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Reflecting on Drexel's Climate Year

January 28, 2022

‚ÄčThis message was sent to students, faculty and staff by the Provost on January 28, 2022.

Dear Students and Colleagues,

Last year, students, faculty, staff and researchers at Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences came together to make 2021 Drexel’s Climate Year. Spearheaded by the Climate & Sustainability Working Group, the initiative strengthened our institutional climate commitment, led to the creation of new experiential learning opportunities, inspired climate-focused research and civic engagement, and charted progress on institutional sustainability metrics.

Together with the Working Group, I am pleased to share highlights of the progress that has been made since the midyear report in July. While the first half of Climate Year was focused on launching new initiatives and building climate-focused networks, the second half of the year focused on formalizing these efforts and establishing structures and relationships that will sustain this work far into the future.

Experiential Learning and Civic Engagement

As a permanent observer to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change’s annual Conference of Parties (COP), Drexel sent a delegation of students, faculty and staff to Glasgow for the COP26 conference. There, for the first time, the University cohosted an event on the international stage called “Scaling Up: Case Studies in Collaborations between Cities and Higher Education Institutions.” You can hear the participants speak about their experiences on the Global Engagement website.

In July, the Climate & Sustainability Working Group held its second climate case competition, challenging student teams to create an information campaign about the influence of climate change on health. And in Philadelphia’s Eastwick neighborhood, an Academy Town Square covered by WHYY amplified the efforts of residents to protect their community from severe and repeated flooding, reviving mitigation discussions between Eastwick and City Hall.

Climate-Focused Research

The Climate Resilience Research Agenda — led by researchers from Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences and engaging over 100 participants from the governmental, private and nonprofit sectors — concluded its first phase. Four working groups met over the summer of 2021 to sketch out a draft agenda of research activities that are aimed at making the Philadelphia metropolitan area more resilient to the effects of climate change. A draft report will be released in early 2022.

Additionally, the Office of Global Engagement awarded four Global Climate Action grants to jump start or leverage climate- and globally focused research projects. The awardees and their projects were:

  • Andrew F. Smith, Department of English and Philosophy, “Global Food Systems, Indigenous Climate Justice, and Tribal Land Reclamation”
  • Sharrona Pearl, Department of Health Administration, “CNHP Reads: Global Climate Action Short Stories”
  • Simi Hoque, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, “How do differences in culture and climate affect human-building-environment relationships?”
  • Steve Dolph, Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, “Global Classroom Partnership with Plenitud PR, Las Marias, Puerto Rico”

Maintaining Our Momentum

Climate Year was an ignition point for important and ongoing climate and sustainability work, creating momentum that will be carried forward into 2022 and beyond. In November, we announced that Mathy Vathanaraj Stanislaus was appointed Vice Provost and the inaugural Executive Director of The Environmental Collaboratory, which formally launched this month. The Environmental Collaboratory is an interdisciplinary initiative that unites Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences to mobilize Drexel’s powerful research programs and engage our community in identifying and implementing solutions to environmental justice challenges. 

The Climate & Sustainability Working Group will continue its work from the past two years, partnering with the Collaboratory and focusing on Drexel’s internal sustainability practices. The Group is currently collaborating with Procurement Services on the creation of sustainable purchasing guidelines and policies.

For the full end-of-year report, visit the Climate & Sustainability website.

I commend our students and colleagues who served on the Working Group and participated in efforts across the University and Academy to address the climate crisis. These ongoing initiatives — in addition to the Academy’s designation of 2022 as Water Year, student groups like the newly created EcoReps, and many more — will ensure that sustainability becomes a permanent priority for the University.

We invite you all to consider how you can deepen your commitment to climate problem solving in the coming year in your roles as students, alumni, faculty and staff. To explore ways to get involved or join the sustainability listserv, email sustainability@drexel.edu.

Sincerely,

Paul E. Jensen
Executive Vice President
Nina Henderson Provost