A new movement in the USA: the Higher Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




(2000), "A new movement in the USA: the Higher Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE)", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 1 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijshe.2000.24901bab.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

A new movement in the USA: the Higher Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE)

A new movement in the USA: the Higher Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE)

Keywords: Sustainable development, Higher education, Environment

Over the past two years, a new network of individuals and organizations has evolved in the USA: the Higher Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment (HENSE). This network seeks to make education for sustainability and the environment a foundation of all aspects of higher education: teaching, research, operations, purchasing and collaboration with local communities.

Numerous and diverse groups and individuals in community colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities and professional schools across the USA are currently pursuing innovative strategies in environmental and sustainability education. However, existing efforts too often occur in isolation, remain small scale and provide little opportunity for cross-fertilization. Individual faculty, staff and administrators have no national forum where their work can be reported, reviewed, acknowledged and advanced.

HENSE has come about through the vision and dedication of many individuals who feel the need for a national, broad-based initiative to coordinate, support and expand existing efforts to bring sustainability and environmental awareness into every sector of the academy.

In January 2000, 40 key individuals from colleges and universities, higher education associations, non-governmental organizations and foundations met at Clark Atlanta University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and clarified the functions, organization and priority projects of HENSE.

While HENSE should eventually be incorporated and become a 501(c)(3), it is starting as a "virtual" organization, in which network members assume responsibility for key tasks on behalf of HENSE. Existing organizations in the USA, such as the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the Northeast Environmental Studies (NEES) group, the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program, the World Resources Institute (WRI), Second Nature, the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF), Northern Arizona University and Ball State University, are identifying the functions they can best perform for the network. These functions include handling membership, publishing a newsletter, managing a HENSE Website, sponsoring faculty development workshops, planning and conducting conferences and many others.

The goal of the current phase in HENSE's evolution is to pursue the most critical initiatives identified in Atlanta, expand the network membership and further develop the organizational structure.

With support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, HENSE will fund various projects in the next year, to be implemented by teams who formed in Atlanta. These projects include:

  • Holding a seminar for 25-35 key university presidents and trustees on the importance of education for sustainability in summer 2000.

  • Designing faculty development strategies to support, revitalize and reward faculty who are committed to education for sustainability and the environment, and help others build their commitment.

  • Completing a comprehensive review of campus environmental assessments of more than 250 projects in the US that use the campus as a laboratory to study resource flows and other aspects of the institutions' "environmental footprint."

  • Developing an electronic journal, the Journal of Environmental Studies, by the NEES group for innovative teaching and learning strategies for environmental studies faculty and others.

  • Establishing a HENSE Website in spring 2000 to include the HENSE mission, background and list of participants; HENSE governance and structure; current and ongoing projects; links to databases for higher education stakeholders related to implementing sustainability on campus; etc.

  • Creating a HENSE newsletter and membership strategy.

  • Planning for a meeting in fall 2000 of a larger number of individuals and organizations than the current 40-50, to finalize the governance structure and publicly launch HENSE.

Participants at the Atlanta gathering committed themselves to many other projects and tasks to be undertaken through HENSE in the future. Following the Atlanta meeting, an Interim Steering Committee was established to guide HENSE through its next phase. This Committee will function as the decision-making body for HENSE until the official governance structure is finalized at the fall 2000 meeting. University Leaders for a Sustainable Future is the "acting" Secretariat for HENSE until a permanent base is established.

We believe that a new national network can foster a strategic effort to galvanize institutional change. HENSE will build bridges, coordinate efforts, and create opportunities for synergy by bringing this critical agenda to a much larger audience.

In the long run, HENSE will be sustained by building connections with individuals, organizations and universities internationally as well. We recognize the fundamental importance of information sharing, cooperation, support and collaboration between colleagues around the world in seeking a sustainable future.

For more information, contact HENSE at E-mail: HENSEinfo@aol.com, or Tel: 202-955-3682.

Related articles