Pitzer Launches Robert Redford Conservancy

Pitzer College announced the launch of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability in a press conference at the Los Angeles Press Club Nov. 19.

Actor Robert Redford, Pitzer President Laura Skandera Trombley and donors Susan and Nicholas Pritzker made presentations at the press conference.

The conservancy is located on the Bernard Field Station (BFS) and will occupy an infirmary built in 1930 by Pomona College to house ill students.

Along with the plans for renovation of the infirmary for the conservancy, Pitzer designed a new environmental analysis (EA) track, “Sustainability and the Built Environment.” Lance Neckar was hired this fall as a new EA faculty member and Chair and Director of the Robert Redford Conservancy.

The renovation of the infirmary will begin in spring 2013, using sustainable methods. The core shell of the building will be retained. 

“It’s going to be renovated over a period of time,” said Pitzer EA professor Paul Faulstich. “We’re going to take it slow and easy and make sure that we make this an educational opportunity and not just a renovation that happens from the top down.”

Students will be involved in the renovation process, in classes focused on projects for making the conservancy more sustainable.

“We will look at impacts of the anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems surfaces, on ecological systems, the vegetative cover systems, built systems as well,” Neckar said. “We’re going to redo buildings up there, the old infirmary and connected offices that used to be nurses’ residences. We’ll be using those buildings to study the impact of buildings and built systems on the coastal sage community.”

Neckar is currently teaching a course entitled Case Studies in Sustainable Built Environments. He will teach Sustainable Places in Practice: Studio/Lab in the spring.

“This is a unique opportunity for an undergraduate institution to be involved in furthering sustainability discourse, on the teaching research and the outreach program as well, which is a new kind of guise for an undergraduate institution in my estimation,” he said. “We’ve done some surveys of similar environmentally and sustainability based programs at other colleges and there’s really nothing quite like this.”

The Sustainability and the Built Environment track comprises core EA courses and a variety of courses from other departments such as art, sociology and politics. Learning goals of the track include the ability to understand and analyze sustainable design and the application of design concepts and skills. Neckar said that there are about a dozen students currently on this track.

Rachel Warburton PZ ’13, one of the students on the track, is interested in landscape architecture. Warburton has been involved with the BFS since her sophomore year. She said she believes that Pitzer is taking the initiative in raising awareness of the importance of the BFS land and hopes that the project will lead to more sustainable development projects on the land.

“Pitzer will set a really good example by developing a sustainable school devoted to education of sustainability,” she said.

The project was made possible through a gift of $10 million from the Pritzkers. Susan Pritzker has been a member of the Pitzer Board of Trustees since 1990 and was Chair from 1998 to 2005.

Redford, who is an environmental activist and a special adviser to Trombley on environment matters as well as an actor and director, lent his name to the conservancy.

“His involvement with us will be to basically provide media platforms for this kind of work, so that research and outreach programs that are done in the field station, and on the Pitzer campus, in the 5Cs in general, will be given media support through Redford’s ability to mobilize the media,” Neckar said.

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