COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Big 10 may not have prevailed in the national college basketball championship, but today The Ohio State University was named national champion in the second annual Environmental March Madness tournament.
The competition is sponsored by Enviance Inc. in partnership with GreenBiz Group and Qualtrics.
Organizers said Ohio State's demonstrated excellence in environmental academics and sustainability, as well as outstanding student and faculty engagement in the tournament, were the reasons it beat out three other universities in the tournament's "Finest Four": Colorado State University, George Mason University and the University of Washington.
"We are very excited to be recognized as national champion and are especially proud of our exceptional academic programs focusing on the environment and sustainability efforts at Ohio State," said Ron Hendrick, director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) in Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Neil Drobny, director of Ohio State’s Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) program, led the university's effort in the competition. The program is a combined effort of SENR and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE).
“In the 10 years I have been teaching at Ohio State, I have seen sustainability go from a topic that only a niche crowd cared about and even fewer knew the meaning of, to becoming an area that every department and college wants to work into its courses,” Drobny said. “It has been very gratifying to witness and support the change, and we’re thankful for Enviance’s decision to put together this competition.”
Tim Haab, chair of AEDE, said the recognition is a tribute to the cooperation of faculty in developing EEDS and to Drobny’s leadership early in the program.
"I hope this can be used to further spread the word that SENR and AEDE are leading the way at Ohio State -- and in the nation -- in sustainability," Haab said.
As winner of this year’s tournament, the EEDS Program at Ohio State will receive an award of $5,000, and Drobny, who is also a lecturer in sustainable business practices in Ohio State's Fisher College of Business, will attend and speak at the Enviance User Conference in San Diego, April 22-26.
Lawrence Goldenhersh, CEO and president of Enviance, said Ohio State competed "with power" in every area of the contest.
"Their environmental and sustainability initiatives, including the Zero Waste initiative at Ohio Stadium, demonstrated important real-world applications of environmental and sustainability concepts,” Goldenhersh said. “The essays, videos and pictures documented intense involvement by students, faculty and facility staff in environmental programs, and the strong slate of environment and sustainability courses displayed the university’s ability to prepare its students for leadership in the environmental arena after college."
The EEDS Program cuts horizontally across a broad portfolio of courses at Ohio State. Approximately 150 courses have been bundled to create the EEDS major, which has four specialization options: Sustainability in Business, Environmental Economics and Policy Analysis, Community Development, and International Development.
All students in the major take two courses in each of the four specialization areas and then choose electives aligned with their specialization. The EEDS major is the fastest-growing major on campus. The integration of a business component in the major has been well-received by potential employers and represents one of the many ways Ohio State provides opportunities to its environmental students.
“To win this year’s Environmental March Madness tournament, Ohio State bested a strong field that included academic and athletic powerhouses like Michigan State and Colorado State, and elite smaller school juggernauts like Middlebury College and George Mason,” Goldenhersh said. “We congratulate Ohio State on its victory, and we salute all of the competitors for their commitment to training the environmental leaders of tomorrow.”
The Environmental March Madness tournament was designed to evaluate colleges and universities throughout the U.S. on their environmental degree programs and curriculum, environmental opportunities for students, and campus sustainability efforts. Each school initially completed a survey, which was the basis of judging for the “Sustainable 16.”
Those 16 schools were then given the chance to submit essays, photos and videos to the judges for further consideration for the “Environmental Eight.” The judges then evaluated all materials submitted throughout the tournament to determine the “Finest Four,” and ultimately the national champion.
Judges for this year’s tournament were:
Jonathan Camuzeaux, research analyst, Office of Economic Policy and Analysis, Environmental Defense Fund.
Rich Dailey, senior director, Environmental Health and Safety, Walmart.
Lara Ettenson, director of California Energy Efficiency Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Larry Goldenhersh, CEO, Enviance.
Tom Vander Ark, education expert, author and executive director, Getting Smart.
Amy Westervelt, contributor, Forbes.
Blair Wimbush, vice president, real estate and corporate sustainability officer, Norfolk Southern.
Editor: This news release was adapted from the official Enviance news release announcing Ohio State's win.
Dan O’Mahony, Schwartz MSL for Enviance