The University of California at Los Angeles, one of the world’s premier learning institutions, is also a pioneer in the realm of environment and sustainability, producing the next generation of innovators and leaders via its Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
“Our mission is to promote research, education, and outreach and communication on issues of the environment and sustainability in a collaborative, multi-partner fashion that builds bridges on campus and from UCLA to the wider world,” said IoES director Glen MacDonald at the Evening of Excellence event honoring Dan A. Emmett and Southern California Edison.
MacDonald was one of the UCLA professors who asked the university to create the program in 1995, and it became an official Institute two years later. Today, there are more than 80 professors teaching dozens of courses campus-wide, seven different research centers, 280 undergraduate students working to earn a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies, another 150 minors, and 145 graduate candidates studying to earn their masters degrees. According to a recent exit study, “Over 80 percent of graduates are finding positions either in environment or sustainability-related jobs or going on to graduate school. The placement rate is amazing,” noted MacDonald.
He’s equally encouraged by the response from the corporate community, and names Disney, Sony Entertainment and software maker Vertum as three of the 25 companies that have partnered with the IoES. “There used to be a bit of a dichotomy between the tree huggers and the corporate world, but that’s vanishing as corporations see that sustainability is not only good for the planet, for their employees and people, but is good for the bottom line,” MacDonald said in his pre-dinner remarks, outlining efforts to maintain and build corporate relationships, promote the flow of ideas, and provide students to work on short-term projects, many of whom become permanent employees. “We are directly engaged in forming the nexus between government agencies, policy makers, the brains of the university, our students, and the private sector,” he said.
Toward that end, the IoES holds 90 events per year including the Oppenheim lecture series “which brings the brightest minds in environment and sustainability to UCLA to speak not only to the campus but to the general public,” via podcasts and YouTube videos, said MacDonald, emphasizing the importance of the Internet and social media. “We are on Facebook, we are on Twitter. It’s all becoming more and more important.”
The Institute has helped the UCLA campus itself become more sustainable. “We’re moving toward zero waste on campus in everything from food services to recycling to what we plant. We have really made some major changes. Reducing our carbon footprint has been a very big part of it,” said MacDonald. “I can proudly say that UCLA not only walks the walk, we talk the talk,”
But the IEoS’s main job is educating the future scientists, researchers, green sector leaders and informed consumers who will inherit the job of saving the Earth. “Nine billion people will be on this planet by 2051,” MacDonald pointed out. “The future we give to our children and our grandchildren is our responsibility. Our motto is ‘everything we do today matters.’”
This is the first in a five-part series about UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability. Look for the second installment next week.