HSBC Gives Half-Million for Environmental and Sustainability Education

Grant will enable extraordinary initiatives with far-reaching effects.

HSBC, the huge banking and financial services company, has a nonprofit arm devoted to community and philanthropic work. Ithaca College, the midsize comprehensive institution of higher education, has programs, faculty, and staff dedicated to environmental and sustainability work. The latter caught the eye of the former, and this summer the HSBC in the Community (USA) Inc. Foundation granted the Ithaca College Environmental Studies Program $500,000 over three years to continue and enhance its educational and outreach offerings.

“In researching institutions that have a demonstrated record of leadership in this area,” said HSBC’s Heather Nesle on award-ing the grant, “[we found that] Ithaca College stood out. Ithaca’s proposal dovetailed perfectly with HSBC’s commitment to the environment, which supports efforts designed to promote environmental education, conservation, sustainable development, good environmental practices, and increased environmental public awareness.” Nesle is HSBC’s first vice president of community and philanthropic services. Several of her colleagues attended IC’s Convocation and picnic in August to present the check to President Tom Rochon, associate professor of biology and environmental studies coordinator Susan Allen-Gil, and other faculty, staff, and students working on sustainability issues.

The grant will fund a number of important initiatives, including scholarships and a fellowship program for students engaged in exemplary environmental or sustainability projects; an internship and research fund; a scholar-in-residence program bringing in a series of exceptional speakers and educators; a program that uses Ithaca College’s 500 acres of natural lands as the focal resource for education, research, and experimentation, including outreach to local K–12 schools; development of a new interdisciplinary sustainability major and minor; expansion of local, regional, and national outreach efforts; and development of an online certification program for sustainability coordinators in the higher education, government, nonprofit, and private industry sectors.

Now a decade old, the interdisciplinary environmental studies program offers B.A. degrees in environmental studies and environmental science. It currently has 63 majors and aspires to provide every IC student with the foundations of ecological literacy that will empower them to be active and responsible citizens. President Rochon acknowledges the importance of the HSBC grant in building on the program’s solid foundation. “It is an acknowledgment and affirmation of Ithaca College’s status as a frontrunner in the areas of environmental studies and sustainability,” he says.

Allen-Gil expects the grant to help increase both the quantity and caliber of student applicants for the program, help the College progress toward achieving climate neutrality with the support of research efforts, and provide participants in the workshops and online certificate program with skills to successfully develop and implement sustainability thinking and practice in their respective organizations. “Our comprehensive program,” she predicts, “has the potential to make Ithaca College the most high-profile example of a college in the United States in sustainability.”