Liebenberg program focuses on reimagining our future


Leon Liebenberg
Leon Liebenberg

The University of Illinois has set its goal to become locally relevant and globally preeminent by transforming the campus into a living-learning laboratory for sustainability, while simultaneously helping societies around the world meet the challenges associated with a sustainable future.

 Today we know that problems concerning air and water quality, soil depletion, species loss, habitat loss, food production, poverty, hunger, or energy supply are interrelated. We understand that environmental problems are almost always linked to social conditions and economic activities. Economic, political, technological, and cultural factors drive changes in the Earth’s natural systems. And changes to those systems in turn force dramatic and sudden changes in society.

MechSE teaching associate professor Leon Liebenberg and colleagues have developed a campus-wide video training program to help demystify sustainability issues. Faculty, staff, and students can watch short training videos at They are also prompted to complete a short questionnaire. This survey gives faculty, staff, and students a chance to weigh in on sustainability priorities that will help our campus to reach carbon neutrality. And all who fill it out will be entered into a sustainability raffle.

Earlier this semester, Liebenberg launched the Sustainability Competition for Undergraduates. The competition, titled “Reimagine our Future”, challenges students to generate ideas that promote one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nearly 200 students from across campus have entered the competition. Several finalists will get the opportunity to share their ideas with around 30,000 participants of the World Sustainable Development Teach-in Day. The winners of the UIUC Sustainability competition will be announced on December 4 at a gala event.

Liebenberg said he firmly believes in the power, potential, and imperative of higher education’s key role in shaping a sustainable society. He mentioned that people around the world are deeply concerned about the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change and the potential for unprecedented detrimental impacts.

“But, we also understand that technology, infrastructure, global interconnectedness, and UIUC’s greatest asset—engaged, committed, smart students—allow us to explore bold and innovative solutions and to lead in climate action and sustainable solutions.”