Heartwell to take position at GVSU

GVL / Courtesy - Katy Batdorff
Former Grand Rapids mayor George Heatwell

GVL / Courtesy – Katy Batdorff Former Grand Rapids mayor George Heatwell

Drew Howard

Following 12 years of service as mayor of the city of Grand Rapids, George Heartwell has been formally invited to join Grand Valley State University as the newest faculty member of the Office of Sustainability.

For 11 years now, members of the Office of Sustainability have devoted themselves to promoting sustainable practices on campus through activities, curriculum, service learning projects and other efforts that aim to benefit the local community and beyond.

Heartwell will begin working in the office on Feb. 1 under the title of community sustainability coordinator, a part-time position that will have him focusing on external matters, dealing with sustainability practices around the West Michigan community.

Norman Christopher, executive director of the Office of Sustainability, said Heartwell’s new job can be divided into three parts – the first of which is his continued position as the chair of the leadership team for the Grand Rapids Community Sustainability Partnership (CSP).

“George has been chair of two specific committees in (sustainability), the first one being the Grand Rapids CSP,” Christopher said. “The organization was formed in 2005, and the whole idea is to build capacity of sustainability best practices across the business, government and academic sector.”

Heartwell will also remain chair of the United Nations Region Center for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development (RCE), an organization that teaches sustainable practices through dialogue with different global communities.

In addition to working with both the CSP and RCE, Heartwell will help facilitate the West Michigan Regional Sustainability Partnership (WMRSP) alongside John Koches, associate research scientist of the Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI).

The WMRSP is composed of six regional partnerships, coalitions, and committees hailing from Grand Rapids, Northwest Ottawa County, Muskegon, Holland, St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and Southwest Michigan. Together, they work toward developing more sustainable neighborhoods and communities.

Even though Heartwell will be working with three different groups, he said each is working toward a common goal.

“These initiatives all bring together business, higher education, local government and non-profit organizations to develop and encourage sustainable practices with the objective of improving everyone’s performance and making ours the most sustainable region in the nation,” Heartwell said.

Before accepting his position within the Office of Sustainability, Heartwell had already collaborated with both GVSU President Thomas J. Haas as well as Christopher.

Heartwell said these two close connections were one of the reasons why he made the decision to join the university.

“I have come to appreciate the dedication GVSU has to its students and to the larger community in which it operates,” he said. “Dr. Haas brings a high level of integrity to all he does, and he both values and works hard to cultivate relationships between the university and the community.”

“I have also worked closely with Norman Christopher throughout his time running the sustainability initiatives at GVSU. Norman is creative, hard-working and entirely dedicated to making GVSU a sustainable institution.”

During his time at GVSU, Heartwell said he hopes to take the great foundation in sustainability already established at the university and advance it even further through new and existing partnerships.

For more information about the Office of Sustainability, go to www.gvsu.edu/sustainability.