The bikeshare station at Drexel Park is one of the ways Drexel has created sustainable transportation options for commuting on and around campus, which is something the Climate Action Plan will be looking into. Photo credit: Jen Britton.
[Editor’s note: Alissa Falcone is the co-chair of the Climate Action Plan’s Institutional Culture subcommittee.]
“As an institution, Drexel University is committed to addressing our most pressing issues, and in terms of climate change, we are already doing that. We connect with students who are climate activists and who are building career pathways as problem solvers in this space. We know that Drexel researchers across every college are working on research questions directly related to climate change. We are working closely with our professional staff and administrative leaders who prioritize a concern for climate change in their work. Articulating Drexel’s role as a climate problem solver also fits right into our civic engagement mission,” said Vice President of Procurement Services and Chief Procurement Officer Julie Jones.
But, she noted, “We haven’t yet put these pieces together into a unified roadmap that will offer a plan and a structure for keeping ourselves accountable, and that’s what we need.”
Jones is chair of the Climate Action Plan Committee, a Drexel initiative that started in 2022 and launched a new phase this term to create that “unified roadmap.” Now, six new subcommittees overlooking various aspects of the University have been created to guide the process.
“A climate action plan has a lot in common with a strategic plan in that it will inform processes for an institution for years and even decades to come,” said Executive Director of Sustainable Development Strategy Jen Britton, who is also leading the Climate Action Plan’s logistical coordination. “Taking that responsibility seriously means that we need to take advantage of all the expertise and passion that we have in our institutional community.”
The Climate Action Plan will support other University-wide initiatives and have a similar impact at Drexel. For example, “Sustainability and Climate Resilience” is one of Drexel's 10 Areas of Excellence & Opportunity (AEOs), which is an initiative launched by the Office of Provost related to identified areas of strength and opportunity that can be connected through academics and research across the University.
“AEOs provide opportunities to set up our students for success and our programs to be more effective and provide opportunities to build up and integrate the characteristics of that define us — experiential learning, civic engagement, innovation and entrepreneurship, and external partnerships. My hope is that our subcommittee, Academics and Research, connects our collective work towards building infrastructure that supports faculty and student research, scholarship, and activities in support of the goals of the Climate Action Plan,” said Gwynne Grasberger, associate vice provost of research development in the Office of Research & Innovation and co-lead of the Academics and Research subcommittee, who is also part of the AEO steering subcommittee.
The Climate Action Plan Task Force has six subcommittees, each led by two faculty and/or professional staff members, that will ultimately provide recommendations to the University’s Climate Action Plan. Those subcommittees are:
- Academics and Research
- Led by: Gwynne Grasberger, associate vice provost of research development in the Office of Research & Innovation, and Ludo Scheffer, PhD, teaching professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Buildings and Energy
- Campus Infrastructure
- Led by: Scott Dunham, director of grounds maintenance in Real Estate and Facilities, and Kim Miller, executive director of design in Real Estate and Facilities.
- Business Practices
- Led by: David Collins, assistant vice president of strategic sourcing in Procurement Services, and Emily Geschke, director of student centers and engagement in Drexel Business Services.
- Institutional Culture
- Civic Engagement and Community Impact
Students, faculty, professional staff, alumni and campus neighbors can join one of these subcommittees by filling out a subcommittee self-nomination form. Applications are now open, though people can apply to join on a rolling basis throughout the year as the subcommittees are working on their recommendations.
One of the concerns that the Climate Action Plan will look into is how Drexel heats and cools its buildings and offices, including providing office heating/cooling units like this one Photo credit: Jen Britton.
“You don’t have to be an expert in climate science or in how to maximize our heating and cooling efficiency … but we’d be glad to have your expertise!” said Jones. “This is a deliberative process and that means we’re going to take time to discuss, research and talk through recommendations for the plan. You’ll pick up knowledge as you dig in with fellow subcommittee members.”
Scott Dunham, director of grounds maintenance in Real Estate and Facilities and co-lead of the Campus Infrastructure subcommittee, also highlighted the importance of everyone joining because of their personal interests and experiences.
“Whether we realize it or not, climate change is beginning to affect us all in a number of different ways and being a part of the change is better than waiting for someone else to do it, in my opinion,” he said. “We will welcome all viewpoints and suggestions from students, faculty and professional staff to help create a well-rounded and accurate view of what we can do to improve our systems and set ourselves up to move into the future with our best foot forward.”
For Emily Geschke, director of student centers and engagement in Drexel Business Services and co-lead of the Business Practices subcommittee, making sure that the Drexel community is included and captured in the work of the Climate Action Plan is also key to the plan’s success.
“We need to educate ourselves and understand what our sphere of influence is both here at on campus as well as in the greater world. And we need to recognize that the Climate Action Plan is tasked with matching desire with capability, and how it relates to what can be done with available time and money,” said Geschke. “As an institution of higher learning, Drexel has a responsibility to contribute to society, and members of the Drexel community at large have a role in that.”
Jones said members are, above all, required to bring their time and their willingness to contribute to designing plan recommendations. They should be prepared to commit consistently to the work; meetings will be held on a regular basis as determined by the subcommittee leaders but will generally meet for a few hours each month. Each subcommittee will have a Teams channel to further communicate, share files and links, and work on action items between meetings.
The goal is to have each subcommittee provide recommendations in their area by the end of the academic year or shortly thereafter. Those recommendations will then be presented to Drexel leadership and, after that, be potentially implemented at the University.
“I am hoping to be a part of some actual meaningful change, from the perspective of campus infrastructure, which is a broad area that includes everything from campus recycling and waste, to ‘greening’ our campus Facilities fleet, to smart buildings and automation,” said Dunham. “A successful term on this committee for me will result in a planned-out and budgeted approach to bringing our campus infrastructure into the modern era. I have already been a part of various projects pertaining to this subcommittee over the past several years, and this will hopefully start pulling a lot of these projects together with plans for what comes next.”
You can always take a monthly survey question to help share your thoughts with the Climate Action Plan regardless of your involvement with the program. This month’s question relates to the hydration stations and drinking fountains on campus. You can sign up to receive these via Drexel’s Climate and Sustainability email list by emailing email@example.com with your request to be added.