Maryville College receives STARS Bronze Rating for sustainability achievements

January 30, 2012
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer
865.981.8209; chloe.kennedy@maryvillecollege.edu

Paul Rowland, Executive Director, AASHE
720.346.1432; paul.rowland@aashe.org

In recognition of its sustainability achievements, Maryville College has received a STARS Bronze Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

In September 2010, the College announced its participation in the program and was able to obtain STARS 1.0 to begin the initial process of achieving a sustainability rating and assessment of the campus, thanks to a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

The process involved forming a team of students, faculty and staff to collect certain data points for each category. Administrators of the program entered the data collected and verified accuracy for a rating to be calculated by the STARS reporting tool. Assessments included a range of areas, including an inventory of sustainability-focused course offerings to determining whether diverse meal options are offered in the dining hall, according to Adrienne Schwarte, associate professor of art/graphic design and MC STARS administrator.

“Over an 18-month period, we had a team of four faculty and student assistants working on this research, each focusing on a different category of the STARS data that involved everything from curricular surveys, transportation surveys, multiple meetings and data collection with the Physical Plant staff and reviews of strategic plans, human resource policies and investing holdings of the institution,” Schwarte said. “It was exciting to see the entire picture of Maryville College through this process, and I commend AASHE for providing the framework that engaged us to internally focus on a holistic view of our institution.”

In January, Maryville College’s initial STARS report was submitted to the STARS Steering Committee. In his letter to the committee, Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart cited the College’s 118-acre woods, Non-Profit Leadership Program & Certificate, Vision for Diversity, Environmental Sustainability Plan and other co-curricular and educational programs as factors that support the College’s “commitment to citizenship, justice and service to peoples of the world.”

“The STARS reporting system will provide valuable documentation for Maryville College to reflect on our strengths as an institution and also set further goals for our current strategic planning process, Renewing Our Strength: Maryville College’s Bicentennial and Beyond, and future strategic planning agendas so we can continue and expand our commitment to sustainability as an institution and to our local community and the region of East Tennessee,” Bogart wrote.

Schwarte said the STARS Rating is an important tool for the College.

“This will benefit the College by providing a baseline to our sustainability practices and standards and aid us in the ability to further develop and grow towards being a more sustainable campus,” she said. “It will also give us a rating that is valid for three years so we can promote and share with others the programs we are engaged in that are part of our environmental ethic.”

AASHE’s STARS program is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Schwarte said the program is not meant to be a measure of comparison to other campuses but a measuring tool to further improve the Maryville College campus to the best achievable goal.

Participants report achievements in four key categories that are outlined by the STARS reporting tool: 1) education and research; 2) operations; 3) planning, administration and engagement; and 4) innovation.

“STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland. “Maryville College has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Bronze Rating and is to be congratulated for its efforts.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a STARS Rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

“We are very proud to have achieved a STARS Rating for our sustainability accomplishments. We look forward to watching our sustainability efforts grow and improve through the STARS program,” Schwarte said.

For more information about Maryville College’s sustainability initiatives, visit http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/about/sustainability.

For information about Maryville College’s participation in the AASHE STARS Program, visit http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/about/sustainability/aashe-stars.

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About AASHE:

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit www.aashe.org.

For more information about the STARS program, visit stars.aashe.org.