The “Shepherd” of Sustainability: Bruce Tiffney and His Work With the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee

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By Kate Columbus, Outreach Intern, UCSB Sustainability

Often spotted with handmade bow ties and matching handkerchiefs, Bruce Tiffney has been an influential presence on UC Santa Barbara’s campus for more than a decade. A professor in the Earth Science Department, former Dean, and now interim Dean of the College of Creative Studies, Tiffney’s area of specialization is the evolution of angiosperms as discerned by their fossil fruits and seeds. He addresses the evolutionary biology and systematics of land plants by studying their morphology, anatomy, and biogeographic distribution in the fossil record.

Along with being a distinguished professor, Tiffney has played a huge role in shaping UCSB’s Sustainability Program. He was the founding co-chair of the Chancellor Sustainability Committee (CSC), which was formed in 2008 to advise the Chancellor and campus administrators on campus sustainability initiatives. As the co-chair for the past ten years, Tiffney has been influential in many projects. In 2004, Tiffney participated in the Natural Step process, which created a vision and the goals necessary to achieve that vision. With more than 80 people showing up to these meetings, Tiffney clearly proved to be a “leader throughout the whole process”, says Mo Lovegreen, Director of UCSB Sustainability. Tiffney was also a great facilitator. According to Katie Maynard, a Sustainability Coordinator with the Department of Geography. “Whenever there was an issue that the CSC was dealing with that may be of interest to faculty, Tiffney always helped to outreach and engage people appropriately.”

In addition to his role on the CSC, Tiffney also chaired the Academic Senate Sustainability Work Group, which is a leadership group that pulls together faculty from different disciplines across campus to initiate sustainability projects. More focused on curriculum and research, the Academic Senate Sustainability Work Group is indirectly connected to the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee. Under Tiffney’s leadership, sustainability became the forefront of academics and initiatives: the Faculty Sustainability Champion was created to recognize faculty innovation and encourage ongoing research and teaching in sustainability. The new LEAF Program, a grant program where faculty can rewrite their class to incorporate sustainability into their course, was also developed.

In addition to helping shepherd these two projects, Tiffney has played a major role in the UC Global Food Initiative (UC GFI) and the Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI). Tiffney made sure the GFI and CNI fellowship program created exciting opportunities for students to participate in the presidential initiatives. Through Tiffney’s leadership, Sustainability has taken on a facilitation role for UC GFI. This has helped open leadership opportunities in the Food Security Taskforce, Healthy Campus Network, and other initiatives. “We’ve made so many new partnerships and really have been able to weave sustainability into all the work of the presidential initiatives. Having Tiffney in senior administration, with a broad vision of how sustainability could support these types of efforts, helped shepard the whole process. We’ve been tremendously successful in our work and I think that’s largely due to Tiffney’s visioning and leadership,” said Maynard.

Instrumental in helping UCSB’s Sustainability Program evolve and expand throughout campus, Tiffney is admired by all that work with him. “People genuinely like him, so he was easy to work with. He’s well-respected and has a kindness about him,” said Lovegreen. “Tiffney really embodied true leadership, inspiring everyone around him to learn and do more for sustainability. He was the cornerstone for sustainability on our campus,” Said Jewel Persad, Campus Sustainability Coordinator & The Green Initiative Fund Grants Manager. “He was super helpful negotiating projects through the system and could get things through when students or I might not be able to.” To Maynard, Tiffney was a “convener of bringing faculty together from different disciplines and getting feedback and guidance from them to make sure they felt engaged in the work happening on campus.” “He was a mentor to me since I’ve come into the position and because of him, I got to learn his solid sense of how the university works. He was able to help me understand how to navigate the university and how various programs can be connected to each other,” continued Maynard. “Oh, and everyone loved his bow ties,” Maynard said with a smile.

Thank you, Bruce Tiffney, for all your contributions to making UCSB Sustainability as great as it can be!