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GW Launches Storytelling Collaborative to Engage Students on Food Security, Climate Change

Planet Forward, a sustainability and media production of the Center for Innovative Media at George Washington (GW) University’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA), has announced the launch of a new multimedia digital storytelling collaborative that will engage colleges and universities globally to support sustainable programming, student engagement, internships and other projects around the issues of food security, water, energy and climate change.

The Planet Forward University Consortium will allow Planet Forward to connect university partners with the Feeding the Planet project and the “Planet Forward Explorers” project, which provides students with the tools and skills to document their global exploration of sustainability issues. Five universities already have joined the consortium: Drake University, Middlebury College, Sewanee University of the South, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the University of Arizona. Conversations with several other universities are underway to expand the consortium in the coming months, GW says.

“We will work with our university partners to drive the conversation around and address the issues of climate change and food security,” said Planet Forward founder and SMPA Director Frank Sesno. “We are creating a leadership opportunity for the university and for students to communicate and reinforce a solutions-based approach to the problems of our time.

Student delegates will produce multimedia content with the support of Planet Forward that focuses on the intersection between climate change and food security. Partner institutions have committed to send five student-delegates to DC for the Planet Forward Summit to be held in April 2015 at GW. Last year, Planet Forward hosted the inaugural Feeding the Planet Summit, focused on food security and sustainable innovations that can support the rapidly growing global population.

Tara Sonenshine, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, has been named the coordinator of global partnerships. She will lead Planet Forward’s efforts to extend the consortium to universities around the world. Sonenshine also will work with domestic and international organizations, such as USAID, the USDA and the World Food Program, to establish internships and other opportunities for students.

More and more universities are collaborating to offer solutions to sustainability issues. Arizona State University’s Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) recently partnered with the Mayo Clinic of Arizona and the city of Phoenix to aid the City of Phoenix’s goal to divert 40 percent of its waste by 2020.

And the University of California, Davis is home to two groundbreaking net zero energy demonstration facilities: Honda's recently unveiled "Smart Home" — intended to demonstrate Honda's vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility; and the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, which, when fully operational, will enable the adjacent teaching and research winery, brewery and food-processing facility to operate self-sustainably, through onsite capture of energy and water. Among other features, the building also will be equipped to produce chilled water, using a solar-powered icemaker, and generate hydrogen gas by electrolysis, fueling a hydrogen fuel cell for nighttime energy use.

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