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Environmental Stewardship Earns University a River Star

The Elizabeth River Project has recognized Norfolk State University for its environmental efforts. The University is a recipient of a River Star Business Award, presented at the annual River Star Businesses Recognition Luncheon, which was attended by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston and other members of the NSU team.

“NSU is proud to partner with the Elizabeth River Project to work toward the shared goals of restoration and community outreach. This award illustrates the University’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. We look forward to continuing to work with ERP and local government and community organizations to form a strong alliance in support of ensuring a healthy future for the Elizabeth River,” said Dr. Adams-Gaston, who received the award on behalf of the University.

The Elizabeth River Project is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to use a collaboration model to restore the health of the Elizabeth River. The River Star award recognizes homeowners, schools, youth organizations and businesses for environmental projects that help improve conditions in and around the Elizabeth River.

 “Norfolk State University has become an important partner in restoring the Elizabeth River, particularly the Eastern Branch,” said Pam Boatwright, River Star Businesses program manager.

This award was achieved through the efforts of Norfolk State’s Department of Facilities Management administrators and staff, who gathered data to demonstrate the many ways NSU serves as a good steward of the Elizabeth River and our environment. 

“Elizabeth River Project is honored to have NSU as a River Star Business ‘doin’ right by the river,’ with green buildings, energy management, and exciting partnerships for water quality monitoring and environmental education,” Boatwright said.

Over the past several years, Norfolk State has achieved LEED certification for the following campus buildings: Robinson Tech (Certified, 2007), Lyman Beecher Brooks Library (Gold, 2014), Nursing and General Education Building (Gold, 2015) and G.W.C. Brown Memorial Hall (Gold, 2019). LEED is a third-party green building certification program and the globally recognized standard for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings and neighborhoods, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Buildings are responsible for almost half of all global energy use,” said Richard A. Law, university architect. “So, at NSU we seek to design and build with this in mind, by having buildings that limit adverse effects on the environment. We see buildings as educational tools for our students to propel them in sustainable practices throughout their professional and personal lives.”

NSU’s focus on environmental stewardship is one effort related to a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute intended to improve student outcomes by connecting the campus and NSU students to community-focused research.

Joe Rieger, Elizabeth River Project deputy director for restoration, said he is excited about the research being conducted by Norfolk State students. 

“The data will give a better understanding about the health of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River while also training our next generation of watershed scientists,” Rieger said. “We look forward to expanding this partnership in 2020 with students and faculty helping to restore an oyster reef just down the street from the University.”