The University of Michigan helps solve sustainability challenges on local-to-global scales by creating, teaching and practicing innovative approaches to improve the health of the planet, inspire future generations and advance the international conversation.
At U-M, we define sustainability as an emerging field of problem-driven, interdisciplinary scholarship and practice that seeks to protect the environment and enhance quality of life for present and future generations. The field is defined by the problems it addresses rather than the disciplines it employs. It draws from multiple disciplines of the natural, social, medical and engineering sciences, from the professions and humanities, and from practical field experience in business, government, and civil society.
The university has long been engaged in many aspects of sustainability, and is coordinating and focusing its expertise and resources to spur progress and establish leadership in this critical arena. The goal of our educational programs is to inspire our students to gain the knowledge and insight necessary to address the many complexities of sustainability in their chosen careers. Our research programs draw on our multi-disciplinary strengths to attack major sustainability problems at local-to-global scales. And in our operations, we aim to set the standard for excellence in achieving a green campus.
"With the pressing challenge of climate change, we are elevating our emphasis on sustainability at Michigan. From teaching and research, to hands-on engagement, we are going to leverage our many strengths so we can make significant contributions to solving a genuinely complicated problem.” ~President Mary Sue Coleman
Realistic solutions to any major sustainability problem—energy, water conservation, air pollution, transportation, or any other area—often require the combined insights and expertise of many fields, including science, engineering, social science, economics, law, business, government, medicine, public health, and the arts. With 19 schools and colleges—all of them among the best in the world—and an exceptional culture of interdisciplinary cooperation, U-M is uniquely positioned to make a difference.
Our commitment is seen at all levels. In 2009, President Mary Sue Coleman created the new position of Special Counsel to the President for Sustainability, charged with coordinating existing efforts by students, faculty, and staff across the entire campus in education, research, and operations for maximum impact, and inspiring new initiatives. The position reports directly to the President, and is overseen by an Executive Council of senior university leaders.
In the fall of 2011, President Coleman strengthened our commitment with the announcement a $14 million investment toward ambitious environmental goals under four key themes: climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness.
There’s no single solution to the sustainability challenge—it will be with us forever. As our natural world evolves and societies change and grow, achieving and maintaining a sustainable balance across the planet will be an ongoing challenge. But U-M is committed for the long term, educating people and generating the innovative ideas that will help our world deal not only with today’s problems, but those yet to be faced by future generations around the globe.