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Furman announces The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities

The Shi Institute in the spring of 2020.

We can have both – a healthy, thriving planet and a basic quality of life for all of humanity – and in fact, we must.

That belief drives the new Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University, a regionally centered, community-focused institute that promotes sustainable human flourishing through its centers for sustainability education, research and leadership. The shift to a more broadly reaching institute culminates 11 years of progress and national renown as Furman’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability. Today, Oct. 27, Furman announces the new institute – an education, applied research and leadership resource truly unique to the Southeast.

“It is our imperative to preserve the Earth’s limited natural resources for current populations, to achieve a just and equitable society for all, and to leave future generations with a planet capable of sustaining life and community,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “The Shi Institute brings a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to our most pressing sustainability and community challenges, while providing our students with formative learning experiences through our programs and partnerships within the region.”

Faculty and students, environmental scientists and economists, urban planners and policy experts, sustainability leaders and elected officials will collaboratively pursue sustainable communities at the Shi Institute, which operates in a net zero, sustainable showcase home in the heart of Furman’s campus.

“The Shi Institute fills a critical regional need and will serve as a conduit and crossroads for providing innovative ways to think and learn about sustainability, applying sustainability systems research to contemporary problems, and convening, connecting and educating the next generation of campus and community sustainability leaders,” said Wes Dripps, the institute’s executive director and a professor of earth, environmental and sustainability sciences.

“The future of sustainable societies requires that we find ways to move forward in a collaborative, holistic way that views societal sustainability through the interaction of various systems – environmental, social and economic. This approach requires institutions with interdisciplinary expertise, conceptual imagination and local partnerships like we have.”

David E. Shi, former Furman president and the namesake of the institute, also pointed to the rich educational opportunities the institute will offer students and the far-reaching way the university is approaching sustainability.

“Furman is among a handful of universities that believes engaged learning, experiential learning, off-campus learning, real world learning, should be the centerpiece of its educational experience,” he said. “Furman has come to define sustainability as not just environmental responsibility but also the sustainability of viable and vibrant communities.”

Furman’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity weeding under the solar panels at the solar farm in October of 2019.

The Shi Institute will house three centers: The Center for Sustainability Education, The Center for Applied Sustainability Research, and The Center for Sustainability Leadership.

Innovation in education: Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, change agents and decision makers. The Center for Sustainability Education will offer novel sustainability education programs designed to provide new ways of thinking, collaborating, and problem-solving and the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The center already provides a vast array of high impact student learning experiences including working on the Furman Farm, living in the Greenbelt Sustainable Living Community, and participating in our flagship Student Fellows Program, which engages students in real world, campus and community sustainability fellowships, with offerings during the summer and the academic year. To date the Institute has hosted over 325 student fellows.

Community impact: The Center for Applied Sustainability Research will be the preeminent place for individuals, groups, corporations, government agencies, nonprofits and universities to find leading sustainability research and assessments. The center will support applied community-based research with faculty, students and community partners aimed at creative solutions for developing communities that are socially just and equitable, environmentally sound and resilient, and economically viable.

Leading the way: The Center for Sustainability Leadership will convene, educate, develop and sustain a strong network of diverse regional educators, leaders and practitioners in the state of South Carolina. The center will support visionary, solution- and action-oriented leadership programs, workshops and events designed to empower this statewide network to advance the sustainability of our communities.


Pieper Key contributed.

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