UNCG Campus Weekly

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Musicologist Aaron Allen reaches out to all students and faculty to consider sustainability

022713Spotlight_AllenMany on campus know Dr. Aaron Allen as an award-winning member of the Music faculty. Now, he’s been appointed to also be UNCG’s academic sustainability coordinator, focusing on initiatives to advance our university’s work in this area.

Last year was spent in research in Italy, the result of his winning the prestigious Rome Prize. Allen’s work there focused on the reception of Beethoven in Italy. While overseas, he got an email from Dr. Anna Marshall-Baker, a long-time campus sustainability leader, asking if he’d be interested in chairing the campus’ Sustainability Council when he returned last fall. That chairmanship led to his appointment, he explains.

He’d been involved in UNCG’s sustainability effort since joining UNCG in 2007. But his commitment goes back a long ways. At Tulane University, where he earned a double major – BS in ecological studies and BA in music – he led their campus sustainability group for three years. He was a two-time Morris Udall Scholarship in Environmental Excellence recipient. He even taught a course on sustainability as an undergraduate. His undergraduate thesis was a case study on the “greening of the campus” movement as it related to Tulane. One focus? How to change the culture of an institution. There, he helped to create a position that would coordinate environmental sustainability.

As a doctoral student at Harvard, his focus was music. His dissertation was on how Beethoven’s music was received in 19th century Italy. But there as well, he was involved in campus environmental efforts.

His current research focus includes ecomusicology – specifically sustainability, environmentalism and the arts; and the history and representations of nature in music.

And his new role as Academic Sustainability Coordinator will give UNCG’s Trey McDonald in Facilities a partner in the campus’ sustainability initiative. McDonald is focused more on the operations side, Allen explained. “I’ll be a partner on the academic side.” His term runs until 2015.

In addition to teaching music courses, Allen will begin teaching a new course called “Introduction to Sustainability Studies,” with units on sustainability as defined as a “core value” in the UNCG Strategic Plan 2009-2014.

The language from the UNCG Strategic Plan states: “Academics, operations, and outreach are conducted with careful attention to the enduring interconnectedness of social equity, the environment, the economy, and aesthetics.” Allen said, “My job is to ensure that academic sustainability initiatives at UNCG balance those four interconnected areas.”

Provost David H. Perrin said, “Aaron will continue the great work of Anna Marshall Baker, who is largely responsible for launching the sustainability initiative on our campus. As Academic Sustainability Coordinator, Aaron will facilitate interdisciplinary curricular and research approaches to sustainability for our faculty, staff and students. He will be an important member of the Sustainability Council and leader in the advancement of our sustainability goals in support of UNCG’s Strategic Plan.”

Allen plans to leverage his “bi-lingual” academic background, as he continues to reach out and speak with interested professors and classes. “It’s very trans-disciplinary,” he explained. The sustainability-related problems facing our world can’t be confined to a single discipline or subject.

“The challenge is to bring disciplines together,” he said. He will help build bridges in the academic realm, around a topic critical for our world: sustainability.

“I’ve been trained all my life to do this.”

Growing up in rural West Virginia, then Key West, Fl., and Mississippi, he had an ever-increasing awareness and passion for environmental issues. He helped his father, who’s a carpenter, build an environmentally friendly solar-powered home on family land in West Virginia. “My parents live there now.”

His passion now is to combine his love for music and ecology. This campus has natural, sustained beauty, he notes, and it is a microcosm of the world. Now he can share with students knowledge not only about music but also environmental well-being.

“I want to do something that’s beautiful.”

Faculty members may contact him at asallen@uncg.edu or 256-0165.