By Joe DiGiovanni, Senior Communication Specialist, Marquette University
There’s a plethora of innovative new ideas being generated at Marquette University, and many of them revolve around sustainability or include important sustainability efforts. These include water research, helping to restore neighborhoods to greatness, new environmental majors, and beautifully renovated green buildings.
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si', focused attention on the environment and has been a priority at Marquette’s urban campus just west of downtown Milwaukee.
“The pope’s encyclical has reinforced for us the importance of sustainability, but I think it’s been at the front of our hearts and minds because of the context in which we live here in this urban environment,” says Lora Strigens, chief planner and architect at Marquette.
Sustainability is woven into nearly all the major initiatives under way at Marquette. Consider:
- Milwaukee is becoming a globally known location for water research, and Marquette is deeply involved.
- Marquette and other large employers are investing heavily in efforts to restore seven of Milwaukee’s West Side neighborhoods, one of which includes the campus.
- Leadership has created a new position of sustainability coordinator to bring environmental efforts together on campus, and will focus on both research and new environmental-related majors.
- Sustainability is a big focus of Marquette’s comprehensive Campus Master Plan, currently in development.
In January, Marquette researchers moved into the Global Water Center, a 98,000-square-foot facility in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood housing water-centric research facilities for universities, existing water-related companies and accelerator space for new, emerging water technology companies.
“This building positions Milwaukee to be one of the international leaders in water technology and development,” says Marquette President Dr. Michael R. Lovell. “Our faculty and students are going to benefit immensely: the talents at our university are going to [help solve] the world’s water problems.”
Marquette researchers are focused on a wide range of water issues, some conducting research on campus and others at the water center just two miles away. Dr. Brooke Mayer, an assistant professor in Marquette’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, has a new $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER grant to research the possibility of recycling phosphorus from polluted water.
And Dr. Patrick McNamara, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and colleagues Dr. Daniel Zitomer, director of Marquette’s Water Quality Center, and Krassimira Hristova, assistant professor of biology, are studying the dangers of an antimicrobial agent that is commonly found in hard soaps and is linked to antibiotic resistance.
Marquette's first sustainability coordinator will begin this summer. Strigens says, “It’s a broadly defined role, but this person will harness our sustainability efforts on campus and bring them together while looking at physical improvements we can make relative to water efficiency and energy efficiency, and things we can do to reduce waste on campus.”
Marquette’s sustainability coordinator will be involved in utility and energy consumption audits so the University can make targeted physical improvements and set standards on campus. The coordinator will also have an outreach role, working with administrators, students, faculty and staff on incorporating sustainability into coursework and other student works.
In fall 2016, Marquette will have a new Environmental Studies interdisciplinary major, providing students with a comprehensive and in-depth education on the study of the ecology of natural ecosystems and the processes by which humans influence, exploit, evaluate, value, mitigate and restore the environment.
There are other ways that non-science students can also learn about the environment. Dr. Jame Schaefer, associate professor of theology, helped develop Healing Earth, the new online, interactive text that addresses six major environmental science problems from spiritual and ethical perspectives.
Dr. James T. Anderson, associate professor of biological sciences, will use the text to teach a course to non-science majors this fall. Schaefer says, “His students will have an opportunity to explore the loss of biodiversity, natural resource exhaustion, a transition to sustainable energy, the quality and availability of food and water, and global climate change and view these problems from spiritual and ethical perspectives. This interdisciplinary approach coheres impressively with Pope Francis’s encyclical.”
An area known as Milwaukee’s Near West Side includes Marquette, which is one of five anchor institutions that formed Near West Side Partners Inc., a non-profit organization to revitalize the area. A $5 million campaign (that has already raised $2 million) was announced this month to create new opportunities for investment in economic development efforts.
“Milwaukee’s Near West Side has tremendous assets that rival any other part of the city – including more than 200 employers, nearly 40,000 residents, major health care, educational and non-profit institutions, attractive restaurants and entertainment venues,” says Lovell.
Campus Master Plan
Marquette is in the midst of developing a plan to integrate academic, physical and financial priorities, and serve as a road map for Marquette’s capital projects for the next decade. Every building and all spaces on campus are being studied.
The university is conducting a facilities condition index to evaluate and track the efficiency, operations and effectiveness of all buildings.
“We are identifying those buildings that will never be improved to the level we want them to be through continued investment versus creating new buildings that are highly efficient in their use of space, energy and water use,” Strigens says. “Sustainability is woven into all parts of the plan. It will provide us guidance relative to sustainable practices throughout our campus both for our facilities and our physical environment.”
The planners are identifying areas to possibly build demonstration gardens for storm water management, and ways to visibly show sustainability on campus through green and open spaces.
In addition, renovated buildings like the historic Sensenbrenner Hall and Marquette Hall have both recently received LEED certification, a nationally-accepted organization for design, operation and construction of high performance green buildings.
Earlier this month, the University brought Bublr Bikes, a bike sharing company, to campus, and has increased the number of shared cars for staff. In addition, Marquette’s recent Mission Week focused on environmental efforts in light of Laudato Si'.