UC sustainability awards program celebrates winners

In support of the University of Cincinnati's strategic direction, Next Lives Here, and the goals outlined in the 2019 UC Sustainability + Climate Action Plan, the President’s Advisory Council on Environmental Sustainability (PACES) and the Department of Planning + Design + Construction launched UC’s Inaugural Sustainability Awards Program in Fall 2020.  

The Sustainability Award Program was designed to recognize UC students, staff, and faculty doing exemplary work in sustainability, thus encouraging all in the UC community to further our culture of sustainability while also supporting academic excellence, urban impact, and fostering innovation.

Nominations opened in October 2020 and were accepted on a rolling basis through March 12, 2021. Any UC student, staff, or faculty member was able to nominate another student, staff, or faculty who they saw doing exemplary sustainability work. Nominations were evaluated by the PACES Steering Committee based on innovation, impact, feasibility, enhancing a culture of sustainability, and creativity.  

In April, at the conclusion of UC’s Earth Week 2021, a virtual awards ceremony was hosted by UC alum and nationally recognized sustainability leader, Roger McClendon (Engineering ’88). While at UC, McClendon was also one of the most well-known basketball players, finishing his career as the second all-time leading scorer. He then went on to work for Yum! Brands as chief sustainability officer. While there, he helped add Yum! Brands to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Today, McClendon is executive director of the Green Sports Alliance, an organization leveraging the cultural and market influence of sports to promote healthy, sustainable communities.

Faculty Award - Robert Gioielli, PhD

The Faculty Sustainability Award recognizes outstanding faculty members who are dedicated to cultivating a culture of sustainability at UC. Award winners exemplify a strong commitment to their students and focus on innovative teaching methodologies.

The 2021 Faculty Sustainability Award was presented to Robert Gioielli for his tireless work to expand and improve student access to innovative curriculum in Environmental Studies.  Gioielli, associate profesor of history and director of the Honors Program at UC-Blue Ash College, where he has taught since 2011. An environmental and urban historian, he is the author of Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago. His work has also appeared in the Journal of Urban History and the Radical History Review. He is the former editor of Ohio Valley History, and has received fellowships from the Rachel Carson Center and the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Gioielli has worked with UCBA Biology faculty and Arts & Sciences faculty to create the UCBA Environmental Studies associate degree, which began admitting students in 2019. The program is housed in UCBA Biology, but Gioielli is the primary instructor for non-biology EVST courses, including Global Environmental History, Environmental Activism, and Race and the Environment. Rob created the latter two courses, which are now also taught in Arts & Sciences.

Staff Award- Utilities and Technical Support

The Staff Sustainability Award recognizes a staff member or department demonstrating  commitment to sustainability through an innovative project or program. Award winners are dedicated to the enhancement of UC as a living laboratory, while integrating sustainability into every aspect of operations.

This year’s Staff Award was presented to the UC Utilities and Technical Support unit within the Department of Facilities Management. UC Utilities manages the production and distribution of energy to ensure that students, faculty, and staff are provided a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment, while being effective stewards of resources and the environment in which we all live.

Led by UC’s Director of Utilities Mike Hofmann, UC Utilities has orchestrated a Green Power Purchasing agreement with American Electric Power to provide 100% wind power through Green-E Certified “RECs” (Renewable Energy Certificates) to all campus facilities not powered by the central utility plant ( UC Clermont, UC Blue Ash, and Victory Parkway campuses). Other efforts also continue to optimize efficiencies in the built environment, provide innovative solutions to stormwater management, and reduce UC’s carbon footprint. 

Student Award - Bearcats Food Recovery Network

The Student Sustainability Award recognizes a student or student organization that exhibits an outstanding project or research focus related to sustainability. This year’s student award was presented to the Bearcats Food Recovery Network (BFN). The Bearcats Food Recovery Network is student organization working to reduce food waste and hunger in the UC community and is a chapter of the National Food Recovery Network.

In the fall of 2019, a group of students from a UC Forward Honors 'Inquiry to Innovation' seminar, joined an internship advised by Frank Russell, associate professor, Career Education, and Director, UC Forward. Both effort focued on reducing food waste and hunger. With support from the Kroger Zero Hunger, Zero Waste Foundation, about 25 interns were hired.  

At the end of the year, the interns completed a proposal which included analytical data, relationships with partners and potential collaborators in and around UC. In September of 2020, the internship culminated in the creation of the Bearcats Food Recovery Network. So far, the organization has over 45 members who meet biweekly to educate the UC community on the issues surrounding food hunger and waste and how students can mobilize to create solutions to this problem. Currently, many of the organization members are waiting on receiving food safety training from certified professionals so that they can begin to collect and transport food.

The University of Cincinnati is a Gold STARS Rated campus by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and is repeatedly listed as one of the Sierra Clubs Cool Schools and in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green College. To learn more about UC’s sustainability efforts, visit UC Sustainability and discover that Next Lives Here.