The UO's Just Futures Institute honored with national award

The Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice, part of the UO’s Environment Initiative, has received a national award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The Just Futures Institute is the second winner of the association’s Racial Equity and Sustainability Collaborations Award. It selected for successfully integrating racial equity and social justice with sustainability and by fostering community-based collaborations that advance racial equity and social justice.

During the virtual international awards ceremony in December, the institute was acknowledged as a seedbed for applied, publicly engaged research that addresses the intertwined issues of racial inequality and climate crisis in innovative ways.

UO professors Alai Reyes-Santos and John Arroyo were present to accept the award. They acknowledged the Kalapuya lands, the institute team and the Mellon Foundation for sustaining their work. They thanked the faculty members, staff, students and community partners across eight core themes at UO, noting that the institute is a partnership between the UO, Whitman College, University of Idaho and Heritage University.

“Our team’s strength in teaching and community initiatives is essential for sustainable futures,” Reyes-Santos said.

She also cited the environmental justice fellows and their projects and the collaboration with community partners who have advanced the mission of the institute, including building a K-12 environmental justice curriculum, documenting Black environmental leadership in communities, and researching how climate change affects melting glaciers essential for the livelihood of Indigenous people.

“All these projects are possible through respectful relationships between people in a variety of fields from literary studies to library science to administration and history,” Arroyo said. “All of us will work to learn from mistakes and always ask ourselves how we can be more inclusive, more accessible and more just as we imagine climate together and racially just futures for all.”

More than 430 nominations were submitted for the slate of awards, and only 12 universities were selected as winners.

“The work of JFI under the leadership of John Arroyo and Alai Reyes-Santos represents precisely the kind of community-engaged, justice-focused, problem-centered work that is possible in higher education as we respond to the urgency of our climate crisis and help our students prepare for the work ahead,” said Adell Amos, Environment Initiative executive director. “I am so proud to have them as colleagues and thrilled for this recognition of their leadership.”