Head of School Laura Danforth's Letter

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
 — Robert Swan 

Fundamental to our mission at Masters is our shared promise to be “a power for good in the world.” That promise grounds us in our commitment to engage in sustainable practices on campus and in the world beyond Dobbs Ferry.

We all agree that our natural resources are limited -- and most would agree that we have collectively indulged in a culture that operates as if this were not so. Teaching our students about being good stewards of the earth is a matter of social justice and goodness, and is as essential as teaching them literacy, numeracy and other “traditional,” classroom-based curricula. Indeed, sustainability complements these disciplines and should not be relegated to the status of a frill or afterthought. Just as we teach civil discourse through our Harkness discussions, so, too, are we committed to teaching about sustainability through our shared practices.

Teaching sustainability means implementing both long-term projects and engaging in sustainable daily practices. It means considering the impact of social, economic and environmental sustainability as an integrative discipline. We are determined to do these things as mindfully as possible at Masters. 

Sustainability is the theme of the 2016-2017 year, and it will also be the focus of Masters Matters, a daylong symposium that allows us to delve into an issue of importance to our community and our world. We are thinking carefully about how to ensure that these efforts extend beyond the academic calendar and become ingrained in who we are as a school. As every community that is engaged in similar efforts knows, it is not easy to change a mindset. Nonetheless, our work is underway and we are already seeing important changes.

Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been exploring sustainability in and out of the classroom, and are turning theory into action. Recycling is becoming second nature for members of our community. Our fresh and delicious food comes from local sources. We have made dramatic reductions to our waste and energy expenditures.

A testament to our sustainability commitment is EFFECT, a student-run committee devoted to finding ways to incorporate sustainable practices at Masters, utilizing our 96-acre campus to its fullest potential, and engaging the entire School community in these efforts. EFFECT is working with our new Green Dean, Mary May, who will be instrumental in guiding the Masters community toward greater engagement in sustainability issues and practices.

With the support of our faculty, our students are looking into land use and sustainable design in order to help us meet our long-term goals for healthy soil, woods, and campus trees. Others are focusing on composting, reusing and recycling initiatives. There’s a group focused on helping us find ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and another that has taken on the task to educate and engage members of the community.

As part of our Innovation and Entrepreneurship courses, students are learning the principles of “Design Thinking,” an approach that focuses on solving the needs of society through a creative and innovative business model. Through dynamic Harkness discussions, hands-on problem solving and real-life case studies, our students come to understand the mindset of an entrepreneur and how ethical businesses can drive social change. 

One of the goals in our Strategic Plan is for our students “to embrace deep and transformational learning.” And what can be more transformational than experiencing the tangible benefits that accompany sustainable practices?

I’m excited and encouraged by the steps we have taken to date, but I am even more excited about what lies ahead. I ask you to join us in this effort. The Great Law of the Iroquois advises us that, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.” At Masters  for our own sake, for our children’s sake, and for the sake of generations to come  we are taking this wisdom to heart.  


Laura Danforth
Head of School