Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cuyamaca College wins green leadership award

            Cuyamaca College has been honored with a statewide award for its long-term commitment to keeping students at the forefront of the green movement.

The Rancho San Diego college was one of five community colleges across the state to receive a leadership award this month at a conference in Pasadena that brought together green-industry leaders and educators to focus on ways that two-year colleges have embraced the sustainability revolution.

The award to Cuyamaca College in the category of student engagement at the sixth annual Green California Community Colleges Summit and Exposition Nov. 6 was a testament to Cuyamaca’s history of engaging students and the community in its many conservation initiatives. The college has widely embraced green initiatives, ranging from cutting-edge training programs to regional conferences that bring industry and students together to address green workforce needs.

Cuyamaca College continues to lead the way in preparing future workers in the emerging green industry, Cuyamaca College President Mark J. Zacovic said. We are honored and delighted to receive this recognition. Cuyamaca has been focused on resource conservation long before going green became the popular thing to do.

Racquel Palmese, managing editor of the nonprofit Green Technology, which sponsored the summit, said the leadership awards were created to acknowledge sustainability projects in five categories: instructor, district, student engagement, energy and curriculum.

Cuyamaca was recognized for projects that engage students in creating a healthier, more sustainable world by conserving resources such as water and energy, managing waste effectively or envisioning other technological breakthroughs, Palmese said.

In addition to course offerings in ornamental horticulture, water/wastewater technology and the development of a new degree and certificate program in sustainable urban landscaping, Cuyamaca College has been a forerunner in sustainability innovation funded by multiple state, federal and local grants. Jennifer Lewis, dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Training, noted that Cuyamacas position as a recognized leader in green economic and workforce development in San Diego County has been bolstered by a $1 million dollar Department of Energy grant and a number of locally funded initiatives that engage students on multiple fronts in the greening of San Diego communities.

Receiving this leadership award is recognition of the focus and support Cuyamaca College provides as it engages students, faculty and the community in a variety of sustainability initiatives such as the Sustainable Urban Landscape program, a variety of grant-funded green workforce development training programs, and regional conferences and events that bring students and industry together to stay on the cutting edge of green, Lewis said We were among leaders who are, as the motto goes greening by example. It was great company.

In 2012, Cuyamaca College was selected as one of three community colleges in the state to win the inaugural Energy and Sustainability Awards competition from the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.  The college was recognized in the area of faculty/student initiatives for promoting sustainable landscaping throughout the campus.

Don Schultz, coordinator of the ornamental horticulture program, joined Lewis in accepting the leadership award at the Pasadena Convention Center. Schultz said conference organizers were especially impressed by Cuyamacas outreach to the professional community with events such as the colleges Sustainable Turf and Landscape Seminar. The annual event hosted by the horticulture department typically draws more than 250 attendees, including landscape professionals, educators and others interested in keeping current with the latest in sustainable landscape practices.

Basically, its a venue for professionals to share their insights into not only defining what sustainable landscaping is, but also to give real-world examples of success, not only from the horticulture but business standpoint, Schultz said.

With rising water rates and a growing sophistication on the part of the public about sustainable landscaping, Schultz foresees a growing demand for landscape professionals specializing in installing and maintaining low-water-use landscaping.

Initially, the big push was for xeriscape, but people have moved beyond cactus with the wagon wheel and rock for their yards, he said. There are a lot of native plants reflecting a broader palette of more colorful foliage and texture.

Envisioning a growing demand for landscape professionals with expertise in sustainability, Cuyamaca College expanded its OH program in 2009 to include a degree and credential program in sustainable urban landscapes.

We are moving away from the lawns and hedges that are really a style borrowed from other parts of the country, Schultz said. Sustainability is definitely the direction that Southern California is moving. Initially, it was all about the water, but people are becoming increasingly aware that the responsible thing to do is to put in something more appropriate to the climate. Plus there are the ancillary benefits of less yard maintenance and less green waste in the landfills.

Schultz said students in the program are invested in the practice and philosophy behind sustainability.
Students want to do the work and have a role in expanding sustainability, he said. They see it as a worthy cause.