Thanks to the $1.25-million gift from alumni Martha and George Butterfield, undergraduates will be able to study environment and sustainability in an interdisciplinary program including both arts and science.

Posted on February 12, 2018

Trinity College alumni George and Martha Butterfield have generously donated $1.25 million to the College to establish the new Butterfield Environment & Sustainability Stream in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program.

“Globally relevant institutions such as Trinity College and the University of Toronto have a vital role to play in educating future leaders about the importance of sustainability and the environment. With this new stream Trinity, in partnership with the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment, is stepping into that leadership role. It will also be the only program at the University that allows first-year students to look at environmental issues from both arts and sciences perspectives,” said Prof. Mayo Moran, Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College. “Trinity is so very fortunate to have the commitment and generosity of alumni like George and Martha Butterfield to make this partnership a reality.”

Why George and Martha Butterfield wanted to support an interdisciplinary approach to the environment

George (BA 1961 TRIN) and Martha (BA 1963 TRIN, MA 1969) Butterfield, founders of Butterfield & Robinson, a world leader in luxury active travel, have a deep commitment to the environment, spanning more than 50 years. Both have been integral in a number of sustainable projects in Toronto and at Trinity College.

It was important to give students the tools to see the issues from a variety of perspectives

“It was important to George and me that our gift help to educate students on the issues and challenges of environmental stewardship and give them the tools to see the issues from a variety of perspectives,” Martha Butterfield said. “Environmental issues are complex by nature. We saw the Trinity One Program as the perfect fit for a multi-faceted approach to the issues.”

The new Butterfield Environment & Sustainability Stream will examine the most challenging issues surrounding the environment and sustainability. Students will learn how to think about the complexities of environmental sustainability from both theoretical and scientific perspectives. Students will study the ethical issues arising from the way humans interact with nature, the human impacts on physical and biological systems, and identify pathways to sustainability. An exciting complement to the current interdisciplinary Trinity One Program, the inaugural cohort of first-year students will be enrolled in the stream in September 2018.

How Trinity College in the University of Toronto’s Margaret MacMillan Trinity One program makes interdisciplinary learning effective and empowering

The Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program was established in 2005 to offer discussion-based seminar courses to first-year students in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto. The program provides students the opportunity to explore major issues and ideas pertaining to human life and world affairs, while in a small-group environment conducive to deep discussion, interaction and mentorship with faculty through classroom learning and co-curricular programs. The small community also allows students to get to know their peers and study with Trinity’s exceptional faculty.

By using this method, students acquire advanced skills in their first year

“The Trinity One Program has, from the very beginning, adopted an interdisciplinary approach to the most pressing social issues facing human beings. Environmental problems have increasingly become a common thread in our various streams. Creating a new stream dedicated to the study of the environment is a natural progression and it will absolutely strengthen the existing complement,” said Prof. Michael Kessler, Director and Raymond Pryke Chair in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program. “As with all of our offerings in Trinity One, the new stream will focus on collaborative learning through guided discussion. We look at the best arguments for all points of view and try to leave no stone unturned. By using this method, students acquire advanced skills in their first year, and this allows them to hit the ground running as they move into their majors and specialist programs.”

The Butterfield Environment & Sustainability Stream will further enrich the Trinity One Program, which includes the following streams: International Relations; Ethics, Society & Law; Policy, Philosophy & Economics; Anne Steacy Biomedical Health; and Anne Steacy Medicine & Global Health.

Leading by example: a gift funded by sustainable investments

This is also the first time a stream has been developed in collaboration with a University partner. Prof. Michael Ratcliffe, Trinity’s Dean of Arts and Vice-Provost, said the collaboration with the School of the Environment adds value to both institutions. “When one looks at the outcomes for interdepartmental collaboration, the benefits are clear. This partnership will give our Trinity One students access to even more resources at the University while building academic relationships and networks that will benefit them for years to come,” Prof. Ratcliffe said. “It also exposes students to the field of Environmental Sciences, which is a unique opportunity for first-year students at U of T, and offers a path to continue their studies.”

Equally important is that the gift is invested in a way that reflects their lifelong commitment to the environment

Equally important to George and Martha Butterfield is that their gift is invested in a way that reflects their lifelong commitment to the environment, and that students understand that the courses are funded by sustainable investments. To that end, Trinity College has partnered with Greenchip Financial, a firm that invests only in companies that provide products and services that improve the efficiency of natural resource use and address environmental challenges.

“Supporting Trinity in their mandate to foster leadership and responsibility is mutually beneficial,” George Butterfield said. “Martha and I are committed to supporting innovative change through education, and we couldn’t think of a better place than the school that is so meaningful to us. We believe that this stream has the potential to give students the foundation they need to effect real change as future leaders.”

Applications for the 2018-2019 Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program are now open. Trinity One is open to all full-time students entering their first year of study in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the St. George campus, regardless of college affiliation. Learn more at the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One website.