FDU Commits to Sustainability

Portrait of a woman wearing a blazer. Photo is in black and white.

Vicki Cohen, the inaugural director of academic sustainability initiatives. (Photo: Ted Horowitz)

By Anne Sherber

The University has established a certificate program in sustainability studies, tapping longtime faculty member and administrator Vicki Cohen as the inaugural director of academic sustainability initiatives.

For Cohen, the decision to lead this program was an easy one. “When Michael Avaltroni [interim president of FDU] suggested this role to me, I was happy to take on the challenge,” she says.

A key feature of the program is the opportunity for undergraduates to conduct original research on climate change. Initial research projects, funded through a grant made by an anonymous foundation, included a mobile app about climate aimed at elementary school children; a way to track and analyze forest degradation using machine learning; and an energy audit of FDU’s Metropolitan Campus to reduce carbon emissions. “The projects selected in the first round were great,” Cohen says.

Students have recently submitted a new round of proposals on initiatives, projects and research that address climate change and sustainability, which will be funded by The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust. Proposals are currently being evaluated. “We are anticipating interesting projects that invite us to think about sustainability, both on our campuses and in our world, in new ways,” Cohen says.

She notes that the University has made a commitment to both teaching sustainability and creating sustainable campuses. “We are now members of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.”

The University has also received a grant from Pfizer, facilitated by the Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey, to host a Sustainability Symposium on April 19, 2023. The event, which coincides with Earth Day, will feature Amit Limaye, director of BD’s Sustainable Medical Technology Institute. The focus will be on the intersection of the pharmaceutical industry, medical technology, sustainability and climate change.

Cohen is encouraged by the interest that students have in sustainability issues. “This is something that motivates the younger generation,” she says. “They will have to confront these issues after we are gone.”