Lasallian Values, Global Connections: Saint Mary’s Leads Conversation on Sustainability

The College hosted a sustainability dialogue with partners around the globe. To tackle climate change, SMC's Ann Drevno noted, will require Lasallians to lean into their strength: “a built-in global community.”

by SMC Office of Marketing and Communications Staff | April 21, 2023

When it comes to having global conversations about sustainability, Saint Mary’s College is quite literally leading the way for Lasallian educational institutions.

As part of its 2023 Lasallian Heritage Days, in conjunction with Earth Month, the College’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Mission collaborated with the International Association of LaSalle Universities (IALU) to hold a global dialogue on sustainability. The virtual event was attended by Lasallian educators from around the world—from Burkina Faso to Brussels, Rome to Mexico, the Philippines to Pennsylvania and far beyond—spanning time zones and areas of focus within the broad field of sustainability. As Vice President of Mission Francis Sweeney noted, the gathering sent a powerful message about the connection between two core Lasallian values: “care for the earth and the power of education to transform lives and communities.”

In Saint Mary's strategic plan, Sweeney noted during the event, “We have expectations for global involvement and sustainability. So today, we really wanted to highlight the great work by our Lasallian partners and dream together about advancing sustainability." 

Community, Equity, and Education

The goal of the dialogue was to share current activities across universities and to identify priorities and possibilities for international collaboration, aligned with the goals articulated by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and the Global Education Pact. 

IALU Sustainability Conversation
Across continents and time zones: the IALU's 2023 dialogue on sustainability / Courtesy Ann Drevno

After an opening prayer, the dialogue was kicked off by IALU’s Associate Director, Diana Loera Rodríguez, who shared her video “Responding to the Global Compact through Laudato Si.” Introductory remarks were followed by four short presentations on Lasallian sustainability projects from across the globe. Examples included citizen science research on coral reefs conducted at De La Salle University, Manila; the UniLaSalle France and La Salle University Philadelphia collaboratory exchange program for students of nutrition and environmental science; the Universidad La Salle Saltillo, Mexico’s work in addressing pollution in their local surroundings; and the La Salle Foundation work in Burkina Faso’s to develop curricular programs aligned with ecological work.  

Following the presentations, participants split into breakout rooms to share ideas for future collaborations and identify both strengths and challenges for these possibilities. The dialogue wrapped up with closing remarks from Saint Mary’s Sustainability Director, Ann Drevno, who acknowledged the common threads of community, equity, and education throughout the presentations and dialogue.

“Our Lasallian Catholic values root us in community,” Drevno said. “That community can be very local in nature and our environmental work needs to be local in nature, to protect coral reefs and do food recovery on our campuses. But we also have this special gift, and as many noted is a strength of our Lasallian network, to have a built-in global community.”

The participants expressed a desire to continue these conversations and carry them forward, perhaps to an in-person symposium in conjunction with the goals of IALU.

For Saint Mary’s and their partners, this conversation is only the beginning.

LEARN MORE about Saint Mary's current Sustainability initiatives. READ MORE about the work SMC is doing that earned recognition as a Green School by the Princeton Review.

And join us on the road ahead, as described in the College's six-year strategic plan.