Coopitition – It’s Not Just for Business Anymore
This summer, representatives from the Southeastern Sustainability Network (SESN) gathered on the Wake Forest campus to share ideas, challenges, resources, serious talk, laughs, and good food.
Wake Forest University is one of the 871 member campuses of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Membership in this national (now international) body has skyrocketed since 2008. Attendance at the annual national gathering tops 2,000.
Since 2009, sustainability directors at schools in the Southeast have also been meeting monthly by conference call to bring the benefits of networking down to a regional scale. We share some commonalities – energy sources and pricing, water issues, political climate – that influence the way we frame our work. The governance of the group is truly sustainable: flattened, collaborative, and highly functional. Participant campuses run the gamut from behemoth research and extension universities to small liberal arts campuses, with myriad configurations in between.
In some cases, our campuses compete for students, grants, and athletic titles. In other cases, we merely co-exist in the higher education landscape. The outcome of this purposeful sharing of resources – intellectual and otherwise – is a rising tide that lifts us all higher. In this case, cooperation makes us all more competitive in the higher education marketplace.
This summer’s in-person gathering was our first. Though many of us see one another at conferences and often present together in professional settings, it was nice to enjoy a mix of collegiality and camaraderie in a more intimate atmosphere. The Wake Forest campus was decked out in full summer bloom, South Hall offered comfortable sleeping quarters for a few nights, and Posh Plate pulled out all the stops in presenting a gracious locally-sourced spread at every meal.
Our office enjoyed rolling out the Southern hospitality to our friends from around the region and we look forward to sharing time together next summer lifting the boat even higher.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability