With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE's STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting information about a university's sustainability performance.
Duquesne participated in the program to not only see how it compared to other institutions, but also to learn how it could improve its sustainability efforts, said Mary Kate Ranii, graduate program coordinator for the university's Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE).
"Sustainability requires a holistic approach, which includes social, economic and environmental justice components," she said. "When students look at Duquesne, we want them to think about more than what classes they will take. We want them to think about what type of world they want to live in."
The STARS report reviews a university's sustainability achievements in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. Duquesne's curriculum and research, such as its top ranked Sustainable MBA program and advanced environmental science programs, received high scores. The university's efforts in engaging campus, such as the community garden near Laval House, and the public, through its annual Integrity of Creation Conference, were also highlighted in the STARS report.
"Duquesne's social justice mission is so intertwined with the goals behind sustainability," said CERE Director and Environmental Microbiology Professor John Stolz. "Sustainability is about meeting our needs without impacting the needs of future generations. The university's efforts work to help achieve this balance."
The focus on sustainability reflects Duquesne commitment to equity and opportunity in the region, while broadening students' perspectives about environmental issues.
Ranii, along with CERE Graduate Assistants Carissa Lange and Gabriella Zuccolotto, led the effort to complete the STARS report, which included contributions from dozens of university departments.
"STARS requires a very comprehensive report to earn the silver designation," Lange said. "We knew Duquesne had a good story to tell about sustainability and received great support from our colleagues around campus."
Ranii looks forward to furthering Duquesne's efforts, which could include creating a sustainability literacy assessment, which students would take when they enter Duquesne and take again before graduation. Other possibilities include changes in university transportation and including sustainability as part of students' learning outcomes.
"STARS is a great roadmap as we can also learn from other universities," Ranii said. "Now that we've made the list, I'm excited to see how far we can go."