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Woodrow Wilson Fellow to discuss the role of higher education in creating a sustainable society

The University of Maine at Presque Isle will host the founder of an organization focused on making environmental sustainability a foundation of all learning and practice in high education as its next Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

Dr. Anthony D. Cortese, co-founder and President of Second Nature, will speak at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, in the Campus Center. His talk, The Critical Role of Higher Education in Creating a Healthy, Just and Sustainable Society, is part of the University’s Distinguished Lecturer Series and is being held in conjunction with University Day. The presentation is free and open to the public.

For 25 years, Cortese has been actively engaged in climate change and other large sustainability challenges. He is one of the pioneering leaders in the effort to integrate sustainability principles and programs into higher education in the United States.

In 1993, Cortese founded, along with Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz, Second Nature Education for Sustainability ( This non-profit organization’s mission is “to develop the national capacity to make healthy, just, and sustainable action a foundation of all learning and practice in higher education”. As an advocate for teaching and modeling sustainability at all institutions of higher education, Second Nature has worked with over 4,000 faculty and administrators at more than 500 colleges and universities.

Before co-founding Second Nature, Cortese acquired extensive experience with environmental issues, while serving in the U.S. Public Health Services, the original EPA, followed by five years as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. He then returned to his alma mater, Tufts University, where he was the Dean of Environmental Programs. In 1989, he founded the award-winning Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute, the first effort in the United States to incorporate environmental and sustainability perspectives into a broad spectrum and number of courses.

Cortese is also co-organizer of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which was launched in 2007 in an effort to engage college and university leadership in addressing climate issues. ACUPCC currently has 677 signatories in its network of educational institutions, including the University of Maine at Presque Isle. All fifty states and the District of Columbia are represented in the ACUPCC, which includes a broad range of American universities and colleges such as Duke, George Washington, North Carolina, Brandeis, Ohio State, California, Bryn Mawr, Middlebury, and Rice.

A graduate of Tufts University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in civil and environmental engineering, Cortese also earned a Doctor of Science in environmental health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The Visiting Fellows Program, sponsored by The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, is designed to encourage the flow of ideas between the academic and non-academic sectors of society. The Fellows Program has operated for more than 35 years, and UMPI has been a member since fall 2001.

Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows are prominent business leaders, journalists, public servants, artists, diplomats and other non-academic professionals. They spend time with students and faculty members in an effort to foster better understanding between the academic and non-academic worlds. A growing number of Fellows are knowledgeable about environmental affairs, medical ethics, and the nonprofit sector.

The University Distinguished Lecturer Series (UDLS) was established in 1999. Each year, the UDLS Committee sponsors five to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints.

For more information about this presentation, please contact the Media Relations Office at 768-9452.