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Q&A: University of Texas at Dallas Vice President for Business Affairs Discusses Innovation in Green Building Award

By Kristin Simmons Ferguson
Higher Ed Associate

Last month, the Center for Green Schools and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) teamed up to present the first ever Innovation in Green Building Award at AASHE’s annual conference in Pittsburgh. The award recognizes a leading college or university that is transforming the built environment and creating living laboratories for sustainability. This year’s winner is the University of Texas at Dallas for their LEED Platinum Student Services Building. We caught up with Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice president for Business Affairs at UT Dallas, to discuss the award.

Tell me a little about UT Dallas as a school, who its students are and what the culture is like there?

UT Dallas is one of the youngest research-intensive universities in the nation and has grown rapidly to become one of the top universities in Texas and the region. We’re known for the academic excellence of our student body and the scholarly reputation of our faculty.

Our seven schools offer an array of interdisciplinary degree programs and feature a student population as diverse as our areas of study. Our transition from a graduate research facility to a university with an emphasis on the sciences, engineering, mathematics and management has been facilitated by the excellence of the UT Dallas faculty. Among them are four members of the National Academies and a Nobel laureate. A dedicated and innovation-oriented staff supports our operation.

In recent years, UT Dallas’ teaching mission has expanded, our external research funding has nearly doubled, our program offerings have grown and our reputation has gained notice internationally. UT Dallas is fast approaching our goal of reaching the top tier of American universities. We have added more than 700,000 square feet to the campus in recent years, including residence halls and the first LEED Platinum building in higher education in Texas.

Overhead view of UT Dallas Campus

What are your top three priorities around sustainability at UT Dallas?

At UT Dallas, our sustainability priorities span the spectrum of environmental concerns, including energy and water conservation, waste reduction and diversion and sustainable transportation. All these goals must be balanced with being a good neighbor in Richardson – where our main campus is located – and in the North Texas region. Communities are very important partners on the journey toward sustainability, and their appreciation of and support for ecologically oriented initiatives is crucial to meeting our sustainability goals.

What are your three proudest accomplishments in working towards a green campus?

While I’m tremendously proud of each of our sustainability efforts, the first that comes to mind is achieving LEED Platinum certification for the Student Services Building. We were the first in Texas higher education to do so. I’m also extremely proud of our Zipcar program, which was the first Zipcar program in Dallas-Fort Worth. Third, I am extremely proud of our institutional response to environmental issues in our community, from current water restrictions, blackouts and support of expanded mass transit. Our customers - students, faculty and staff, taxpayers – have shown appreciation for our efforts through their continued support.

Who are the movers and shakers on your campus? Can you give an example of how they are making a difference?

The importance our student body places on sustainability is amazing. They voted to implement the student fee that made the Student Services Building and its green aspects possible. They continue to support our green efforts, including the introduction of Zipcar car-sharing service on campus and the expansion of our Comet Cruiser bus service. More specifically, several UT Dallas student associations work to make the campus greener. Students for Environmental Awareness lead the charge for increased recycling and champion our annual participation in Recyclemania. Our Student Government Sustainability Committee fosters the new environmental science minor, environmental impacts of student activities. Additionally, our Students in Free Enterprise were instrumental in bringing along the campus’ new energy metering project, which will make several high-traffic facilities on campus accountable for their utility use.

We have a high-energy, supportive president in Dr. David Daniel, who sets the tone for our administrative team, faculty and staff. The campus is committed to achieving Tier One national research university status and sustainability is an important part of that.

Tell me a little about the Student Services Building and why it is innovative?

We needed to consolidate our student services into one place, and we chose to do that in a new building. The space planning process was innovative, as we determined how to fit 14 departments into one building with easy student access and increased departmental efficiency. The building itself is innovative, capturing and using natural resources such as water and light, in ways that have reduced our energy and water requirements for normal operation.

UT Dallas Student Services Building

What does the Innovation in Green Building Award mean for you?

Winning the Green Building Award was humbling as well as gratifying because it represents external recognition of a tremendous internal team effort. I deeply value the judges’ acknowledgment of our “one stop shop” concept and our building programming.

What’s the next big thing for UT Dallas?

Our state-of-the-art Arts and Technology Building, which is currently under construction, will provide a home for our popular academic program of the same name. Campus-wide, our academic programs will continue to educate tomorrow’s workforce, while our researchers will continue to solve real-world problems in our dozens of labs and academic research centers.