The Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability and the Radford University Sustainability Office work together on an ongoing basis to further sustainability on their campuses and enact positive sustainability change across the New River Valley.

Partnering since 2018, the offices recently took their collaboration to the global stage this October.

Nathan King, sustainability manager at Virginia Tech, and Josh Nease, sustainability manager at Radford University, gave a joint presentation to over 6,000 attendees at the Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education.

The conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, is the largest stage to exchange effective models, policies, research, collaborations, and transformative actions that advance sustainability in higher education and local communities. 

The Virginia Tech-Radford University presentation focused on a January 2020 workshop, where nearly 30 student interns from both universities met together at Selu Conservancy for a session on scaling their collective sustainability efforts to boost environmental stewardship in the New River Valley.

One of the key workshop themes King and Nease spoke to was how a shared business model can be applied to advancing sustainability and reducing a community’s environmental impact.

“In sustainability leadership, there are often many separate and diverse stakeholders all working towards the same end. For this reason, a shared leadership model is often very effective. The model relies on the stakeholders to create a shared vision and goals, and to collaborate to achieve greater success,” said Nease.

King and Nease also spoke to the workshop’s professional development functions. Students networked, exchanged project successes and learnings, and reflected on how they can deepen their leadership and critical thinking skills to improve sustainability at their universities and in the community.

“Being able to represent the New River Valley and demonstrate what our students are learning, working, and collaborating on is extremely important to both of our offices. We were fortunate to present on a global level this year,” said King.

Along with hosting joint retreats, to deepen the sustainability community in the New River Valley, Virginia Tech and Radford University sustainability teams communicate closely around new initiatives and shared goals.

One example of a shared goal is delivering students opportunities to gain hands-on sustainability skills during the four-to-six years — or longer — studying in the region.

At Virginia Tech, such opportunities include the award-winning Sustainability Internship Program, the Green RFP Program where students can submit sustainability projects to be implemented on the Blacksburg campus, and the ability to directly engage in the Climate Action Commitment revision process.

With the aim of fostering even closer communication and cooperation, another shared goal in the works is the development of a regional sustainability student forum. Student interns would be chosen as delegates to meet and discuss relevant sustainability topics, and to report back on the discussions to their university stakeholders.

Virginia Tech and Radford University also work together as members of the Virginia Association for Sustainability in Higher Education Consortium, which meets quarterly to network, share resources, and knowledge, and discuss sustainability across the commonwealth. Nease serves as the chair of the group, helping to give the New River Valley a larger voice in statewide sustainability efforts.

Before joining Radford University, Nease served as director of Virginia Tech’s Catawba Sustainability Center within Virginia Tech Outreach and International Affairs. The Catawba Sustainability Center serves as a living laboratory to advance environmental stewardship and community engagement to provide a learning environment for the research, teaching, and demonstration of sustainable practices in agriculture, forestry, and land management.

Click here to watch the conference video.

For more information or questions, please contact the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability at or calling 540-231-4300.

Written by Christy Myers


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