(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University – which became the original Bee Campus USA three years ago – has been named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college by the Sierra Club, as part of its annual “Cool Schools” rankings.
“Besides the fact that the campus boasts more than a dozen pollinator gardens, professors have taken students out to create bee habitats for the campus farm and to collect native flower seeds to sow the in arboretum,” the Sierra Club wrote of SOU.
The environmental group picked what it considered to be the top 14 schools out of 50 campuses across the country that have been certified for the Bee Campus USA list, administered by the Bee City USA organization. SOU topped a Sierra Club list that included both small and large institutions – including Georgia Tech (No. 2), University of Missouri, Columbia (No. 10), Auburn University (No. 11) and University of Central Florida (No. 14).
“Student engagement between the environmental science students and the Landscape Department at SOU has made it possible for us to change the culture surrounding the urban campus environment,” said Mike Oxendine, SOU’s landscaping superintendent.
“Where we once tended manicured lawns, we now tend pollinator gardens and wildlife habitat,” he said. “We are adapting to the changing climate by making the SOU campus landscape a resilient and safe place for pollinators and other forms of wildlife.”
SOU is now one of four Bee Campus USA schools in Oregon, but is the only one to make the Sierra Club list. The University of Oregon, Portland State University and Portland Community College are the state’s other Bee Campus USA institutions.
Colleges and universities may apply to become certified Bee Campuses after first forming leadership committees made up of faculty, staff and students. Those selected as Bee Campuses must commit to development of habitat plans, hosting of awareness events, development of courses or workshops that support pollinators, sponsorship and tracking of service-learning projects for students, posting of educational signs and maintaining a pollinator-related web presence. They must also apply each year for renewal of their certification.