TitleMSU Office of Sustainability Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentMSU Office of Sustainability
RequestorCSAC and ASMSU Phone994-5717
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts Interdisciplinary program integrating Academics, Operations, Student Affairs
Proposed Dates Start: Immediately End:  
The Associated Students of MSU with the support of the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council propose expanding the funding base for the primarily student-funded Office of Sustainability. The addition of university matching funds would raise the MSU Office of Sustainability to a university-level representing and serving stakeholders campus-wide. The Office can then have the foundation to provide critical leadership and an organizational framework that will enable the university to meet its goals as set forth in the Strategic Plan, as well as our obligations per the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
The Office of Sustainability fosters the stewardship of social, economic, and natural resources and nurtures a culture of resource conservation and environmental literacy at MSU by strategically integrating learning, discovery, and engagement with campus operations. Primarily, the office addresses the Environmental Resources Stewardship objective (Objective S.4). This objective as stated in the MSU Strategic Plan seeks to “promote sustainable stewardship and a culture of resource conservation at MSU.”
Objective S.4 includes the following two metrics:
1. MSU will achieve a 20 percent reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from 2009 levels by 2025.
2. MSU will achieve a 25 percent increase in waste diverted from landfill from 2010 levels by 2020, in addition to implementing campus-wide source reduction and responsible purchasing policies.
The objective and its accompanying metrics require campus-wide cooperation. The Office of Sustainability will be the hub of sustainability practices at Montana State University. CSAC has been previously charged with this task, but as a volunteer group, it requires an implementation arm to accomplish the goals. The director and staff will capture the energy of CSAC and guide the campus to holistically accomplish our environmental stewardship goals.
In its fully funded capacity, the office would address many of the objectives within every theme of the MSU Strategic Plan. These will be addressed in more detail in the following sections.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       24480      .5 
Benefits       9198.81       
Materials & Supplies         5000     
Contracted Services              
Other Operations       10000       
TOTAL 43678.81  5000    .5 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Prior to this year, ASMSU raised and collected the Student Sustainability Fee and administered campus recycling and other student-led initiatives through the ASMSU Sustainability Office.
Last year, ASMSU and CSAC requested matching funds from the Strategic Investment Proposal process but the request was not funded. However, recognizing the opportunity of a vacancy, MSU Administration was able to commit $30,000 to augment the student’s contribution and create a new office: the MSU Office of Sustainability (MOOS). This moved the office from one just supported and managed by ASMSU to one under the Vice President for Finance and Administration. At an administrative level, the office combines student and administration efforts and additionally engages faculty, staff and community. This Office will provide critical leadership and an organizational framework that will enable the university to meet its goals as set forth in the new Strategic Plan, as well as its obligations per the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).The transition is still in process and the newly hired MOOS Director begins in January 2013.

This request is to fully fund the previous request: a matching annual allocation from MSU administration to be combined with the student Sustainability Fee.


The additional funds will be used for four purposes:

  1. Increase the project and co-sponsorships fund by $10,000.
  2. Provide a Director’s salary that is commensurate with the position and responsibility. The current salary for the Director position is $33,000. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) released a staffing survey in 2010, which puts our salary below the 25th percentile for equivalent positions at universities around the US. This proposal increases the Director’s salary to $45,000, which is still below the median for equivalent US positions but increases the potential to retain the high quality experienced Director that we were able hire.
  3. In order to stimulate student engagement, the office requires staff dedicated to student outreach. This proposal adds a ½ time Student Engagement Coordinator by increasing the current ½ time Recycling Coordinator to full time.
  4. The One-Time request of $5000 will cover expenses associated with setting up an office and workspace for the new employee.


Sustainability Fee revenues will continue to cover recycling expenses, student employment, various office costs, and a portion of salary and benefits for the existing staff. The Office also will pursue grants for specific projects and initiatives.

Describe the Proposal

At its simplest, sustainability is the practice of stewarding resources (human, economic, and natural) to endure over time, so that we may meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Across the nation and around the globe, institutions of higher education have recognized the importance of sustainability and are leading the charge with prudent and pragmatic action. At the same time increasing numbers of students are valuing and selecting universities and programs of study based on their sustainability commitments. (A Princeton Review 2010 survey reported that 23% of college bound students/parents said that a school’s commitment to the environment would impact their decision “very much.”)

Montana State University has already taken great steps towards a more sustainable future, but we are at a crossroads. On one hand, a scattered group of passionate volunteers—acting in their spare time—has done significant and commendable work, but their hours can only go so far. Although unsuccessful in the previous Investment Proposal funding round, University Administration responded to the need by committing to partially sponsor the MSU Office of Sustainability, which will certainly take some weight off of those volunteers' shoulders, but it has left us in a precarious situation. The Director's salary ($33K/year) is well below the 25th percentile of equivalent positions around the nation, we are still lacking a student coordinator position (in essence, operating at 75% of our intended capacity), and with an equally low project budget ($10K) this position highly vulnerable to quick turnover. If MSU is to continue supporting the Office of Sustainability, it is imperative that the University commit more financial resources in order to secure strong leadership, engage students, and conduct operations at a level fitting for a school of our caliber with a significant ACUPCC campus wide charge.

To date, the university’s sustainability efforts have been led primarily by the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council (CSAC), established in conjunction with former President Gamble signing the ACUPCC in 2008. This advisory body is charged with guiding the university in meeting and exceeding the requirements of the ACUPCC while positioning MSU as a true leader in energy and resource management, research, education, and outreach. CSAC has established a critical foundation but, as an ad-hoc group of volunteers meeting once a month, there is a limit to what can be accomplished over and above the members’ regular duties. The council has frequently noted the need for dedicated staff that can focus on program development and implementation on a daily basis, allowing the Council to serve a truly advisory role, as do other university committees.

Student leadership has also been a vital force for sustainability on the MSU campus. For many years student clubs and organizations have worked diligently to promote conservation and sustainability. These efforts came to a head in the fall of 2008 when students voted to levy upon themselves a new Sustainability Fee. The fee has been used to primarily support the ASMSU recycling program and some limited development of other student-led events and strategic initiatives. Several student employees have been employed each semester to maintain the recycling program. The Recycling Program has been highly effective however, as a student government organization without the weight of an explicit administration endorsement; the Center was limited in its ability to influence substantial change.

As Montana’s land-grant university, MSU has established itself as a leader in research and education on land resources, ecosystem studies, and the natural sciences. MSU is also nationally recognized for its commitment to volunteer service and the spread of knowledge that benefits the public. With this reputation and these commitments, MSU has an exceptional capacity to demonstrate leadership in university, community and State sustainability.  The time has come to combine student and administration efforts into one office with a leader and staff that can address sustainability and stewardship on a holistic level —integrating student engagement and academics, university operations/infrastructure, and campus life.


Sustainability is not a new idea, nor is it new to MSU. As a public institution funded with taxpayer dollars, MSU has always taken seriously its responsibility to use resources wisely and serve its community. The MSU Strategic Plan states:


“As a public institution, MSU recognizes and honors its obligation to the many constituents who invest their time, financial resources, energy and support. MSU deeply values the public trust granted to it and is committed to continued good stewardship of its resources.”

To build and continue good stewardship and meet the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan and the requirements of the ACUPCC, MSU needs an Office that can work with and integrate the diverse stakeholders on our campus and address sustainability and stewardship with a university-wide view. We need a logical point of contact and a centralizing force to coordinate the many efforts that sometimes become redundant and inefficient simply because there is not a central hub for sustainability activities.

The MSU Office of Sustainability serves 4 key functions:

(1)   Support and collaborate with stakeholders campus-wide to develop and implement sustainability programs, policies, and guidelines that meet MSU’s Strategic Plan and Climate Action Plan (CAP) goals. Many campus departments are working on sustainability issues in isolation from one another. The Office provides a clearinghouse to coordinate, share resources, and collaborate on sustainability efforts, initiatives, and goals from a university-wide perspective.

(2)   Monitor, document, and communicate progress toward sustainability goals. This includes working with technical experts in Facilities to conduct regular greenhouse gas inventory and Climate Action Plan renewals (both in fulfillment of ACUPCC requirements), as well as other qualitative and quantitative measurement. With a university-wide view, the Office also performs an important communications function. The Office builds the visibility of MSU sustainability efforts and research activities and serves as a liaison to communicate MSU’s sustainability commitment and mission to both internal and external audiences.

(3)   Support and advocate for the development of multidisciplinary sustainability-focused academic programs, courses, certificates, research, and service-learning opportunities. This will include partnering with the Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) based sustainability curriculum development that will create research and service-learning opportunities to engage students in hands-on projects through the Office and its partners, assisting with the development of faculty trainings to integrate sustainability into existing curricula, and providing support for the proposed Sustainability Certificate development.

(4)   Engage students in extracurricular sustainability activities.A major aspect of the sustainability movement is that it creates an idealistic cause for young adults that can only result in positive spinoffs for students personally and for the institution as a whole. The vision is for the Office to represent the organizing nucleus of many student engagement activities.

Following are summaries of the roles each staff will play:

  • Sustainability Director: Coordinate all sustainability planning, monitoring, and reporting in concert with campus operational departments and stakeholders; develop strategic initiatives with campus and community stakeholders; serve as MSU’s sustainability spokesperson/liaison to internal/external audiences; provide support and outreach to other MSU campuses. Advise upper administration along with the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council on all sustainability related issues.
  • Recycling & Student Engagement Coordinator: Administer all aspects of recycling program. Focus on student engagement and campus culture aspects of sustainability; collaborate with and advise student groups, supervise student employees, develop marketing and outreach material for campus sustainability.


Structure and Partnerships

The MSU Office of Sustainability has absorbed and expanded upon the ASMSU Sustainability (recycling) Center. Because sustainability requires a pan-organizational view and the proper mix of grassroots and administration support, The Director Position will report to the office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, which will strengthen stakeholder and partnership opportunities; help avoid confusion and conflict over resource allocation; and ensure greatest returns on investment.

The Campus Sustainability Advisory Council (CSAC) will remain intact and serve as a true advisory board by guiding the Office of Sustainability, ensuring accountability, and providing topical working groups with diverse constituents.

Programs which existed under the ASMSU Sustainability Center will be continued and expanded, such as: recycling, student employment, and campus engagement. 

The Office of Sustainability will grow partnerships already developed by CSAC and ASMSU and will also establish new relationships that offer additional opportunities.  For example:

Student Government:
Continue close relationship with ASMSU Senate and Executives to ensure accountability to students who fund a significant portion of the budget; include student Senate liaisons on CSAC working groups.

Academic programs:

Collaborate with colleges and academic programs to enhance students’ exposure to sustainability concepts, real-world examples, and hands-on experiences. The Institute on Ecosystems has submitted a proposal to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. If funded, MOOS would work with IoE to successfully implement their proposal.  Existing relationships include: Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems degree program, University Studies First Year Seminar, Leadership Fellows, College of Arts & Architecture, College of Agriculture, College of Engineering, and College of Business.  Work with CSAC Curriculum Working Group to develop a proposed Sustainability Certificate based on existing MSU courses.

Build relationships and information networks to connect students with ongoing projects in MSU’s sustainability-related research centers and laboratories, including (but not limited to) the Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE),  Western Transportation Institute, Energy Research Institute and the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership).  Work with the Undergraduate Scholars Program, IoE, Energy Research Institute (Engineering), Creative Research Lab (Architecture), WTI and SFBS programs to create research opportunities for students to work on sustainability projects both on and off campus. Communicate to internal and external audiences how MSU faculty and students are expanding knowledge critical to the development of sustainable solutions.

Facilities Services:
Continue CSAC relationship with administrators and technical experts and establish working relationship with new Facilities Resource Conservation Specialist; collaborate to execute Greenhouse Gas inventories and to set and meet Climate Action Plan (CAP) goals; Continue existing ASMSU collaboration with waste managers to reduce landfill and increase recycling; Communicate strategies and accomplishments to the public.

Facilities Planning, Design, & Construction:
Enhance relationship begun through CSAC; Collaborate to integrate CAP and sustainability goals into campus plans and building performance requirements; Communicate strategies and accomplishments to the public.

Auxiliary Services:
Continue ASMSU’S work with Sports Facilities, Residence Life, and Food Service to implement and improve recycling services.  Enhance relationship begun with Residence Life representatives working on sustainability and student engagement in the residence halls; Work with Food Service to enrich existing sustainability programs and services; Communicate strategies and accomplishments to the public.

External Relations:
Enrich relationship with University Communications to build awareness and visibility for MSU’s sustainability initiatives and integrate MSU’s sustainability commitments into university recruitment and identity products. Continue and deepen relationships with community partners such as the City of Bozeman and the Yellowstone Business Partnership to support community sustainability.  Develop collaborations with other MUS institutions, tribal colleges, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, MSU Extension, communities, small businesses, corporations, and foundations. 

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

The Office of Sustainability will meet many of the Strategic Plan goals and deliver several other institutional benefits as follows:

Sustainability is a defining challenge of our time. The Office of Sustainability will play an important role providing opportunities for students to become active citizens and leaders and readying them for exciting careers in the emerging “green” economy. The Office will provide internship, service learning, and employment opportunities that enrich students’ education and build students’ real-world skills. It will also support the development of rich educational opportunities, including a proposed Sustainability Certificate and other programs described in the narrative above.

The Office of Sustainability will function as a unique platform for discovery and application of new ideas and strategies in a real-world context. Utilizing the campus as a living laboratory, the Office will be able to develop and facilitate projects that bridge operations, research, and academics and provide students with hands-on opportunities to make a difference on their campus.  As an example, there is potential for a state-of-the-art project in which MSU students, staff, and faculty collaborate to develop, test, and implement a microbial composting process for MSU Food Service in concert with state guidelines. The Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems activity is another example of a rapidly expanding program that can be built upon to further invest students in serving the community.

The Office of Sustainability will help MSU lead in developing, implementing, and demonstrating strategies for sustainable living and business operations in our region. MSU will align its efforts synergistically with ongoing community (City of Bozeman) sustainability efforts and goals, and will collaborate with community businesses and organizations through the Yellowstone Business Partnership’s Uncommon Sense program and others. Students and faculty will be involved extensively in these activities, providing excellent opportunities for service and learning.


The very nature of the sustainability challenge requires an interdisciplinary approach, innovative thinking, and collaboration by individuals and communities. As described in the sections above, there are myriad opportunities for the integration of learning, discovery, and engagement via the topic of sustainability.

The mission of the Office of Sustainability will directly address MSU’s Core Theme of Stewardship and help our university stay true to our “Mountains and Minds” motto by caring for this extraordinary place we call home, as well as for those with whom we share it.


Additional Institutional Benefits

Surveys indicate that students take sustainability into account when choosing an academic institution, and universities are now frequently ranked according to sustainability achievements. The Office will support student recruitment by keeping MSU competitive with peer schools as sustainability plays a larger and larger role in higher education. By providing meaningful opportunities for students to engage campus sustainability through employment, academic, and extracurricular activities MSU will also build and retain students and cultivate motivated student leaders.

The Office will play an important role in bridging between operational and academic sectors of campus and enhancing interdepartmental collaborations. In the spirit of the “OneMSU” vision, the Office will be able to reach out to other MSU campuses to collaborate and support their sustainability goals in alignment with the flagship campus.

The MSU Office of Sustainability will send our peers and community partners a clear and important message: MSU is committed not only to excellence in environmental sciences, but also to implementing that knowledge and those principles in its own operations. The Office of Sustainability will also establish a clear and visible point of contact for community members and city officials who have ideas, services, or concerns to share regarding how the university addresses sustainability. 

Implementation Plan

If the proposal was funded, Human Resources would be contacted to assist in increasing the salary of the Director position and in increasing the classified position from 0.5 to 1.0 FTE.


If this proposal were funded, the Director, in conjunction with CSAC, would identify appropriate projects to pursue that would lead the University to accomplishing its short (1 year) and long-term (5 year) stewardship goals. Clearly, there is already a full set of objectives outlined in the Climate Action Plan that would describe a set of immediate tasks (reports due by April 2013) associated with reporting on the sustainability status of MSU as part of the ACUPCC. There is specific target objectives defined by the MSU Strategic Plan that need to be accomplished within the next year and extending out to 5 years.


There is a plan to significantly expand campus recycling, create a composting program and engage more students in those activities in the next year.

Assessment Plan

The Office of Sustainability is expected to increase the success and visibility of campus sustainability initiatives and support progress toward MSU’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and Stewardship goals. Indicators for evaluation of the program may include:


Degree of progress toward published CAP goals.

Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (Metric S.4.1)

Increase in waste diverted from landfill. (Metric S.4.2)

Number and success of active or completed sustainability projects/programs.

Number of news features (internal & external) featuring sustainability projects/programs/research at MSU.

Number of students/faculty/staff participating in or familiar with campus sustainability initiatives.

Number of students engaged with sustainability efforts through class projects, internships, research, and employment.


The Campus Sustainability Advisory Council, as an advisory body with diverse campus representation, will regularly review and evaluate the activities of the Office of Sustainability.  The Office will submit an annual report to both CSAC and the Office of the President in April each year.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If the Office fails to meet its objectives and the university decides to withdraw its funds, the student Sustainability Fee revenues would revert to ASMSU and the student government would determine which MOOS programs to continue.

Dean/Director: Bruce Maxwell (
Executive/VP: Kiah Abbey (