Over the last decade or so, Washington College and hundreds of other institutions of higher learning have made it part of the mission to turn their campus into a sustainable one. While there could be some disagreement on what “sustainable” actually means, there is common agreement that 1.) it ultimately means a carbon-neutral physical plant and 2.) this is really hard for any school to pull off.
There has been some low-hanging fruit for some schools, such as the implementation of campus recycling and the construction of LEED-certified new buildings, but it remains very problematic to convert older dorms and classroom buildings, of which WC has many, into environmentally friendly structures. And that is just one on a long list of long-term challenges for a 238-year-old college to change gears.
And while many schools remain trapped in the gap between their aspirations (rhetoric) and deeds, Washington College made quite a statement in selecting the school’s new provost and dean, Dr. Kiho Kim, earlier this year.
Kim had gained significant recognition in the high-ed community for his leadership in turning American University in Washington, D.C., into a role model for its carbon-neutral campus. Taking over a decade of hard work by Kim and his colleagues, AU now sits in the top tier of university sustainability.
The fact that Washington College would seek out the skills of Dr. Kim and that Kim himself wanted the challenges for a smaller campus rather than a larger one may be a matter of fate, but it nonetheless is an extraordinary example of how seriously WC is taking this critical transformation.
Perhaps even more aspirational for those cheering Washington College is Dr. Kim’s powerful journey. From moving from South Korea to Canada at the age of ten with no English skills to landing in the chief academic officer position in one of America’s oldest and smallest liberal arts colleges is a powerful tale of perseverance that will no doubt motivate countless undergraduates at the beginning of their own journey.
The Spy sat down with Kim in his office at Bunting Hall last month.
This video is approximately eight minutes in length.