by Alexandra DeMarco
Hannah Herrero, assistant professor of geography and inaugural Global Sustainable Development Faculty Fellow with the Global Research Office, was recently awarded the 2022 Faculty Environmental Leadership Award from the Office of Sustainability.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Office of Sustainability collaborates annually with the Committee on the Campus Environment to host the Environmental Leadership Awards, which recognize faculty and staff, students and greater Knoxville community members who are leading the charge to “Make Orange Green.”
The Faculty Environmental Leadership Award in particular recognizes a faculty member whose environmental leadership on campus goes above and beyond the limits of their job responsibilities.
This year, Herrero has led efforts across campus to raise awareness about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the SDGs were designed to act as a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future.
UT has committed to embracing the SDGs, and since stepping into her faculty fellow role with the Global Research Office, Herrero has worked to increase their impact across campus by creating an SDG awareness week, held in March, in conjunction with a social media campaign on the SDGs.
Herrero was excited when she won the award and wanted to also recognize Jamie McGowan, director of the Global Research Office, and Regis Nisengwe, graduate student assistant for the Global Sustainable Development Goals, for their collaborative work on expanding the SDGs’ impact at UT.
“I was really obviously excited, just had to make sure to acknowledge Jamie and Regis who have been invaluable in what I’ve been doing, could not do it without them,” Herrero said.
Herrero has collaborated with faculty from departments across campus to create an SDG faculty committee and increase the number of academic courses “badged,” or labeled, as pertaining to the SDGs. Her course “Geography of Africa,” for example, is badged for all 17 SDGs because it covers topics pertaining to all 17 goals.
She’s also leading efforts to create an SDG certificate, which would recognize students who take a certain number of SDG-badged courses.
“One of the things I’m proudest of would be creating a committee for the SDGs and drafting a certificate program. … I think in addition to just the awareness events we’ve been doing around campus, that getting moving on that certificate program is really, really exciting,” Herrero said.
McGowan noted Herrero’s enthusiasm for her work with the SDGs at UT.
“I am thrilled that Dr. Hannah Herrero was recognized with the Faculty Environmental Leadership Award for campus,” McGowan said. “She brings great energy to the campus work around the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is creating a pathway for students to study and learn about the SDGs through a certificate program focused on the SDGs.”
Herrero’s commitment to sustainability is also evident through her teaching and research. She has a background in international sustainability research and has made over a dozen trips to Southern Africa, where she conducted field research on bush encroachment. In addition to her teaching work at UT, she is currently researching seagrass loss leading to widespread manatee death in Mosquito Lagoon, Florida.
Shortly after receiving the Faculty Environmental Leadership Award, Herrero traveled to Sweden for the Times Higher Education Innovation & Impact Summit, an international conference which brings together researchers and policymakers from around the world to examine how universities can support innovation and sustainability.
“I’m excited to go to a bunch of different sessions, looking at all different ways to bring sustainability to campus, and hopefully bring those ideas back with me, in particular about student engagement because that would tie in well with the certificate program we’re doing,” Herrero said.
After the trip to Sweden, Herrero will return to Africa for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic began to conduct research on human-wildlife conflict in Namibia and South Africa.
To learn more about the SDGs at UT, visit the Center for Global Engagement’s website on the SDGs.
Jason Moody (865-974-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org)