St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, has joined the Rachel Carson Campus network along with St. Leo University in Florida, St. Mary’s College of California and the University of California, Berkeley.
The university joined after hosting Dr. Bob Musil, President and CEO of the Rachel Carson Council, for a week as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. Musil spoke on Rachel Carson and the environment to a campus-wide audience where he also signed copies of his new book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, lectured to health professional and faculty at the school of nursing and health sciences, taught a dozen classes ranging from environmental justice to business ethics, met with the Administration, with the Sustainability Committee, and had meetings and lunches with GreenLife, the student environment group, with faculty, and with student affairs and student government leaders.
St. Ambrose was founded in 1882 as a Roman Catholic men’s liberal arts college. Today, the seminary of the founding priests is gone and the campus is a nationally-recognized co-ed Catholic Diocesan university with 2743 undergraduates and 864 graduate students. Like other tuition dependent small private colleges and universities with limited endowments, St. Ambrose is proud of its savvy sustainability measures carried out without the resources of larger and more affluent schools.
The university’s historic main building, Ambrose Hall, a large gorgeous Victorian structure, had been falling behind in maintenance and losing large amounts of energy. St. Ambrose is now completing a modernization of the building with energy efficient windows, improved insulation, repairs of leaking and drafty areas, improved thermostat performance, and other energy efficiency measures.
The brand new, state of the art health sciences building, which Dr. Musil toured, meets LEED standards for energy efficiency and materials but has not been certified. Official certification requires additional funds that the university does not yet have.
Most impressive at St. Ambrose are the measures the university has taken recently to control and prevent frequent flash flooding from the nearby Mississippi River and its watershed. Before steps to develop new storm sewage systems, drainage systems, and landscaping to absorb water, St. Ambrose was hit a number of times with four-foot-deep flash flooding on campus. The main quad is also restoring native Midwestern prairie grasses and plants and has a nearby organic garden operated with Sodexo to provide locally grown, sustainable food for the college dining hall. Plans are underway for a campus chicken coop to avoid commercial eggs produced by hens trapped in factory-like conditions and to involve and educate students.
Musil’s visit was part of a year-long Sustainability lecture and event series sponsored by the university. As Academic Vice President Paul Koch said to RCC President Bob Musil, “We’re proud of what we have been able to do with tight funds to make our campus more sustainable and our students more aware. And we’re looking to do more.”