Dallas County Community College Focuses on Sustainability
The Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), founded a little more than 50 years ago by such Dallas stalwarts as R. L. Thornton and Margaret McDermott, and now a network of seven colleges, has become one of the most important assets in the Metroplex to students, the community and its business partners. Their investment has paid dividends in economic development, workforce training and undergraduate and community education.
DCCCD continues to practice community leadership in its commitment to sustainability through its policies, practices – including numerous LEED rated buildings, educational programs and events. Their annual Sustainability Summit, now in it’s seventh year, is where the North Texas community has the opportunity to interact with national sustainability leaders and become involved with local sustainability leaders and initiatives. The Sustainability Team, which guides and implements the systems’ sustainability efforts includes representatives from district and college locations, and members plan programs, network the 7 colleges and are actively involved in disseminating sustainability information to students and the community.
Several college sustainability officials share how they became interested in sustainability; why they chose a career in that field; why they are excited about sustainability; and how it benefits their college and community, as well as goals for the future.
Carrie Schweitzer, Director of Sustainability, Brookhaven College
“In my long career at Brookhaven College, I have worked to develop co-curricular learning opportunities for students in leadership, service and community engagement.
“Because I was, with others on campus, a champion of recycling initially, and then sustainability issues generally, when the opportunity for a new position was presented [director of sustainability], I was thrilled to fill the role.
“Sustainability is all about systems-thinking and critical thinking. What’s exciting is when students connect course theory to hands-on field work, community service and other lived experiences. It could be course-related water testing with the city of Farmers Branch or working in our native plant garden on campus, or even watching and discussing a documentary about local environmental injustice. It’s about raising awareness, making connections and planting seeds for sustainability leaders. My greatest goal is that Brookhaven students are prepared to take on the very complex challenges facing us locally and internationally.”
Lori de la Cruz, Sustainability Project Coordinator, Mountain View College
“After partnering with several schools on sustainability projects as a consultant, I really enjoyed working in the academic atmosphere, which is why I chose this field of work. Community engagement and the opportunities for outreach are very diverse . We offer projects and programming from solar energy to biodiversity; food to geology; recycling to habitat preservation; and more.
“We have two significant sustainability contributions. The woodland area on the north side of campus offers accessible walking trails, a rare section of blackland prairie and abundant biodiversity. It's a great carbon sink, absorbing and storing CO2, reducing our greenhouse gas impact. Food-related issues are important, too; our community garden and aquaponics lab are significant learning areas for the region.
“Our sustainability program should continue to thrive as students discover its importance in their careers and the community embraces the abundance of opportunities to participate in and learn more about this inspiring field.”
Brandon Morton, Sustainability Coordinator, North Lake College
“As a Dutch-born American, I grew up with strong egalitarian and environmental values. My passion for the environment naturally evolved into a passion for sustainability. My work as an environmental research laboratory assistant led to my career in higher education and campus sustainability. I am proud to be part of the North Lake College family and its longstanding campus culture of sustainability and service. Our new Master Plan 2035 contains aggressive goals for onsite renewable energy, global education, and overall campus development to meet the needs of future students.
“What excites me most about community engagement is collaborating with businesses, community leaders and organizations on sustainability. Sustainability requires organizations to collaborate and plan for a more prosperous future. “North Lake’s significant sustainability contributions to the community include a sustainable campus living lab; degrees and certificates which integrate sustainability in the curriculum; SAGE Scholars program; and student leadership development through service learning with nonprofit organizations.”
Maria Boccalandro, Interim Dean and Sustainability Director, Cedar Valley College
“As a Latina urban planner student, I saw how the lowest-income population lived in the most polluted, high-risk places. The sustainable economic development concept captivated me. I volunteered and then worked part-time at Mountain View College as sustainability project coordinator. I’m passionate about sustainability.
“Cedar Valley is a minority-serving institution; when we host sustainability awareness events for our community, they come and are so grateful. Learning about water harvesting, organic gardening, soil rebuilding, zero waste, sustainable tourism and environmental justice gives them hope of a better future for the region.
“The college has received many prestigious national awards, including recognition as a Center of Excellence in Sustainability, honors that have put a small college in southern Dallas County on the leading edge of ‘sustainability in practices in action’, which is the mission of the Sustainable Communities Institute.”
Maggie Lopez, Sustainability Team Representative, El Centro College
“I became involved in sustainability because I wanted to be more aware of the environment and how, as an educator, I could help others. I currently serve as chair of the college’s sustainability committee, which has made me more aware of the environment and my part in helping others learn about sustainable practices for work and home. Our sustainability committee handles sustainable practices and events for El Centro. My passion for environmental issues and loving Mother Earth is why I continue to serve as chair and why I serve as sponsor for the Environmental Club.
“I am excited when the college makes connections with city government and nonprofit organizations, especially during April, when Dallas hosts Earth Day at Fair Park and we host Earth Day at the college. The college participates in recycling, upgrades lighting, water resources and heating and cooling systems, and implements sustainable practices in the classroom. I hope to keep the sustainability committee active, promote more events and see the sustainability scholars program implemented.”
Dr. Brenda Floyd, Sustainability Project Manager, Eastfield College
“The child of farmers and part of a rural community, I was raised on the principles of sustainability, although my parents use the terms ‘frugal’ in describing money and resources, ‘foresighted’ in resource management and a ‘friend’ to the community. I’m dedicated to educating new generations about these sustainability concepts learned by agricultural communities for survival.
“I am excited about faculty using the campus as a living lab and its integration with the community. However, I think Eastfield’s biggest impact on the community is Arbor Day, where students from local elementary and high schools are an integral part of the educational experience about the importance of trees. We are a Designated Tree Campus and a hub for the innovative ‘Cease the Grease’ program. in our drinking water systems.
“One of our goals is to reach net zero carbon emissions and we are implementing the designation of Sustainability Scholar for students enrolled in designated classes.”
Sonia Ford, Sustainability Project Coordinator, Richland College
Richland College has long been dedicated to "green" programs and efforts, and I'm excited about the collaboration we are developing among our facilities sustainability office, administration, faculty, Student Green Team and student organizations. We also are paving the way with our community partners, such as the Texas Trees Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and others. Through these partnerships, we can offer learning and grant opportunities to help Richland enhance and manage our campus resources, as well as offer paid internships for students.
Our strong community partnerships, coupled with Richland’s Facilities Sustainability Campus Living Labs, are providing our students with hands-on, real-world experience that prepares them to become future sustainability leaders in our community.
My hope for the future of our college sustainability program is that, by integrating sustainability and raising more awareness among our students, faculty, and staff in our daily life, we will protect the earth and our society for future generations.
Other members of the DCCCD Sustainability Team at district colleges and downtown headquarters include Steve Schellenberg, district office; and Georgeann Moss, district office.
For more information, visit Online.dcccd.edu.