George Washington University Launches Bold, University-Wide Alliance for a Sustainable Future

The Alliance will unite under one banner all of the university’s climate change and sustainability research, teaching and action

November 15, 2023

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 15, 2023) — The George Washington University has announced the formation of a sweeping new university-wide initiative that will reach across schools and disciplines to create a strategic alliance dedicated to the mission of combating climate change and promoting healthy and thriving resource systems for all. 

The George Washington University Alliance for a Sustainable Future will engage academic programs, research institutes, organizations, and individuals to build upon GW’s work on climate and sustainability.  Reporting to the Office of the Provost, the Alliance will leverage GW’s teaching, research, collaboration, communication and convening to amplify its work and impact. The Alliance will also establish substantive partnerships with outside organizations that are committed to addressing these issues to make this a healthier planet.

“The unique combination of GW's incredible students, faculty, and staff, coupled with our location in the heart of the nation's capital, enables our university to have an outsized impact on today's most pressing challenges, including climate change, environmental justice, and the quest for a truly sustainable future," said GW President Ellen M. Granberg. "Designed to bring together experts, scholars, and future leaders from across our campuses, the GW Alliance for a Sustainable Future represents a revolutionary next step in how we tackle these complex and interconnected challenges."

The Alliance will be led by Frank Sesno, currently a professor and director of strategic initiatives for the School of Media and Public Affairs. Sesno is founding director of Planet Forward, a multi-media environmental storytelling platform where college students publish stories about the ideas, innovations, and research to “move the planet forward.” He is an Emmy award-winning journalist who served as White House correspondent, anchor and Washington Bureau Chief for CNN, and as Overseas Correspondent with the Associated Press. Sesno worked with Provost Christopher Alan Bracey to create the alliance.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity,” Sesno said. “We will amplify and leverage the incredibly important work, research, and learning that’s taking place at this university. We will mobilize people and resources. We will collaborate and communicate to share our work and inspire the positive change that we need and that will shape our future.”

The Alliance will house the Sustainability Research Institute.  Led by Dr. Robert Orttung, the institute will integrate numerous academic disciplines and leverage partnerships across academia, industry, government and the nonprofit sector to deliver solutions for the most urgent community-defined challenges.  The Alliance will also serve as the home for academic sustainability programs, including the sustainability minor, which attracts students from virtually every major on campus.

Additionally, the Alliance will facilitate collaboration with initiatives across the university including the Office of Sustainability, the Climate and Health Institute, the Global Food InstitutePlanet Forward, and the Institute for Racial, Ethnic and Socioeconomic Equity (Equity Institute); programs such as the master of professional studies in sustainable urban planning and the Arctic Program at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies; as well as an array of faculty, students and staff with research, teaching and career interests in advancing the fight against climate change and promoting sustainability.

The announcement of the alliance immediately precedes the 2024 Journalists’ Guide to Environment + Energy event, organized by the Society of Environmental Journalists and hosted by Planet Forward and GW. This event features leading environmental journalists predicting the top stories of the year ahead, with this year’s participants including David Byrne, founder of online news magazine Reasons to be Cheerful and founding member of the Talking Heads, and Shondiin Mayo, multimedia storyteller and Planet Forward Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous student correspondent. The event will be held Thursday, Nov. 16 in Lisner Auditorium.

For more information about the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, please visit sustainability

About the George Washington University

In the heart of the nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business, and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from across the United States and around the world.

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