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University of Colorado Denver




The Wirth Chair is committed to helping governments, businesses, non-profit groups and community organizations form sustainable development partnerships that carefully balance economic, environmental and expanded social welfare objectives and strategies.


Recent Activities


April 15-18 - Wirth Chair Director Jennifer Kagan traveled to Eugene, Oregon to participate in the Sustainable City Year Conference at the University of Oregon.  Each year the University of Oregon partners with a city (or other government entity) for an entire academic year to assist the city with its sustainability goals.  Through class projects, students and professors from a variety of disciplines work on projects for the city.  The Sustainable City Year Program is now in its fifth year and has also been implemented at about a dozen other schools across the country.  Each year, the University of Oregon holds a conference to help interested universities launch similar programs.  Ms. Kagan traveled with a multidisciplinary contingency from University of Colorado Denver to Oregon to explore the possibility of implementing the program at UCD.

April 14 - The Wirth Chair hosted a brownbag lunch at the School of Public Affairs regarding energy issues in East Africa.  Dr. Luka Powanga gave a presentation to a diverse group of attendees regarding the energy curse and energy development in Africa.  Dr. Powanga is a professor in the School of Management at Regis University and the co-founder and Executive Director of the Global Commerce Forum, the parent to the Energy Africa Conference, now in its seventh year.  Following Dr. Powanga’s presentation and a lively discussion among attendees, the Wirth Chair and the Global Livingston Institute spoke briefly about their upcoming August East Africa Energy and Sustainability Trip.  More information about the trip can be found here.

April 11 - The Wirth Chair and the School of Public Affairs at University of Colorado Denver convened a group of leaders to discuss issues and policies related to hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.  Participants represented a variety of sectors, including oil and gas industry, environmental nonprofits, academia, mineral rights owners, and government.  After a presentation titled, “Understanding the Politics of Hydraulic Fracturing in Colorado,” by Associate Professors Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible based on their research, participants engaged in a discussion regarding issues, priorities, and next steps regarding hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.  This meeting was the first of a series of meetings designed to further the dialogue regarding hydraulic fracturing in Colorado and beyond.

April 1 - Wirth Chair Mark Safty participated in a panel discussion regarding professional collaboration in policy development.  Other panelists included Associate Dean Kelly Hupfeld and Assistant Professor Danielle Varda.  Mr. Safty discussed various aspects of productive collaborations based on his work internationally.  The event was hosted by WorldDenver and the School of Public Affairs and was part of the Access Education Administration Institute, an intensive leadership workshop for university administrators and ministry of education officials from 25 countries.

January 2014—Wirth Chair Mark Safty participated in a Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) planning meeting in Denver.  COYAC, established by the Colorado Legislature in 2008, is made up of 40 high school students from across Colorado who are charged with learning about public policy and advising the State legislature on issues of importance to them.  One of the issues selected by the students for study in 2014 is energy.

At the day-long meeting of COYAC, Safty served as a subject matter expert for the energy group of COYAC and presented information to the students about Colorado's energy policy landscape, facts about energy in Colorado, and the challenges and issues to be addressed across the energy sector.

November 2013—At the request of the Ecologic Institute in Berlin, Germany, Wirth Chair Mark Safty made a dinner presentation entitled "The Past, Present and Future of Renewable Energy in the US."  The event was attended by a broad-based group of international representatives from the Ecologic Institute, the Atlantic Council, and other companies and organizations.

Safty's remarks included a survey of growth in renewable energy in the US over the past decade, the factors that have supported or inhibited growth, and the current level of project development.  He discussed the major issues and challenges that lie ahead for the industry, focusing on the structural dynamics of, and disruptive challenges faced by the electricity sector in the US.


Upcoming and Ongoing Activities


Sustainable Energy

The Wirth Chair is collaborating with Professors Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible at the School of Public Affairs to promote discussion among Colorado leaders regarding hydraulic fracturing policy in Colorado.  The first major event of this collaboration will take place in March 2014 when a group of Colorado leaders from across sectors will convene to discuss the future of hydraulic fracturing policy in Colorado.  At this event, Drs. Heikkila and Weible will present the results of a survey conducted in 2013, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, regarding the politics and regulation of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.  A summary of the survey results was also published in A Summary Report of Perceptions of the Politics and Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing in Colorado.  The March event will also ask participants to consider, based on what the survey disclosed, what can be done to best facilitate policymaking related to hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.

Sustainability Education

Objective and honest teaching and learning about sustainability issues are at the core of the Wirth Chair’s purpose.  We are working to gain an understanding of where, to what extent, and by whom ethical sustainability principles are taught at the K-12 level in Colorado.  We intend to explore these issues with a goal of understanding how best to incorporate important sustainability concepts into primary and secondary education.  To begin this process, we are currently building a database of sustainability education resources for organizations, educators, parents, and other stakeholders throughout Colorado.

Extended Learning

To promote ongoing learning among community, business, and nonprofit leaders; educators; and students in Colorado, the Wirth Chair is organizing a series of international trips.  These trips will offer participants the opportunity to learn about global energy and sustainability issues and solutions.

The first trip, in conjunction with the Global Livingston Institute, will be to Uganda and Rwanda in August 2014 to learn and engage about energy issues in East Africa.  Through meetings, tours, and conversations, participants will explore issues related to energy access to the implications of oil and gas development.

Some of the highlights of this trip will include the following:

  • three days in Kampala, Uganda, where participants will meet with NGO, government, business, and academic leaders to discuss energy issues and visit project sites;
  • time at Entusi Resort and Retreat Center at Lake Bunyonyi; and
  • an opportunity to engage with leaders in Rwanda regarding that country’s energy development and infrastructure.


Next, in the fall of 2014, the Wirth Chair will offer a profoundly interesting learning experience to business, education, and government leaders by offering a sustainability education trip to Denmark.  The trip is being organized with the assistance of the Danish Embassy and Denmark-based universities, institutes, and businesses.  The five-day trip will focus on the following:

  • Danish national policies behind the country’s green transition;
  • Renewable energy and grid integration issues;
  • Biomass and biogas;
  • Water supply; and
  • Visits to several sites, including the Kalundborg industrial park, where various industrial facilities work together to sue the waste products from one process for the benefit of others.


If you are interested in participating in either of these trips, please contact Jennifer Kagan.

The Sustainability Series

The Wirth Chair collaborates with the Posner Center for International Development and the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado on the monthly Sustainability Series.  The purpose of the Sustainability Series is to provide a forum for the discussion of ideas, principles, and strategies to promote a sustainable future, considering the societal, economic, and environmental impacts of everything we do.  These events are designed to enlighten interested parties about relevant issues challenging our communities and our planet, to promote critical thought and informed discussion in a diverse, objective setting, and to encourage networking among participants.  Events generally occur on the first Tuesday of each month.  For information about upcoming and recent events, click here.


The mission of the Wirth Chair is to foster effective sustainable development strategies that will strive to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

        --The Brundtland Commission


In 1993, the University of Colorado established the Wirth Chair in Environmental and Community Development Policy. It is the first Chair in public policy in the University and the only Chair at the University of Colorado Denver. It honors the environmental and sustainable development achievements of former Senator and Undersecretary of State Timothy E. Wirth. Wirth's work in Congress, in the State Department and now as President of the United Nations Foundation has truly made a difference. His efforts have helped foster an improved quality of life for individuals in Colorado, in the United States and throughout the world. | Physical Address: 1380 Lawrence St., Ste. 500  Denver, CO  80204 | Mailing Address: University of Colorado Denver, SPA, Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364 | ph: 303.315.2228 | fax: 303.315.2229 | SPA Website Feedback

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