Engaging Higher Education in Climate Solutions

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This training provides a background to learn more about millennials’ concerns, how to get them involved and connect your CCL team’s outreach with local college students and higher education communities as we work to engage campus leaders in CCL‘s larger coalition.

TOC and Guide Section

Young adults face disproportionate impacts from climate change and empowering them as future leaders will be key to CCL’s long-term strategy. Higher Education institutions play a critical role as leaders in our communities and key influencers for members of Congress. The CCL Higher Education Action Team works to harness the power of higher education for political climate action.  Higher education is a large and powerful constituency that includes science and policy experts, community leaders, and young adults who will be most affected by climate change. Together they wield enormous intellectual, political, and economic capital. We believe that high education’s role as creators and disseminators of knowledge, as well as its mission to educate responsible citizens, puts it in a unique and powerful position as an advocate for climate action.

Getting Involved

The mission of Citizens’ Climate Higher Education Action Team is to empower students, educators, and their allies to build political will for carbon pricing legislation. We assist volunteers with outreach, education, endorsements, creating campus chapters and more. You are welcome to join us as a student or a non-student interested in higher education outreach. 

We offer three programs for volunteers looking to get involved:

  1. Higher Ed Allies Program 
    This program is for non-student members interested in strategic outreach to target universities. We have a monthly call, resources, guidance, and a peer network to support you in doing outreach to higher education!
  2. Campus Leaders Program
    This program is for students interested in doing climate advocacy on campus. We have a monthly call, resources, guidance, and a peer network to support you.
  3.  Chapter Internships 
    If you are a group leader interested in hosting an internship, visit this page for more information. If you are a student and interested in doing an internship with a local chapter, please contact the group leader of your nearest chapter.
Identity your targets

Which colleges or universities will be your target for outreach? Which president do you want to endorse carbon fee and dividend?  Schools that are local to you are obvious choices, but if you live in an area with a lot of schools, which ones have the most potential for engagement? Residential schools with a close-knit community tend to be better for engaging students, while large schools are more influential if you get their president’s endorsement.  Where do you have connections that you could utilize? Your alma mater may be a good place to start because you already know people there. Please contact clara.fang@citizensclimatelobby.org to find out if any outreach has already been done at your target schools. See our list of current student chapters. 

Goal-setting and background research

Obviously, at CCL our goal is to build political will for carbon fee and dividend. For higher ed, we have the following goals: 

  • Finding students to participate in the local chapter, CCL's conferences, and lobbying
  • Finding student leader(s) and starting campus chapters
  • Getting Presidents' endorsements
  • Finding students for CCL internships
  • Interest faculty in integrating climate advocacy into the curriculum
    Rallying support for carbon pricing or raising funds from the alumni community

Your goal could be all of these, but getting students involved tends to be the first step that will help you with the other goals. 

Once you've identified your goals and target university, identify the people you want to reach out to. Key people to know are the school’s sustainability director, environmental studies faculty, and civic engagement coordinator.  The sustainability director is in charge of making the school more sustainable and energy efficient. He or she probably also manages a sustainability committee. The environmental studies faculty teach students that care about the environment. We keep a list of school contacts that you can search or add to. Please contact clara.fang@citizensclimatelobby.org to get access to that list.  

Pursuing an endorsement

Talk to your sustainability director about the possibility of getting an endorsement from the college president. If he/she might be amenable, the next step would be to make a presentation to the sustainability committee to get their endorsement. If you are working with a student, then the student can make a presentation and get the endorsement of the sustainability committee or student government association. Once you’ve built that grassroots support, you can ask for a meeting with the president. See our endorsements webpage for resources. 

Reaching out via email or phone

Reach out to contacts at your target universities and tell them about the opportunities for student civic engagement.  Be polite, concise, and have something to offer. You should not ask them to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in your first email. Instead you want to let them know about the upcoming CCL regional conference and student discount; tell them that we offer internships and leadership development programs for students, or offer to table or do a presentation on climate change at their Earth Day event. See these Outreach Template Emails for examples of what to say. Invite them to a call with you to discuss opportunities for collaboration, or ask them to forward to students the most relevant current opportunity. It’s very likely that you will not hear back from them the first time. Follow up by phone or email and keep trying!

For those who respond to an invitation to have a call, have a conversation with them about opportunities for collaboration. Ask them questions about how you can further engage with the school. 

  • What sustainability events are being organized on campus? Can we contribute to that event by tabling, hosting a film, or giving a presentation?
  • Do you teach climate change? Could we present to your class, department, or campus?
  • Do you know students who would be interested starting a climate club or campaign? Can you share our student leadership opportunities with your students? Would your students be interested in internships with CCL?
  • We’re having a conference in [City] on [Date]. Would you encourage your students to go or give them extra credit to go?
  • Would you be interested in helping us pursue the president’s endorsement?
Tabling & presenting

Tabling is one of the easier things to get a school to agree to. September and January are good times to table on campus, as well as Earth Week. Students at the start of the semester are eager to get involved in organizations, and missing the opportunity to do so early means that they will get involved in other organizations instead of ours.  Contact the student activities coordinator to find out how to table at your school. Download our flyers and handouts.

 In order for the sustainability director, environmental studies faculty, or the students to get involved, they need to learn more about CCL. Making a presentation to your target audience is the best way to do this. You can ask your contact if they could host you as a speaker. I have created presentations tailored for a higher ed audience that you can download at citizensclimatehighered.org/presentations.

Press play to start the video (35m 41s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introductions and Agenda
(from beginning)

Why We Engage Higher Education

How to Get Involved

Oberlin Example

Final Takeaways

Clara Fang

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video

Audio length
Press play to start the audio (35m 41s)
Audio embed code

Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.
Introductions and Agenda 
(from beginning)

Why We Engage Higher Education 

How to Get Involved

Oberlin Example

Final Takeaways 

Clara Fang
Go Deeper

Join the Citizens Climate Higher Education Action Team.

Are you a student or higher education ally that would like to get more involved? Contact Clara Fang!

Join the CCL Higher Education mailing list and Facebook group

Find more resources, support, and schedule for the team's next monthly call at citizensclimatehighered.org

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Grassroots Outreach, Communicating with Others
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