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Business Intel

May 2017


Smart Sustainability Strategies

Morgan R. Olsen admits that the task of reducing Arizona State University’s emissions impact would be a lot easier if ASU were not one of the fastest-growing research universities in one of the largest metro areas in the country. In the decade since signing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, ASU has seen a 33 percent growth in its gross square footage of built space and a 25 percent growth in full-time students on campus. “The good news is that over that same time period, we have dropped carbon emissions by 16 percent,” says Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer, and CFO. “We still have a long way to go, but we have also learned a lot along the way.”

Among those lessons are several strategic approaches that have worked well for ASU.

Bundled benefits. “We always try to think of bundling the benefits of a project,” says Olsen. For instance, most energy efficiency measures help tackle deferred maintenance backlogs, but they also can carry academic and social benefits or provide functional improvements. One case in point is with the solar parasols ASU has erected on campus. “In our climate, it makes sense to use our outdoor space, although we obviously need some protection from direct sunlight. Our solar parasols not only generate power but also provide a shaded outdoor environment for classes or other campus and public events.”

Other people’s money. One reason ASU has been so successful maximizing solar power is because Arizona’s energy regulatory entity has mandated that public utilities provide financial incentives for institutions to implement electrical generation through solar power. The university has been able to tap approximately $250 million of investment from companies willing and able to finance and maintain various solar installations on campus, in exchange for ASU’s long-term purchase of that power. “This is a great example of how we benefit without committing our own capital so that we can reserve our debt capacity for other initiatives critical to our mission,” says Olsen.

Smart design. Most colleges and universities share the daunting challenge of trying to optimize the efficiency of decades-old structures that did not incorporate the most energy-conserving design elements. New construction, on the other hand, offers myriad opportunities to consider efficiency—though it won’t happen by chance, Olsen cautions. “Developing strategies for our built environment has been a journey for us.” But ASU is nothing if not intentional about the process, bringing to the table energy experts, sustainable design practitioners, and facilities maintenance staff. “Our approach looks at the project’s life cycle and energy use, and cost of long-term ownership. Maintaining this focus from the very start helps us avoid mistakes,” says Olsen.

Any new construction on ASU campuses must meet LEED Silver requirements at a minimum, and the university currently has more than 50 LEED-certified structures, including three LEED Platinum buildings, reports Olsen. In addition to making sure the building envelope itself is tight, ASU incorporates design techniques intended to reduce heat transfer, including lots of exterior shading, high-efficiency glass, and a window-to-wall ratio designed to maximize daylighting while minimizing exposure to heat gain. ASU plans to showcase its commitment to climate neutrality and sustainable building systems when it opens its nearly 75,000-square-foot, net-zero energy student pavilion this August. This first foray into net-zero design for ASU will be powered by a photovoltaic parasol, and the roof will be solar-ready for future installations.

RESOURCE LINK For more on ASU’s sustainability efforts and those of a number of other colleges and universities, read “Transfer of Power.”

SUBMITTED BY Karla Hignite, New York City, a contributing editor to Business Officer.


Social Media Skills as Job Strategy

With its newly created Center for Advancement of Digital Marketing and Analytics (CADMA), Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., is providing students with the certifications, classes, and on-site work that will allow them to graduate job-ready. Eric Harvey, marketing professor and director of the center, explains that “in developing the center, we found that major corporations have invested heavily in social media command centers, but few universities have created something similar for educating the next generation of technology workers.”

The center, which includes both a social media lab and a social media command center, opened in early 2016. It provides students with:

Filling a need. CADMA’s mission grew out of research indicating a disconnect between students’ social media skills and the knowledge of the ways that social media are used in business. “Initially, our research project found a major knowledge gap between savvy, digitally centered graduates and what businesses need to fulfill their marketing needs,” says Harvey. “Many students simply didn’t have the skills to integrate social media into business strategy.”

Creating a win-win combination. By preparing students while they earn their degrees, the program allows newly minted graduates to hit the ground running. Harvey notes that “most firms require up to six months of training before turning the social media reins over to a new employee.” In contrast, the center’s programs prepare many students to step into the role of marketing professional on their first day on the job.

About 100 students have received—or are working on—their social media marketing certification, using teaching modules provided by Google and other major technology firms.

RESOURCE LINK For more details on the Center for Advancement of Digital marketing and Analytics, see the February 2017 edition of Ball State Magazine at

“Even a long human life adds up to only 650,000 hours.”
— A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson, general session speaker at the NACUBO 2017 Annual Meeting

Fast Fact

Quick Clicks

Report Shares Advancement Trends

The 2017 Annual Community Report, Bridging the Gap, summarizes analysis of higher education fundraising trends, donor insights, and organizational effectiveness. The annual review, produced by Reeher, a shared management platform for college and university development activities, was generated from more than 111 million transactions of donor data collected nightly from colleges and universities of all sizes across the United States. Major insights include the following: (1) within the Reeher platform, $4.3 billion was raised in 2016 from more than 1.7 million donors; (2) 29.2 million individual constituents participated in giving; and (3) 10,200 donors were first-time participants in the site.

Most-Effective CEOs Don’t Fit the Mold

Results of a 10-year study, conducted by an advisory firm and two business schools, indicate that just over 50 percent of the CEOs who did better than expected in the minds of investors and directors were introverts, not “gregarious types known for glad-handing customers.” The CEO Genome Project compared performance appraisals and extensive biographical information of 17,000 C-suite executives, including 2,000 chief executives. “The biggest aha, overall,” notes Elena Botelho, a partner at ghSmart and co-founder of the project, “is that some of the things that make CEOs attractive to the board have no bearing on their performance.”