|Submission Date||July 27, 2017|
|1.00 / 1.00||
A new and unique partnership between the New England Municipal Sustainability Network (NEMSN) and the UNH Sustainability Institute (UNHSI) is leveraging educational and research expertise of the University to advance tangible sustainability outcomes as well as broad sustainability leadership in communities across New England. At the same time, it is a vehicle for unparalleled experiential education for sustainability practitioners in training.
The New England Municipal Sustainability Network was formed in December 2010 as a way for municipal staff working on sustainability issues in communities in the six New England states to share ideas, resources, and lessons learned through training and regular teleconferencing. For its first six years, it received “backbone” support from staff at the US EPA.
The Sustainability Fellowships (https://sustainableunh.unh.edu/sustainability-fellows) program is a summer sustainability experiential learning program run by UNH Sustainability Institute. UNH Sustainability Fellowships pair exceptional students from colleges and universities across the U.S. with municipal, educational, corporate, and NGO partners to work on innovative sustainability initiatives that lead to integrated solutions. Sustainability Fellows, mentored by the UNH team and dedicated individuals from our partner organizations, undertake challenging site specific and applied 10-week long summer projects that include defined deliverables and a competitive stipend. Since 2008, 124 students have participated in the Sustainability Fellowship program; most are now working in a variety of sectors across the U.S.
In the spring of 2016, staff and faculty from UNHSI began a dialogue with the steering committee of the NEMSN about a potential partnership in which UNHSI would take over from the EPA to provide backbone support for the NEMSN—and even more important, the two would work together to develop joint projects that will offer critical applied learning opportunities for Fellows AND advance sustainability outcomes in individual New England communities as well as for the network and region as a whole. This partnership was formalized in the fall of 2016.
As a result, UNHSI placed eight Sustainability Fellows in NEMSN communities this summer supporting projects that range from climate action planning, to social equity to community outreach and education to energy efficiency; as well as four Fellows based at UNHSI working together to conduct research and develop tools on behalf of the entire network. The program involves intensive support, mentorship, orientation and professional development offerings for the UNHSI Fellows, provided by UNH faculty and staff as well as by members of the NEMSN steering committee and broader network. It also involves regular convening and facilitation of dialogue among the NEMSN host partners, supervisors, advisors and current and past Fellows.
This is helping build connectivity and alignment around the development of shared network vision, facilitating an effective collective impact network in which New England communities can lead the way on climate change and sustainability outcomes. Already, based on the work to date of the 2017 NEMSN Fellows, the network is moving forward on a goal to tangibly increase regional participation in the Compact of Mayors. Being part of this conversation and working with the seasoned sustainability staff who make up the NEMSN to develop and support this emerging initiative presents an unparalleled educational experience for the Sustainability Fellows, while also helping to generate a tangible research agenda for UNH faculty and for future Fellows projects.
We anticipate that in the years to come, this new partnership will become a rich source of applied learning opportunities for UNH students who are taking part in other UNH sustainability educational programs as well, such as our Sustainability Dual Major.
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