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New EnergyWaterFoodNexus Science Enterprise Launched at FAMU

Florida A&M University hosted the inaugural EnergyWaterFoodNexus Summit, an international conference that connected a global network of over 300 researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders working in the energy, water, and food sectors. Participants from as far away as South Africa, Hungary, and India joined local and regional attendees to share knowledge. Led by the FAMU School of the Environment with collaboration from the Sustainability Institute and several colleges and schools, the summit also included co-sponsors from the City of Tallahassee’s Environmental Policy & Energy Resources division, the US Department of Energy ARPA-E as well as private sector contributors like SalterMitchell and Yum! Brands.

The EnergyWaterFoodNexus is a new science enterprise launched at FAMU through an international, public-private partnership that seeks to provide sustainable and innovative solutions global security.

During the summit, participants from various disciplines had the chance to learn about and work together to tackle complex issues affecting every community. The lineup of renowned speakers included Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, New York Times best-selling author of “The Big Thirst” Charles Fishman and European Commission head of innovation Istvan Kenyeres.

Summit chair and dean of the FAMU School of the Environment Dr. Victor Ibeanusi explained the purpose of the EWFN.

“The intent of the EWFN is to brand this as a new science enterprise designed to provide solutions to the global energy, water and food crisis,” Ibeanusi said. “Students can also interact with international leaders in agriculture, business research, technology and more."

Odemari Mbuya, faculty director for the FAMU Sustainability Institute and professor in the center for water and air quality ensured that there are solutions to these globally vexing problem.

“Energy, water, and food, they are all related,” Mbuya said. “There are problems which cover all those three … so we are looking for solutions."

Kirit Shelat, the chair of India’s National Council for Climate Change and Sustainability Development, led a contingency of scientists and agronomist from India to attend the summit. The NCCSD signed a memorandum of understanding with FAMU to collaborate on research, faculty and student exchanges.

Speaking on the prospects of the MOU between the two organizations, Shelat said “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to climate smart agriculture and smart city management for its replication in India.”

Mbuya explained the importance of working internationally with various organizations.

“We need to work together, which is the purpose of the memorandum of understanding. We can work with people in different parts of the world and gain the right tools to better control [our global environment]… If we can better predict upcoming changes, we can plan appropriate mitigation,” Mbuya said.

The summit presented several themes and tracks for participants, discovering emerging innovations, understand policy implications and accelerate technology. Furthermore, Idea Hack sessions aimed at solving complex problems that require multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives brought together multidisciplinary young and experienced collaborators to “pitch” a challenge and open up for an informal brainstorming session. 

Learn more about the EWFN science enterprise at FAMU at http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?environmentalscience&EnergyWaterFoodNexus

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FAMU Alumna Fosters Responsibility in Corporate Environmental and Social Practices

Waking up in a different country almost every day maybe a dream for most people, but it is Bridgette Bell’s reality. “It’s a different world every day but it’s exciting,” said Bell. She left Florida A&M University in 1999 with a bachelor’s in science in Industrial Engineering and an open mind to the opportunities the world would bring down her path. She had no idea that through her passion for her community, diversity and her drive to positively impact the next generation, she would oversee the sustainable practices of one of the largest restaurant chains in the world.

Bridgette Bell is the Global Sustainability Manager for Yum! Brands. Yum! Brands is a growing fast food chain with about 41,000 restaurants in 124 countries. They own restaurants such as Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell.

After college Bell worked in telecom. She decided to get her Master’s in Business Administration in Strategy and Leadership from the Drucker School of Management in Claremont, California. Many of her classes focused on the impact executives should leave on the future generation. She said, “I began asking myself ‘what is going to be your legacy?’”

Her graduate program ignited her passion towards sustainability. Peter Drucker is the pioneer of business social responsibility and founder of her school. One of his famous quotes is “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” Thus, Bell was inspired to be the change she wanted to see.  She said: “I truly felt that a career in sustainability and corporate responsibility was an amazing way to leave a positive impact on future generations. It provides an outlet for diversity, inclusion and it is a way to protect the earth for the future.”

As a graduate student, Bell was an active member of on Los Angeles’ National Black MBA Association. While she was attending a leadership retreat she stumbled across the opportunity that would change her life forever. Yum! Brands’ Chief Sustainability Officer, Roger McClendon, saw her zest for sustainable practices and the environment, and asked her if she would like to join his team.

Bell said accepting the position was not an overnight decision. She was working in aerospace as a contractor for NASA, and felt hesitant because it would be a drastic change. But after consulting with her undergrad friends, she realized this will be her chance to follow her passion in corporate responsibility. She said “it has been a blessing ever since.”

Bell’s work days are busy, but every day is different. She said “I get to travel the world to make sure that our restaurants are being mindful about the impact on the community that we served.” Bell is responsible for setting the corporate goals for objective such as sustainable packaging, reducing total waste, recycling, environmental audits and more. She talks to the companies supply chains, quality and public affairs leaders across the world and creates strategies so that these goals are achievable. She said Yum! Brands’ goal is to make sure their consumers can see their brands in the best light through environmental efficiency.

FAMU Sustainability Institute invited her and Mr. McClendon to The Hill for the EnergyWaterFoodNexus summit in March 2015. Yum! Brand’s was also a contributing sponsor to the summit by providing $3,000 for the event. Bell was very excited to return to her alma mater to talk about the work she does and to show her colleagues the university that molded her. She said, “This University set me up for success, it gave me every single tool I needed to be an impactful leader within corporate America.”

During the summit Bell was a panelist for the Sustainable Corporate Strategies session. She discussed Yum! Brands sustainable initiatives and interacted with the attendees. She said, “I wanted to give the audiences an opportunity to interact with us [panelists] and ask questions.”  

She commends the University for having a Sustainability Institute because it is informing and preparing more future leaders about sustainable practices and environmental issues. Bell said it is not easy to have a career in corporate social responsibility, but remaining involve and attending workshops and events being offer by FAMU-SI will give you a better advantage no matter what field you enter. She said,” having an institute like this one is a great way to start building an understanding and networking with others. It will expose you to more opportunities.” She hopes to return to The Hill soon.

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Sustainability @ FAMU

Sustainability at Florida A&M University is about the teaching, research and application of environmental and resource stewardship so people and planet prosper. The Sustainability Institute serves as the hub of all sustainability-related efforts at the university, bringing students, staff, faculty and the community together around creative collaborations.

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