We knew it all along, and now it’s official: UC Irvine is cool.

For the third year running, UCI made the list of the top 10 “Coolest Schools,” announced today by Sierra magazine. The annual ranking salutes U.S. colleges and universities that help solve climate problems, make significant efforts to operate sustainably, and help prepare the next generation of leaders in this arena. Judged on education, research, operations and management practices, UCI placed ninth.

“We are extremely pleased to once again be among the top 10 ‘Coolest Schools’ in the nation,” UCI Chancellor Michael Drake said. “I am especially proud of our consistency, being one of only three U.S. campuses to be included on the list for three consecutive years.”

Wendell Brase, UCI vice chancellor for administrative and business services, said the application and evaluation process was rigorous. “There are many good institutions on this list, all doing great things in the area of sustainability. We are pleased to be part of such an outstanding group,” he said.

UCI has traditionally scored well for its efforts to reduce automobile traffic to and from campus, energy-efficient buildings, waste diversion and water savings. On the academic side, UCI manages three field research sites within the University of California’s Natural Reserve System and has partnerships with another five locations within California and abroad; operates 37 research centers, institutes and programs related to sustainability; and has more than 175 faculty members involved in collaborative research and instruction across an array of relevant issues. Among UCI’s highlights:

  • Researchers at the National Fuel Cell Research Center invented the core technology used in the world’s first tri-generation fuel cell and hydrogen energy station.
  • UCI’s Department of Earth System Science was the first academic unit anywhere devoted to studying the entire planet. It celebrated its 20th anniversary last September.
  • The Smart Labs Initiative, now the campus’s showcase project in President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, safely reduces energy use in research laboratories, which typically account for two-thirds of the energy consumed on most research university campuses.
  • The Summer Sustainability Series, launched in 2011, was held again this summer. It attracted 75 emerging leaders from 25 countries to share ideas about how science, law and governance contribute to sustainability.
  • The new California Plug Load Research Center, or CalPlug, a public-private research partnership established in 2011 with funding from the California Energy Commission, aims to improve energy efficiency in the use and design of consumer electronics.
  • The Center for Land, Environment & Natural Resources was created this year to leverage the UCI School of Law’s expertise in environmental, natural resources and land use law.

Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor-in-chief, said he feels privileged to connect with and learn from traditional institutions evolving in nontraditional ways. “With their ever-growing emphasis on environmental responsibility,” he said, “these schools are channeling the enthusiasm of their students, who consistently cite climate disruption and other environmental issues as the most serious challenges their generation must confront, while demonstrating leadership for other civic institutions.”

The top 10 “Coolest Schools” for 2012 are:

  1. UC Davis
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Washington
  5. University of Connecticut
  6. University of New Hampshire
  7. Duke University
  8. Yale University
  9. UC Irvine
  10. Appalachian State University

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.