By UW Sustainability | Aug 24, 2016

It’s time to submit your proposals for the 2017 Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference. Students, faculty and staff will gather from across the region to spark a deep conversation of how to better advance sustainability at their respective institutions.

Participants are asked to submit proposals tied directly to the upcoming year's theme of “Caring for Our Common Home.” Proposals are based on four different session styles, including academics, engagement, innovation and leadership, operations, and planning, administration and institutional characteristics. Preference will be given to proposals that connect the theme to one of the topics above.

The conference will be held at Gonzaga University on February 16-17, 2017. Learn more and submit your proposals here.

The deadline for proposal submissions is Oct. 14, 2016, and all selection decisions will be announced by Nov. 4, 2016. For more information please contact Jim Simon at (509) ­313­-5571 or

Full details:

Call for proposals
February 16­-17, 2017, Spokane, WA

Event Summary:

The Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WAHESC) strives to create collective direction and solidarity in higher education for our region. As political, social and environmental issues become more complex, WAHESC convenes and empowers stakeholders who are driving leadership and generating solutions for a more sustainable future.

As a regionally focused gathering, WAHESC is an opportunity for those working or studying within the academic setting to come together and share best practices for the dissemination and adoption of sustainability in academics, research, operations, and planning. Through​ ​peer­to­peer learning, cutting­edge idea exchange, operations and management analysis, and network­ building, WAHESC 2017 will be a place for supporting regional policy goals and initiatives and driving the development of a generation of professionals for whom sustainability is a core tenant of their work and life philosophy.

Our aim is to both enliven the role of higher education in the future of Washington state and the role students play in a future world. We welcome stakeholders throughout the Pacific Northwest to participate in this event.

The Theme:

The theme for the 2017 conference is “Caring for our Common Home”, an echo of the call from Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si”. Just as Pope Francis called “every living person on the planet” to be mindful of consumption and assert an ethic of care for our planet, WAHESC invites students, faculty, and staff at institutions from across the region to gather around this theme to further a deep conversation of how we are working together and overcoming differences to advance sustainability at our institutions. We look forward to unpacking the meaning and thinking on actions surrounding how we define and practice “care” and what, indeed, is our responsibility to the earth, our common home.

Host Campus:

Gonzaga University, located on the Spokane River in Spokane, Washington, is a Jesuit, Catholic University that prepares students to live lives of service for others. In keeping with our Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic mission, Gonzaga University takes seriously its solemn responsibility to safeguard the integrity of our natural world for present and future generations and is committed to being a leader in responsible environmental stewardship and caring for our common home.

Our Commitments:

  • Regional Focus ​As a regional conference, WAHESC 2017 will, by its nature, promote a “local” focus. Dialogue will specifically address issues in the Pacific Northwest and Washington State. Solutions will be tailored for implementation in our unique political, social, economic and environmental climate. We hope attendees will also take this time to develop and deepen working relationships with peers throughout the region.
  • Participative Engagement​ ​This event aims to bring awareness into attendee consciousness and generate personal buy­in amongst stakeholders. By modeling engagement through different audiences, we hope to invigorate responsibility to all as engaged and active humans.
  • Collaborative Problem Solving ​WAHESC 2017 will be a launchpad for continued collaboration and diplomatic exchange throughout the Washington higher education system. Sessions will model how to facilitate conversation allowing stakeholders to learn from one another and facilitate year­round dialogue.
  • Assembling Linkages​ ​WAHESC 2017 will be an opportunity to draw connections between various attendee groups allowing stakeholders to learn from one another and continue to broaden and strengthen networks throughout the state. Emphasis will also be put on applying a systems lens to topics, processes and diverse areas of work.

Selection Criteria

The WAHESC selection committee will be reviewing submitted proposals based on these key selection criteria:

  1. Creativity of subject matter​.​ ​We are interested in creative problem solving that goes beyond what has been tried before and will inspire action and thinking outside of the box. We are particularly looking for innovative proposals that will inspire solutions building in the sessions with attendees.
  2. Connectivity​.​ We seek proposals that assemble linkages among faculty­ and curriculum­ development activities, campus operations, research, student affairs, and student initiatives. This event aspires to bring stakeholders together from separate divisions of the campus to create collaborations and break down traditional silos.
  3. Transferability​.​ We are looking for sustainable practices and ideas​ that transfer between institutions and will launch discussion about overcoming the limitations of replication.
  4. Quality​.​ We are looking for high quality session abstracts that describe how the proposal will convey a clearly articulated subject and objective. We are ​dedicated to ensuring that the presentations at our conference meet the high standards of the academic institutions that host the conference.
  5. Interaction and inclusivity​.​ Above all, our selection team is committed to proposals that will bring an engaging delivery of presentations and inclusive interaction for everyone. Preference will be given to proposals that outline participative and experiential formats.

Topic Areas

Drawing upon the areas of AASHE STARS, we have defined the below topics as relevant to the theme and goals of this conference. Preference will be given to proposals that connect the theme to one of the topic areas below:

We seek proposals from students, faculty, and staff to discuss how sustainability impacts their area of study. Some ideas may include:

  • History, english, engineering, etc and sustainability
  • Cross departmental learning
  • Coursework that features service-­learning and/or community­-based research.
  • Assessments of students’ sustainability literacy.
  • New curricular pathways and concentrations/minors in sustainability.
  • Outdoor recreation

We seek proposals that are interested in the ways that students, faculty, and staff are choosing and participate become involved in sustainability issues:

  • Town grown connections
  • "Green" jobs and career services
  • Social justice movements

Innovation and Leadership
We seek proposals that examine the movements happening on campuses across the state and the unique ways that students, faculty, and staff are influencing sustainable change on their campuses:

  • Transportation and alternative fueled vehicles
  • Zero waste strategies
  • Food procurement
  • Campus gardens
  • "Living lab" initiatives
  • Sustainability in campus master plans
  • Student led initiatives

We seek proposals that are focused on how a university or college can be run more sustainability and/or that increases the efficiency of the campus:

  • Clean energy solutions
  • Climate action planning
  • Climate change resilience and readiness
  • Innovative technologies
  • Campus agriculture
  • Cost­-saving operational measures
  • Energy efficiency
  • Preserving natural habitat
  • Tracking progress
  • Communicating sustainable practices to the campus community

Planning, Administration, and Institutional Characteristics
We seek proposals that look at the big picture of how universities can take steps towards modeling and leading sustainability in our communities:

  • Funding university sustainability
  • Divestment
  • Institutionalizing sustainability
  • Procurement and business services
  • Responses to state legislation

Session Styles

WAHESC invites proposals to be submitted for four different session styles described in detail below. All concurrent breakout sessions will be 75 minutes in length. The number of speakers and presentations selected for each session will depend on the presentation and session style. Below are the four types of presentations:

Participative Panel Discussion

These 75-­minute sessions are an interactive version of conventional panel presentations with 3­4 speakers and a moderator leading the group discussion. Emphasis will be on drawing connections between the panelists’ perspectives. The aim will be to both share fresh ideas and generate new knowledge amongst the participants in the room.

  • Sessions will begin with short (5 min.) presentations from each presenter, then open discussion to the whole room. “Seeds” may be planted throughout the room to provide perspective, context and keep the discussion moving.
  • Panelists will be grouped together based on their unique connections rather than general topic area, i.e. operational process, research/application, etc.
  • Geared to beginning and intermediate level attendees.

Solutions Roundtable (facilitated conversations for problem solving)

These 75­-minute sessions will be designed to provide space and facilitation for those champions who are ready to dive in. Using roundtables and both small and full group discussion, these sessions will bring mixed perspectives together to tackle the bigger picture sustainability challenges facing higher education institutions. Emphasis will be on using sustainability as a lens to look at existing systemic challenges, creating opportunity for students/staff/faculty to come together and share ideas in a think­tank fashion, and modeling multi­party collaborative problem solving best practices.

  • Sessions will require experienced facilitators to introduce the topic and provide background information to the room. From there 3­4 speakers will share their respective viewpoints on topics and pose questions for the room to discuss.
  • Speakers will be selected to represent perspectives on topic areas and act as conversational guides for roundtable discussions.
  • Geared to intermediate to advanced level attendees.
  • Topics might include divesting at your university, climate change resilience, etc.

Interactive Workshop Session

These 75-­minute sessions will be styled in alternative formats for hands-­on, experiential learning. Sessions can be outlined in any structure depending on the topic areas and selected proposals. Examples include how­to workshops, design charrettes or world cafes.

  • Proposals will be accepted for the full sessions only and require submitters to include a session outline and pedagogy to ensure interactive learning objectives are identified.
  • May be geared to all levels of attendees depending on topic.
  • Topics might include overcoming silos, effective communication, smarter purchasing systems, etc.

Collaboration Corner

These 75-­minute sessions are less­-structured spaces for freestyle collaboration and experiential idea exchange. This is a space for those who need to take a break from the conference atmosphere and engage in hands­on activities and multi­sensory learning.

  • Proposals will be accepted for the full sessions only and require submitters to include a session outline and pedagogy to ensure interactive learning objectives are identified.
  • May be geared to all levels of attendees depending on topic.

Speaker Guidelines

Presentations are not meant to be a platform for business promotion. WAHESC requests that all proposals tie directly to offering educational outcomes for attendees. The objective of all presentations should be to provide new knowledge for attendees and opportunities to strengthen collaborations and/or connect with new peers.

Speakers are responsible for confirming that they have the right to use and will acquire the licenses needed for any copyrighted material used in the presentation. We will ask all speakers to sign a waiver if they wish to share their presentation materials through WAHESC communication channels.

Speakers with accepted proposals will be expected to register for and attend the conference, for a discounted rate, at their own expense.

How to Submit

All proposals must be submitted through our online submittal form. Below is the full submittal information required for all proposals:

  • Title (100 characters maximum)
  • Abstract (250 words maximum)
  • Submitter’s name and contact information: The "submitter" is the individual completing the online form and who will be available to answer any logistical questions about its contents, regardless of whether he/she is the proposed speaker/presenter.
  • Topic area(s)
  • Session Style­ Please Specify if you you are submitting your session for a student focused audience
  • Learning objectives (please list 3­4 lessons/insights the audience will take away from this session and be able to utilize in their work)
  • 1­2 sentences about how the presentation would relate to this year’s theme at WAHESC
  • Speakers (name, affiliation, title, email address, bio of 100­250 words)
  • Speaking experience (provide 1­3 recent examples of speaking experience: event, presentation title, length, date, and audience size)

Interactive Workshops and Collaboration Corner proposals will require the below additional information:

  • Session timing outline
  • Session pedagogy including learning design, activities and engagement tasks. Please also make note of any special materials, room structure or capabilities your session might need.

Please submit your proposals here!

Review and Selection Process Timeline
August 24, 2016: Call for proposals issued
October 14, 2016: Deadline for proposal submissions
November 4, 2016: Selection decisions announced