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Whole Systems Approach

As an active and engaged global citizen, you know that our personal choices can have cumulative consequences over large distances and long spans of time. Colby-Sawyer recognizes that a whole systems view is necessary to adequately address complex challenges, create more resilient communities, and provide a healthy and sustainable future for all. In the corporate sector, this approach is referred to as a “triple bottom line” where the impacts to people, planet, and profit are all given equal consideration on both the balance sheet and in the development of policies and operations.

At the college, that perspective is contained within the four Foundational Commitments of its Strategic Plan, which are personal wellbeing, social justice, financial stability, and ecological balance. As the institution evaluates its priorities and develops programs, it seeks solutions and initiatives that leverage all four facets simultaneously in order to achieve the benefit that pioneer of U.S. forestry and conservation Gifford Pinchot termed, “...the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time.”

Each of us has the opportunity to become a change maker during that process—to reexamine our day-to-day actions in order to uncover simple (and grand) ways to make a positive difference in both our personal and professional lives. As an educational community, we ask what is the role of an artist, a sales manager, a writer, a parent, a biologist, or a health care practitioner in creating a genuinely fulfilling present and a vibrant future?

As you delve into your own particular passions and develop expertise in your field throughout your college career, you will be able to provide a unique lens through which to answer those questions and make your contribution towards whole systems sustainability. First at school, and eventually in your vocation, you can discover whether there are wiser choices to make with regard to resource use or energy consumption or transportation. You can consider how your current stress level, the food you eat, or the time you take to listen to somebody in need helps or hinders your wellbeing and/or the wellbeing of others now and for generations to come.

Because everything in the world is interconnected, many of the actions you might take right now to reduce your environmental impact may also have positive personal, social, and/or financial outcomes as well. For instance, riding your bike to campus can save you money on fuel, provide an opportunity to exercise, and reduce the discomfort experienced by those with respiratory issues from air pollutants. Eating fresh, organic, local produce in the dining hall that has not been highly processed, sprayed with petroleum-based fertilizers, or shipped a thousand miles can reduce your carbon footprint, but also offer you a more nutrient-dense meal which boosts the local economy and doesn’t contribute to water pollution or threaten the health of farmers.

We’re more likely to make the best decisions for the right reasons if each of us continues to take a long-term, global, systems view of the issues we’re tackling. Change and uncertainty have become commonplace. To survive and thrive in that unpredictable context, individuals like you and organizations like Colby-Sawyer must strike a balance between embracing tradition and striving toward innovation. We can each embody the integration of self and service, deliberately seeking to realize our unique purpose and potential, while simultaneously leveraging the vital role we each play in the achievement of the local and global common good.