Emory University is planting the seed for the next generation of green entrepreneurs. Its new Sustainable-Scholar Leadership program, made possible with a $180,000 grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, provides students with newly developed classes, leadership training and practical experience working with businesses looking to lower their environmental impact.
Set to roll out next semester, the program expands upon Emory’s already impressive environmental record. (It’s ranked among the nation’s greenest campuses and offers a robust sustainability-focused curriculum.) “With this grant, we are able to take it a step further by allowing students to supplement coursework through experiential learning and the opportunity to solve actual problems in their communities,” said Ciannat Howett, Emory’s Director of Sustainable Initiatives.
This idea of a “living laboratory” is a central aspect of the program and one that its benefactor, Ray C. Anderson, would have enthusiastically supported. Anderson, who passed away in 2011, is widely recognized as a pioneer of sustainable industry. He turned his global carpet company, Interface, into a leading example of how a business can be environmentally responsible while achieving profitability, and went on to motivate other industry leaders to follow in his footsteps. The foundation established in his name is committed to funding projects that advance his life mission.
The hope is that the students who emerge from this program don’t “walk away from sustainability,” said John Lanier, director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “Solving these challenges is not something we can do in the next year, five years or 10 years. Changes will happen when students become leaders 20 years down the road.” Howett agrees, acknowledging that the internship opportunities and leadership training this program will provide—planned to develop over the next three years—are essential to equipping students with the problem-solving skills, tenacity and courage needed to commit to the long haul.