Establishing the Center for Environmental Stewardship: Developing a Programmatic Master Plan to Facilitate Research, Collaboration, Education, and Activism

Client Organization: 
Kalamazoo College
Project Location : 
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Summary of Project Idea: 

Kalamazoo College, a small, private liberal arts college in Southwest Michigan, has recently secured a 2 million dollar endowment to aid the establishment of a Center for Environmental Stewardship. The goal of this center is to centralize sustainability efforts on campus, ranging from research by faculty and students to extracurricular activities. The center also hopes to make community engagement an integral part of its operations. However, the center currently only exists only as an endowment and broad set of goals. It currently has no staff, no location, and even lacks a mission statement. This provides a unique opportunity for SNRE students to shape the future of sustainability at Kalamazoo College, and perhaps create an innovative model for other higher education institutions.

As part of the new center, Kalamazoo College would like to update the land use plan for the school-owned Lillian Anderson Arboretum. Furthermore, the school hopes to create a building use plan for the newly built Batts Pavilion located in the Arboretum. The land and building use plans will seek to help accomplish the goals of the center, focusing on sustainability, community outreach, and classroom education.

The scope of the project may change through the research design process to focus in on one specific area or expand into others. However, it will likely include three distinct components that Kalamazoo College intends to incorporate into the Center for Environmental Stewardship:

  1. Concretely establish goals/mission statement of the center and create recommendations based upon those goals
  2. Create a land use plan that incorporates established goals of center, with a focus on ecological health and invasive species management
  3. Create a building use plan that incorporates established goals of center, with a focus on education and community outreach

Goals & Objectives: 

The project will turn broad goals into concrete goals and create a mission statement for the Center for Environmental Stewardship. Broadly, the center seeks to:

  • centralize sustainability efforts on campus, including: the Kalamazoo College Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, educational programs including partnerships abroad, faculty and student research, student organizations, environmental justice efforts through the Arcus Center for Social Justice, and sustainable campus employment opportunities, such as recycling and sustainability internships
  • Facilitate collaboration between various efforts and stakeholders
  • Incorporate community engagement in education and activism
  • Integrate the existing Lillian Anderson Arboretum and recently built Batts Pavilion
  • Create a model for integrative environmental stewardship for higher education

The project will turn these broad goals into a master plan for the programmatic operations of the center. The master plan be created utilizing the following:

  • stakeholder interviews of faculty, students, and community members
  • strength-based analysis, to see where Kalamazoo College’s sustainability efforts are effective, and which efforts need improvement
  • Wisdom from the newly established Arcus Center for Social Justice
  • Prior and newly gathered ecological data for the Lillian Anderson Arboretum
  • Trial implementation of programming

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance: 

The establishment of the Center for Environmental Stewardship has numerous real-world impacts. Ideally, the center would help bridge the gap between various sustainability efforts on campus, strengthening these efforts through collaboration. It would also facilitate collaborative research. Furthermore, the center would highlight environmental research at Kalamazoo College, providing students and faculty additional avenues to share their research. The center would create additional educational and activism opportunities for faculty, and community members, and encourage civic engagement and service learning for students.

Research conducted by SNRE students will be implemented into the establishment of the Center for Environmental Stewardship. Thus, research conducted will have a direct impact on sustainability efforts at Kalamazoo College, students’ engagement with sustainability, and the college’s engagement with the greater Kalamazoo area.

Additionally, Kalamazoo College hopes to create a novel approach to environmental stewardship in higher education that facilitates research, collaboration, education, and activism, on campus and beyond.

Specific Activities & Duration:

Several methodologies will be utilized to tackle the creation of a master plan for the Center for Environmental Stewardship. We hope to take a community based participatory research approach, in which we involve several stakeholders, including students, faculty, and community members. We will likely conduct a stakeholder analysis in which we examine the connections between various sustainability efforts on campus. We also intend to use a strength-based analysis approach to determine which sustainable outreach and engagement efforts on campus are successful, and what can be improved. Furthermore, we would like to analyze existing ecological data, and collect new data to supplement, to create the arboretum land-use plan. We would also like to create a small trial of programming implementation, to analyze and create suggestions for future programming. This programming could include anything from a research symposium to an educational nature walk in the arboretum. Finally, we hope to gain wisdom regarding successful programming from Kalamazoo College’s recently established Arcus Center for Social Justice. The scale of the project should be appropriate for 4-6 students working part-time for 16 months. However, Kalamazoo College is very flexible regarding outcomes, and is willing to adapt the project so that it is realistic in scope and matches SNRE students’ interests and skills.

Integrative Approach: 

The project is multifaceted and provides opportunities for SNRE students with various strengths and skill sets. However, the various facets of the project are all united under the auspice of the Center for Environmental Stewardship, and all aspects will work together to address the center’s goals. Additionally, Kalamazoo College is willing to be flexible and utilize the skills of the SNRE team members to create the most effective final product.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Paige Fischer
Master Students Involved in Project: 

Emily Nummer

Project Status: 
In Progress