October 30th, 2017

Attracting Environmentally Conscious Students


attracting environmentally conscious students

Edgewood College’s beautiful wooded campus is situated on Lake Wingra in Madison, Wisconsin, in a mixed-use neighborhood not far from the western edge of the University of Wisconsin engineering campus. The college’s neighbors include middle-income homeowners, university students and other renters, and small businesses and restaurants.

“Madison is a more progressive city, so environmental issues are important to the neighbors,” says Denis Collins, a business professor at Edgewood who teaches business and management ethics.

Because it is in the midst of such a neighborhood, the college has had to make creative choices when growing its campus. Over the years, it has striven to make those choices environmentally friendly, too. In addition to making its neighbors happy, Edgewood uses its environmental sensitivity to attract and retain students.

Campus Sustainability Coordinating Team

In order to create an environmentally friendly campus, Edgewood College created the CSCT, or Campus Sustainability Coordinating Team. The team coordinates environmental issues on campus, which include building projects and practices. It comprises faculty and staff members and has a seat open for a student. It holds monthly meetings that are open to the public, and regularly meets with the campus facilities team.

“We call it the ‘Green Team,’” says Denis Collins. He has been cochair of the CSCT for about a decade.

Collins proudly points to Edgewood’s environmental track record. Edgewood is the first and only college or university certified by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). To receive this certification, the college has put an environmental management system in place and submits a yearly report to the DNR.

Edgewood also has the first green-tiered dormitory certification in Wisconsin. Its Dominican Hall is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certified, meaning that the dormitory was built using green building strategies and practices.

The college’s most recent construction project, The Stream, is a visual and theater arts center. It has won numerous design awards and is LEED gold certified, one level up from Dominican Hall’s silver certification.

The Stream at Edgewood

The three-story structure dramatically improved the arts space for the college while leaving a light footprint on the environment. The building includes offices for staff, a professional art gallery, an art therapy laboratory, a common area for student and faculty use, and studios for students in graphic design, ceramics, sculpture, video, and photography. It also holds a 7,000-square-foot theater with seating for 125 people, space for stagecraft, and a green room.

The Stream was designed to blend into the campus’s woodland environment and the surrounding neighborhood. Exterior copper panels will patina to a dark green. The scale and slope of its roof were kept similar to those on surrounding neighborhood houses, some of which are immediately across the street. The roof provides clerestory light for studio classrooms.

In addition, The Stream offers these green advantages to students, faculty, and neighbors:

  • The building’s Y shape straddles a 100-year-old oak tree, allowing root preservation.
  • The Stream has 51.2 percent of the energy costs of a traditional building.
  • 45 geothermal wells—for energy generated by and in the Earth—comprise the geothermal heat exchange energy system.
  • Landscaping incorporates bio-retention areas that manage 100 percent of rainwater runoff. Drier areas are planted with indigenous species that require no irrigation.
  • Low-flow water fixtures in the building ensure a 31 percent reduction in annual water usage.
  • Building materials contained a high recycled content and were locally sourced when possible. Its LEED goal was to source 20 percent of its materials within a 500-mile radius and to use recycled content materials to constitute 20 percent of total materials used.

Reaching students with the news

Because the college has a good track record using green practices and has LEED-certified structures on campus, Edgewood has gotten free promotion. The builder, Findorff, won three awards for The Stream and features it prominently on its website. The college publishes an annual Green Tier Report and participates in area Green Tier company gatherings twice per year. In December, Edgewood will host one of those gatherings and will give a tour of its buildings.

Edgewood has a section on its own website that features the sustainability measures taken on campus. It offers sustainability classes and environmental studies majors. Students on campus live in a green environment. All this draws high school students who are more and more educated on environmental issues and want to make a green choice in where they attend college.

“We’re looking to attract undergrads interested in environmental issues,” Collins says.

And because Edgewood has a reputation as a sustainability leader, businesses concerned with the environment hire Edgewood undergraduates, says Collins. “Those businesses then send their employees our way for their graduate degrees.”

For more information

Edgewood College’s sustainability page

Findorff’s page on The Stream


Reprinted from “Attracting Environmentally Conscious Students” in Recruitment & Retention 29.12 (2015)1,5 © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.