This flagship university is improving the world and addressing grand global challenges through better local solutions. Sustainability research, education, service and campus operations are hallmarks of UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan, and there has been marked progress toward realizing those goals.
For UGA, as a public land grant, Regional Sun Grant, National Sea Grant, and National Space Grant research university, stewardship of natural resources and advancing campus sustainability are of strategic importance. The institution is currently using 31 percent less water per square foot than it was in 2007, with the goal of a 40 percent or greater reduction by 2020. To improve water quality on campus and beyond, more than 75 rain gardens and 16 cisterns for rain and condensate water harvesting and reuse have been installed on UGA’s Athens campus.
UGA students are directly involved in growing and providing wholesome foods to community members in need through the student-run UGArden Education & Demonstration Farm and the UGA Campus Kitchen. The Be Well UGA program promotes emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, social, and spiritual wellbeing for all at UGA. Numerous programs and services are available to students experiencing challenging situations, such as EMBARK UGA, which is geared toward increasing college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness; the UGA Student Food Pantry and Hygiene Closet; and the reCYCLE program, which provides refurbished bicycles free of charge to students in need of affordable transportation options.
UGA’s Work/Life Balance program provides a central location for relevant services and opportunities to assist faculty and staff in managing life’s challenges, from workplace stress to caring for family members. In addition, UGA Recreational Sports promotes healthy lifestyle choices by providing development, growth, and education for the campus and local community, including engaging outdoor recreation trips and clinics. With a school motto that reads “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things," education and innovation are central to UGA’s mission. UGA is committed to solving grand challenges for Georgia, the United States, and the world, as well as to training students who are capable of solving real-world, multifaceted problems with no simple solutions.
All undergraduate students must satisfy the Environmental Awareness Requirement, including a basic understanding of the interactions between human activity and the environment at local, regional, or global scales. All students also must engage in at least one experiential learning activity that enhances learning and positions them for success after graduation.In addition to numerous graduate and undergraduate degree programs related to sustainability, the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Sustainability provides students with a foundation in the principles and practice of social, environmental, and economic sustainability, as well as a valued credential to enhance their competitiveness in the job market.
Overall, UGA offers more than 430 sustainability-related courses, as well as faculty resources to promote integration of sustainability across the curriculum. The Office of Sustainability Student Internship Program provides experiential learning, leadership, and professional development while having a positive and tangible effect on the UGA and Athens communities. Since 2010, the Office of Sustainability has provided over 250 internship opportunities to students in 62 different degree programs for a total of over 31,000 hours of service. The Office of Sustainability also has provided $210,000 in campus sustainability grants to fund 58 student-led projects, many of which are now ongoing operational and experiential learning programs. Overall in 2015, UGA researchers received over $185 million in external research funding to solve grand challenges related to sustainable agriculture, water resources, bioenergy, waste reduction, public health, and much more.