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Sparking Sustainable Solutions

Posted by Jenna Ray on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014

Since its founding in 1960, the Morris campus has adapted to meet the needs of its community, region, and state. As contemporary energy and environmental issues have grown more pressing, Morris has responded by advancing environmentally focused initiatives. Led by students seeking change and financed, in part, by the generosity of alumni, these efforts have garnered national recognition and have touched nearly all aspects of campus life.

To complement Morris’s focus on sustainable innovation, the Sustainable “Green” Fund was established in 2007 to support campus green initiatives. The fund first financed a reverse-osmosis drinking-water system for the Student Center and plants for campus buildings. Its reach grew monumentally last year when it enabled the creation of an inventive reinvestment program.

In August 2012, campus governance approved the institution of a Green Reinvestment Fund to help the University make sustainable technological and infrastructure investments. Conceived by the Morris Campus Student Association, this fund will mitigate costs associated with responsible resource consumption and management while encouraging a heightened consciousness regarding ownership of practical sustainability efforts. In light of its campus-wide benefits, the UMM Alumni Association recently pledged $30,000 from gifts contributed by alumni to the Sustainable “Green” Fund in order to get the program up and running.

One of these alumni donors, Jessica Trites Rolle ’95, admits that this kind of forward-thinking ingenuity is precisely what sparks her interest in the Sustainable “Green” Fund. Citing such advancements as the University’s biomass gasification facility, onsite wind turbines, and eco-conscious architecture, she is thrilled by its journey toward and commitment to energy independence.

“The philosophy behind the fund is already thriving on campus,” says Trites Rolle. “It is evident in Morris’s energy independence goals, local food partnerships, and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings. The benefits are already there.”

Trites Rolle’s support for the fund is multi-faceted. On
one level, she recognizes how important it is for Morris students
to live and learn in this kind of environment she believes
these students will become “the green innovators our country
needs” and that there is no better way to prepare them for this
role than to build sustainability into their surroundings. Trites
Rolle also enjoys watching the benefits of Morris’s sustainability
programming extend to local communities, and she anticipates
further expansion resulting from continued support for the fund.

“These initiatives provide such a benefit to the community—
not just to UMM and the City of Morris, but also to communities
all over the United States and elsewhere,” she says. “Rural citizens
and the towns they live in are creative people who are ‘greener’
than they are sometimes given credit for. We need to foster their
sustainable, entrepreneurial drive and provide them tools and
education to keep it going UMM and its graduates can play a part
in that.”

Philanthropy comes easily to Trites Rolle, who points out
that giving back “is just in [her] nature.” She asserts that when you
recognize the value in the work being done by an institution like
Morris, it is important to commit what you can to facilitate it.

“It is critical for our future to build on the work UMM is
already doing, and one way to do that is for alumni to give to the
community around them. Education is crucial, and to support it
for others—as generous people did for us—is a wonderful thing."