Skip Navigation

Study Group on Climate Change Releases Final Report

March 6, 2017

​Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:

In late 2015, when the college and the Board of Trustees convened a Study Group on Climate Change, we knew we were deploying one of Smith’s greatest resources—the combined wisdom of our students, staff, faculty, trustees and alumnae—to address one of the most urgent challenges of our time.

The charge to the Study Group was ambitious: to recommend to the administration and the Board of Trustees how Smith can mitigate climate change on its campus and contribute to broader climate change solutions in the world.

At its March 4 meeting, the board received the Study Group’s report and recommendations, “Toward a Sustainable Future,” and endorsed its core principle:

“Climate change is an urgent, complex problem. Human activities are pushing the climate beyond the range of conditions experienced over the last few million years and toward abrupt, unpredictable, highly damaging and potentially irreversible impacts. Effective responses will require ambitious, multifaceted plans of action.”

The report makes recommendations in five aspects of the college: academics, campus programming, campus operations, investments and institutional change. It makes strong and intentional connections between what students learn in the classroom and how they live their lives on campus. It offers opportunities for each of us to get involved.

If there is an overarching takeaway from the Study Group’s work, it is this: as an educational institution, Smith can have the greatest impact by taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach, addressing climate change concurrently in our curriculum, co-curriculum, operations and investments. In this respect and others, the report is strongly aligned with the college’s new strategic plan, specifically its commitment to addressing “complex, urgent problems.”

As with any endeavor of this magnitude, implementation will take place over time and in conjunction with appropriate leadership and governance groups. The recommendations need careful study from many perspectives, including financing and, in some cases, fundraising potential. We will keep you informed on progress.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the campus community, we are grateful for the leadership of Study Group co-chairs Amy Rhodes ’91, professor of geosciences, and Michael Howard, vice president for finance and administration, and for the sustained engagement of each of the Study Group members. This report serves as a model of community-wide deliberation and discernment. As both a plan and a call to action, it is a significant milestone in Smith College’s commitment to our shared planet and to the generations to come.


Kathleen McCartney

Deborah L. Duncan ‘77
Chair, Smith College Board of Trustees