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Cain speaks on sustainability at NSU

Dr. Kelly CainDr. Kelly Cain, director of the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, makes his presentation on the topic of building an ideal sustainable campus. Cain gave two lectures Sept. 20 in the Webb Center Auditorium at Northeastern State University.

During a pair of speeches at the Webb Center auditorium Sept. 20 to the campus community, sustainability expert Dr. Kelly Cain said Northeastern State University was taking positive steps toward sustainable practices and could improve community sustainability in northeast Oklahoma.

Cain, director of the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, visited NSU on Sept. 19-22. The purpose of his visit was to assist the institution in identifying ways to assess campus efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to assist in improving sustainability in NSU's 20-county service area.

The visit is part of the participation and information exchange NSU now enjoys with its recent acceptance into the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. NSU President Don Betz and Vice President for University Relations Mark Kinders were colleagues of Cain's at Wisconsin-River Falls and participated in sustainability studies with him.

During 25 years of research, Cain said he believed in the necessity of harmonizing a "triple bottom line" between environmental impact, social concerns and economic health.

“We have historically made trade-offs between economic development and the social and environmental performance, as if we could only have one and not the others,” said Cain. “This is not about liberal or conservative. This is not about Republican or Democrat or Tea Party. This is about traditional American values: self-reliance, self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and respect for the environment.”

Cain said his visit to NSU had convinced him the institution was focused on reducing its stresses on the environment, not least because the institution has included a statement addressing sustainability among its strategic goals. The university's second goal is to "develop sustainable communities, encompassing environmental responsibility and community capacity-building."

“I can tell you there are so many campuses that don’t even have a focused mission position and value statement,” said Cain. “We can put all kinds of words on paper, but unless they are acted upon, they are worthless.”

To encourage sustainability in northeast Oklahoma, Cain said NSU must decide as an institution the steps or leaps it will take toward being an example and engaging the community in sustainable practices.

"Sustainability is very clearly and powerfully stated in your mission, vision and values," he said. "How you interpret that will determine how far these three campuses wish to go toward being a model for anyone that looks at them – not only your students, faculty and staff but the broader community, the region, the state, the south central U.S., the nation."

Cain's first lecture was on the topic "The Ideal Sustainable Campus," where he discussed efforts by U.S. universities to reduce carbon emissions through conservation practices and utilize alternative energy sources. His second speech, "Gateway Communities," looked at some of the best practices of communities in sensitive or stressed environmental situations.

Students, faculty and staff were also invited to roundtable discussions over brown bag lunches on Sept. 20 and 21.

As a professor in UWRF's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Cain teaches courses and manages community service projects in sustainability-based planning and management.

He is actively involved in community outreach and service-learning, speaking and consulting on sustainability-based lifestyles, business models and community development. He has also lent his expertise to other nations including Bolivia, China, Nicaragua and Trinidad.

Cain was named a Wisconsin Idea Fellow in 2004, and in 1999 he was a National Peer mentor for the Learn & Serve America Exchange. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

To learn more about Cain's work and research in sustainable practices and SCISCD, visit

Published: 10/11/2010 9:21:25 AM

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