment in April 2008. This fall, the university established its first Office of Sustainability to coordinate efforts to create a sustainable campus environment and coordinate fundraising efforts. And in October, Genshaft was the only American university president invited to speak at the Global University Presidents Summit in Seoul, South Korea.


“In creating this School of Global Sustainability, we are re-imagining and redefining higher education,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. “We are leveraging our interdisciplinary strengths and partnerships in academia and private industry and positioning our students for success in a competitive, globalized world.”



Photos by Aimee Blodgett



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.