As the next step following President Tim Sands' charge to update and renew Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dwayne Pinkney has issued invitations to faculty experts, governance representatives, and community members to participate in an ad hoc group to accomplish that mandate.

“The sense of urgency surrounding climate change is increasing across society as well as in our own community,” said Pinkney. “Climate change represents one of the world’s most pressing issues and as a global land-grant university, Virginia Tech has a duty to respond. Our university has long been a leader in seeking a sustainable society.

“When students, faculty, and staff unite around a common goal, there is no doubt in my mind we will achieve our common goals and initiate positive change and improve circumstances for our university and the world at large,” added Pinkney. “At Virginia Tech, it is essential we leverage our shared governance process to do this, so that all voices can be heard and all levels of university governance understand what is proposed and support the decision made through community engagement.”

Pinkney has named John Randolph, professor emeritus of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, chair of the committee.

Regarded as a highly engaged member of the university community, the Town of Blacksburg, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and beyond, Randolph has given considerable service, leadership, and research to finding workable solutions, new insights, creative possibilities, and progress in sustainable, equitable, and efficient practices and policies for communities. He had an instrumental role in the development of the university's Climate Action Commitment in 2009.

Todd Schenk, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning and member of the Commission on Faculty Affairs, will serve as vice chair.

The working group will have two fundamental goals.

First, to produce a summary of the university’s progress on sustainability since the university’s first Climate Action Commitment was put in place in 2009. The summary will outline the structure, partnerships, and arrangements that have developed over time to address sustainability; include high-level data summarizing the institution’s progress since 2009; and provide perspective on how these achievements compare to those at peer institutions.

Second, the working group will develop any proposed updates to the Climate Action Commitment that was last revised in 2013. They should consider, Pinkney noted, whether updates to the definition, vision, and mission statements are needed; outline clear, measureable, and realistic goals; consider the long-term impact of the goals on policies, operations, and budget of the university; identify broad metrics and the elements for determining success in meeting these goals; and follow university policy format.

"Over the past decade, exceptional work on campus sustainability has taken place, and it is essential that we continue to build on this momentum and draw upon the expertise of our faculty who are engaged in these important fields. It is also important to tap into the passion and determination our students hold as they seek a truly sustainable world for their future and future generations," said Pinkney.

Pinkney said members of the Virginia Tech Climate Justice group that helped raise greater awareness of the issue earlier this fall will be encouraged to participate in this process.

Pinkney has proposed an aggressive timeline for this group to do their work. The committee is expected to complete its work this academic year so that governance approvals can take place during fall 2020. Key targets include an interim report on progress made by March 1, 2020; a final report with recommendation by May 7; a presentation of recommendations to the Energy and Sustainability Committee and the Commission on University Support by September 2020; a presentation to University Council by October 2020; and a presentation (for adoption) to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors by November 2020.

To supplement the expertise of the working group membership, the committee chair may invite other faculty, staff, or external resources to inform the group’s work. Student representatives will be encouraged to assemble a larger advisory group to provide information, concerns, and questions to the working group.

In addition to Randolph and Schenk, members invited to join the committee include:

  • Tim Baird, associate professor of geography, College of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • Brooke Baugher, graduate student and former graduate assistant in the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability.
  • Shannon Bell, associate professor of sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
  • Dushan Boroyevich, University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • Angie De Soto, graduate student and graduate student representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Brogan Dineen, undergraduate student and student representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Drew Harris, undergraduate student and student worker in the Virginia Tech Energy Manager’s Office.
  • Erin Hopkins, assistant professor of apparel, housing, and resource management, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and faculty representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Natalie Koppier, undergraduate student and student representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Kray Luxbacher, Charles T. Holland Professor and associate head, Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • Sean McGinnis, associate professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Virginia Tech Green Engineering Program, College of Engineering.
  • Phil Miskovic, graduate student and graduate student representative to the Commission on University Support.
  • Annie Pearce, associate professor of building construction, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
  • Helen Salko, undergraduate student and student representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Peter Sforza, director of the Center for Geospatial Information Technology, College of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • Gustavo Ventura Gargioni, graduate student and graduate student representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.

Two additional at-large representatives from the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Association will be added to the committee.

The following individuals will join the committee to support its work and/or serve as community representatives:

  • Blake Bensman, sustainability manager, dining services.
  • Carol Davis, Town of Blacksburg representative.
  • Christopher Kiwus, associate vice president and chief facilities officer and ex officio member of the Energy and Sustainability Committee and Commission on University Support.
  • Rob Glenn, director of Virginia Tech Electric Services and facilities representative to the Energy and Sustainability Committee.
  • Anthony Purcell, assistant director for dining services.
  • Shayla Utzinger, Blacksburg High School liaison.

The work and progress of this committee will be reported in Virginia Tech Daily.