University of Minnesota Alumni Association


From the President

Being Part of the Solution

Joan T.A. Gabel

Earlier this year, the University hosted a memorial to honor the life and legacy of our alumnus, Vice President Walter Mondale. One of the most important aspects of his legacy is around environmental issues, which he described as an area where he was willing to “risk public opposition of the sort that could end a career.” 

We are the inheritors of his courageous legacy here at the U of M, and we are committed through MPact 2025, our systemwide strategic plan, to demonstrate state and worldwide leadership in sustainability and environmental teaching, research, and convening power. 

We recognize that the climate is changing in Minnesota, with effects across all aspects of our society and economy. We also feel these impacts across our University family and the communities we serve. 

Part of the University’s mission is to research solutions around how to transition our economy to cleaner, safer technologies and approaches. Over the last decade or so, we have reduced our own emissions at the University by nearly half systemwide. We’ve committed to establish next-generation climate plans for campuses and the entire University system by 2025. We’ve also established annual and systemwide sustainability convenings and hired an inaugural chief sustainability officer. 

We are also enhancing our transparency by committing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Since making that commitment, we have attained a No. 5 national ranking for SDG 2: Zero Hunger and No. 2 national ranking for SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. We are also the first U.S. higher education institution invited to join the Aurora Network, a partnership of like-minded, research-intensive universities using their academic excellence to drive societal change and contribute to the SDGs.

In all this work, we know our best way to have a positive impact is by leaning into our core mission to teach, learn, and serve. For example, through our world-class research, we are creating solutions to reduce emissions, such as in improving the efficiency of wind power; to develop cleaner ways of producing fertilizer, thereby greatly reducing the energy input in agriculture; to create new technologies and analytics and spin them off to private industry; and to work in areas like geofinancial analytics and provide policy alternatives/ideas to energy regulators. 

And in the classroom, students can discover content related to climate and other topics of sustainability across our entire University—from the humanities to engineering—and in our sustainability education program that includes industry and community-based internships, led by the Institute on the Environment and enabled by our now-systemwide Sustainability Office. This collective work to address climate change in scholarship and in practice takes all hands on deck. 

As we continue to take our next steps, we do so with an understanding that we can no longer look to the past to tell us what the future will be like. We know climate change is a daunting challenge. Therefore, we know we must adapt to changing conditions with world-class science to make specific and meaningful predictions for planning. 

And we continue to make important strides every day, with the tools and approaches we need. That’s why there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful. And as proud alumni of this institution, you can count on the University to play its role for all Minnesotans.

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