University receives $375,000 sustainability grant

Sara Telahun


Augustana University received a prominent grant to promote sustainability on campus over the summer from an international, multi-million dollar grantmaker.

The three-year, $375,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation was gifted to the university fund its sustainability advocacy efforts.

The university applied to the grant through an invitation-only program. The application process started on January 2017 and finished in early August when Augustana was chosen as the recipient of the award.

Suzanne Smith, director of the Augustana Research Institute, wrote the grant by working with faculty members and student leaders to establish an action plan on how to utilize the award.

“Our hope with this grant is that some of the programs that are set up will help students from Augustana graduate with sustainability literacy and the skills and experience to become leaders in sustainability,” Smith said.

Senior Hannah Norem, a member of the student committee on the grant board, worked alongside graduate Liz Renner to drum up ideas on how the student body might benefit from the the award from the students’ perspective.

“I think the grant is a great opportunity for Augustana to start initiatives that were maybe being held back by lack of resources,” Norem said. 

The grant board hopes to educate students about sustainability and improve the campus’ position on environmental issues by focusing on four areas: infrastructure, resource use measures, publicity and academic programming.

“We want to set up an infrastructure to coordinate and set strategic priorities about sustainability,” Smith said. “That might be through an office of sustainability or something of that kind.”

When it comes to resource usage, the board plans to use the award to fund metering for the university’s buildings to measure the use of water and electricity and find ways to reduce consumption.

Creating an environmental studies major is among the potential projects.

“Augustana has talked about adding an Environmental Studies major for a long time,” Norem said. “We have lost great students to other schools because they came to Augustana, fell in love with what we have, but then realized that the university didn’t have a program that fit with them.”

“There will be a group in the near future that will take a look at different ways to create an academic program around sustainability,” Smith said. “It might take form in a major or a minor in Environmental Studies or a certificate, but there will be something in the academic realm focusing on sustainability.”

The grant will also be used for publicity on environmental issues around campus.

“There is a lot already going on here [about sustainability] and more coming with the grant,” Smith said. “We want not only to let Sioux Falls and other colleges know what we are doing, but also to use the information to recruit students who care about environmental issues.”

Two other possible projects include the maintenance and expansion of the campus garden in collaboration with Sodexo as well as an outdoor classroom.

“I am really excited to see what comes out of [the grant],” Smith said. “It is exciting just to learn about the vision that people have and it is even more exciting to get the grant and see it happen.”

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