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The Place to be for Discussing a Sustainable Future

It was an occurrence most Hampshire professors are familiar with.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes 75F neared the end of a discussion on his latest book Force of Nature, the audience in Franklin Patterson Hall informally took over the proceedings. The book’s insight on the way big business, most notably Wal-Mart, addresses sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices sparked a debate that pin-balled back and forth between alums, faculty, and the author himself. In true Hampshire fashion, participants took ideas and dug into them as deeply as possible.

“This became the place to be for discussing a sustainable future,” Humes said with a smile, pleased by the active participation.

Organizers of Hampshire Forum 2011: A Division IV Program knew moments like that were proof of success. The purpose of the Division IV forum, which this year focused on Farm, Food, and Sustainability, is to bring the Hampshire community together to explore a common theme in a way similar to how Division III calls for intense individual effort. For Interim President Marlene Gerber Fried, it was an impressive beginning to what she expects to become an annual event.

“I want to thank you all for being pioneers. For many of you this is not your first time being pioneers,” said Gerber Fried at the forum’s Saturday evening dinner. “You really do Hampshire proud just by being who you are.”

From sessions dedicated to farmland preservation, green building design, and urban food justice, to workshops on cheese and beer making, the three-day event allowed alums to return to campus and share the many ways in which they preserve the Hampshire ethic in their daily lives. As Applegate Farms organic foods founder and CEO Stephen McDonnell 75F noted during a speech, his determination to start an environmentally-conscious business that is focused on meat took the kind of ideals, stubbornness, and commitment he learned as a student.

“We just started doing the Hampshire thing, we started doing the Hampshire model,” said McDonnell. He credited his former advisor, biology professor emerita Merle Bruno, for a profound impact on his education.

At a session titled Building the Future We Want: Responsible Buildings in an Irresponsible World, Pat Sapinsley 71F and Pamela Lippe 73F spoke on their work in architecture and green design.

“The important thing is that it’s not just technology itself. It’s how it’s used and integrated into a building that matters,” said Lippe. Sapinsley noted, “We don’t have to just build mud huts. We can build very sophisticated, gorgeous buildings that have some common sense in them.”

In a workshop titled Discovering Science through Fermentation: Zymurgy, cell biology professor Chris Jarvis not only offered tips on brewing beer, but also talked about the way courses in beer and cheese making draw students to the sciences.

“The cheese-making course is microbiology at the introductory level, but we don’t call it that,” he said, explaining that zymurgy was the branch of chemistry that deals with fermentation. “To take the zymurgy course, you also need to take organic chemistry and microbiology. And to take organic chemistry, you need to have taken chemistry. So we’re feeding the chemistry courses.”

The weekend also included the dedication of the newly rebuilt Enfield Solar Greenhouse. Leah Grossman 08F, a student who lives in the greenhouse mod, spoke at the dedication. Her words could well have described the inaugural Hampshire Forum itself:

 “I want to see this as a jumping-off point. Now we need ideas and inspirations. I really just want to get students in there in the fall and working on projects,” said Grossman. “This is not a celebration of ‘we did it’, but more of a celebration of ‘let’s keep going’.”

More about future alumni events >>

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