The 10th annual free event will be held Friday, Nov. 6, from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. online. Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.

Nov. 4, 2020

With COVID-19 cases still trending upward, Dallas College (formerly Dallas County Community College District) was forced to move its 10th annual Sustainability Summit online, and that’s a good thing, says the event organizer.

The free summit aimed at educators, business managers, college students and community leaders is set for Friday, Nov. 6, at 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. via Cisco’s Webex video conferencing platform. Register to join the event.

Dallas College sustainability education coordinator Lori Delacruz Lewis says attendance typically hovers around 500, but she expects participation to be much higher as geographic and scheduling barriers have been mitigated.

For the keynote, she was able to pull in Charles Hopkins, the UNESCO chair for sustainability education, who is based in Toronto, Canada.

“He is able to do this from his office in Toronto,” Lewis said.

In addition to Hopkins, there will be a mix of prerecorded and live presentations along with interactive breakout sessions on the topics that Lewis calls the major challenges that society currently faces throughout the world.

Sessions will focus on social justice, a resilient environment and responsible economics with five different tracks - Facilities Management, Sustainability in Your Business, Resilience, and two teaching tracks. 

“If you work in operations at a business, a company, a school district, you might be interested in the Facilities Management track," says Lewis. "They're talking about energy efficiency and water efficiency - all very sustainability related topics.”

A second track called Sustainability in Your Business is for business owners and employees who want to put forth sustainability concepts in management. A third track is called Resilience: Adapting and Thriving After a Crisis. 

“That one has been really interesting to look at. One of our history professors from North Lake [campus] is talking about Congolese refugees doing sustainable urban farming - to be resilient in America after they came here.”

"Another session talks about how nature and how the use of biophilia re-energizes us.

“And another session is about mental health - taking care of the mental health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. That has been something that Dallas College has worked very hard at, to make sure that everybody's getting the support and the tools that they need to continue to be successful in these really weird times.

The last two tracks are both teaching tracks. 

“So those are focused more toward faculty," says Lewis. "But with parents being at home - now they're teachers too - they might enjoy some of the concepts and tools that will be presented in those two tracks.”


The keynote for the summit is titled, In the Pursuit of Resiliency: Sustainability and Social Justice for All, for which Lewis says she has no preview but can attest, from having heard Hopkins at a previous conference, will be motivating.

“When I listen to Charles Hopkins, I always come away inspired,” Lewis says. “He speaks in a very common language. It's all completely understandable. It's all relatable. And everybody who I know who has heard him speak, they come away energized and feel like they can really do something -  he really knows his stuff.”

Lewis says Hopkins' message resonates with the goal of Dallas College in view of its Mountain View campus celebrating its 50th year this year and its mission to bring access to higher education to more people throughout Dallas County.

“The theme of the summit is resilience for the next 50 years. And so he is utilizing that. And, we're really focused on social justice right now throughout Dallas College,” Lewis says. “One of the things that that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic was we knew that there was a digital divide. We knew that there were students who relied on using campus computers or public library computers to get their work done because they either didn't have [or] they couldn't afford that equipment at their home, or they didn't even have internet access. We had to mobilize, and all the school districts all over the country turned on a dime to provide equipment and hot spots to students as soon as we were sent home back in March. So that's part of social justice - it's recognizing where we are failing as a community and where we need to boost equity.”


As with most conferences, a major attraction of the Dallas College Sustainability Summit is the chance for participants to ask questions of presenters, view exhibitions and interact with like-minded people. Lewis says all these aspects will be duplicated in the wholly online experience.

“Once people register on the day of the event, they will receive a link to all of the sessions, and then they can just visit each one during its specific time,” Lewis says. “For the virtual vendor fair, they will each be in a [virtual] room and the link to their room will be provided to all the attendees, and they can just go from room to room. The vendors have an opportunity to answer questions, or to show a short video or to do a short presentation.”


Inviting community leaders and anyone else who’s interested to register for the event, Lewis says she feels that the summit has something for just about everyone who’s working for a better world.

“The Sustainability Summit will be both motivating and thought-provoking. It's going to be an immersive day of discussions and presentations and at the end, summit attendees will feel inspired and walk away with information they can put into practice at home, in the workplace and in the classroom - from Professor Hopkins' keynote on the significance of resilience and social justice for our entire community, to student presentations on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to growing food for people and pollinators while reducing water use,” she says.

The COVID-19 response to move the summit online has forced organizers to take steps for future summits that can expand both the audience and the pool of presenters who live throughout the world.

“We are hoping that going forward, even once we get back to campus and we have the ability to do an in-person summit, that we will still offer remote capabilities so that we can have a wider reach of people who want to learn about these topics,” Lewis says. 


10th Annual Sustainability Summit

About: Dallas College hosts the event aimed at educators, business managers, college students and community leaders. This year’s virtual Summit features prerecorded and live presentations along with interactive breakout sessions. Tracks include: Sustainability in Your Business, Facilities Management, Resilience: Adapting and Thriving After a Crisis and two tracks on Teaching Sustainability.

When: Friday, Nov. 6, 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Keynote speaker is UNESCO sustainability education chair Charles Hopkins, presenting In the Pursuit of Resiliency: Sustainability and Social Justice for All at 10 a.m.

Where: Online

Cost: Free




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