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'Alliances' Still Key To Aurora Sharrard's Vision For Systemic Sustainability

How do you create a sustainability plan for a building that wasn't designed with the environment in mind? This challenge isn't unique to the University of Pittsburgh campus, but it's one they hope to tackle with a sustainability plan guided by the former director of the Green Building Alliance, Aurora Sharrard.

Sharrard, now the University of Pittsburgh’s first director of sustainability, is in charge of seeing through 61 goals across 15 impact areas aimed at making the university more environmentally friendly.

Credit Courtesy of SETpoint
Courtesy of SETpoint
A woman learns self-defense techniques during a SETpoint training session.

The Pitt plan defines sustainability as a balance between equity, environment and economics so that current and future generations can thrive. But, according to Sharrard, accomplishing this goal requires buy-in from the university community, its supporters and Pittsburgh at large.

Later in the program, SETpoint is a Pittsburgh-based group that offers specialized self-defense training for those who experience the threat of gender-based violence

For much of the 20thcentury, the Delaware River was full of debris, waste and high levels of bacteria that left the river smelly and inhospitable to fish and other wildlife. WHYY’s Dana Bate reports on how the Clean Water Act helped revive it.

And Evolving STEM is a program that uses science and lab experiments to give students a hands-on experience with evolution. As schools across three states – including Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, a magnet school in Pittsburgh – adopt this approach, educators are asking how teaching evolution should change. Hear from a group involved with the program:

  • Vaughn Cooper, evolutionary biologist and director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine, and founder of the Evolving STEM Program;
  • Edwina Kinchington, teacher at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy;
  • Mia Perez, junior at Pittsburgh Sci-Tech; and
  • Sachin Thiagarajan, junior at Pittsburgh Sci-Tech.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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