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The History of Eco U™

Eco U™: UW-Green Bay was dubbed Eco U™ by Harper’s Magazine and Newsweek in the early 1970s. Shown above, Biology Prof. Harry Guilford; field experience for undergrads has been an Eco U specialty until the present day.


The Early Days

UW-Green Bay, founded in 1965, engaged in a novel approach to campus planning that joined together academic programs, residential life, and the physical campus environment. The program areas focused on environmental research and teaching and the campus was conceived as a holistic university community, with students spending much of their time on campus. The University was heralded for its environmental ethic. 

From the day the campus opened, the environmental focus of the academic program had attracted attention in newspapers and magazines across the country. But no single event would so firmly fix the image of the new University, for good or ill, as the publication of a 5,000-word article in the February 1971 issue of Harper's magazine. “Survival U. is alive and burgeoning in Green Bay, Wisconsin,” declared contributing editor John Fischer. It was, he wrote, the institution of higher education he had envisioned earlier for readers of his monthly “Easy Chair” column: a university “where all work would be focused on a single unifying idea, the study of human ecology and the building of an environment in which our species might be able to survive.” After visiting the campus in 1970, Fischer told his readers, “I came away persuaded that it is the most exciting and promising educational experiment that I have found anywhere.” He praised the UW-Green Bay program as “light-years away from anything ever tried before in Wisconsin or elsewhere. ... a truly radical innovation, not only in purpose but in its internal structure and methods of teaching.”

The piece was reprinted as a full-page feature in the Green Bay Press-Gazette; it spawned other articles in publications from the Capital Times in Madison to the Cape Times in South Africa. When Newsweek dubbed the campus “Ecology U,” the name stuck. Eco U was a natural shortening of Ecology U. The nickname came about in large part because of the University’s multidisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems. As former interim Chancellor David Ward once put it, “We were green long before green became mainstream."

Eco U Citations (in order of development)

Survival U References
John Fischer, Survival U: Prospectus for a Really Relevant University, Harpers, Vol. 238, no. 1432, September, 1969, p. 13.

John Fischer, Survival U Is Alive and Burgeoning in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Harpers, Vol. 242, February, 1971, p. 20-27.

Hayes, P.G. (1971, January 31) Action Stressed by ‘Ecology U’. The Milwaukee Journal 

Ecology U References
Ecology U. (1971, June 14). Newsweek, p 77.

From Past to Present

Past, Present & Future - Robert Hornacek takes a look at UW-Green Bay's Environmental Mission from the days of "Survival U" and "Eco U" to EMBI and beyond.

Eco U Today

Lasting Commitment to the Environment

Carrying its historic commitment forward, the current Mission Statement for the University highlights:

“UW-Green Bay provides an interdisciplinary, problem-focused educational experience that prepares students to think critically and address complex issues in a multicultural and evolving world. The University enriches the quality of life for students and the community by embracing the educational value of diversity, promoting environmental sustainability, encouraging engaged citizenship, and serving as an intellectual, cultural and economic resource.”(Approved by the UW System Board of Regents, September 2007)