Students and staff from the Office of Sustainability attended the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference this past October to present, attend workshops, and network with other campus sustainability leaders from around the country.
In past years, when the conference was located further away from Santa Clara, fewer people were able to make the trip, but this year the conference was held in Los Angeles, and four student interns along with the Sustainability Director and Coordinator were all able to attend.
Office of Sustainability staff was joined by Janice DeMonsi, the Director of Campus Recreation, to spend three days learning about sustainability initiatives taking place on campuses all across the U.S. with the hopes of bringing similar initiatives and ideas back home to promote sustainability at SCU.
The conference started before the group from Santa Clara even arrived in LA, as students and staff networked with several other schools on a charter bus that started at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, WA, and picked up attendees as it traveled down the coast.
The first day of the conference was specifically for student sustainability leaders, and the next two days included workshops and sessions where people presented on topics ranging from energy conservation and waste management to different models of sustainability education and leadership.
At the Student Summit, all of the student interns from the Office of Sustainability presented. Mimi Sanicola, '13, Sustainability Intern for Waste Diversion, gave a presentation on waste diversion in residence halls, and Michelle Tang, '13, Student Initiatives intern, presented on the student organization she leads called Students Collaborating and Organizing Opportunities and Projects for Sustainability (SCOOPS).
Both of these presentations were well attended, and many students stayed afterward to get specific information from Mimi and Michelle about how they can incorporate similar initiatives at their home universities. In the afternoon, Megan Anders, '14, Athletics and Recreation intern, and Aven Satre-Meloy, '13, Communications intern, joined Mimi and Michelle in presenting to a crowd of over 100 students.
The presentation, titled “From Start to Finish (and then some): Collaborative Event Planning for Successful and Sustainable Projects," discussed how the Office of Sustainability at SCU organizes, develops, implements, and reviews its projects, and students in the audience couldn’t wait to ask the interns for their contact information so they could follow up after the presentation.
This response was what Director Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner was most proud of and excited about. “I was really impressed with our interns,” she says. “People at the conference kept stopping me to tell me how much they learned from our interns during their presentations.”
Lindsey has attended AASHE for the past six years, and this is the first year she was able to bring five other Office of Sustainability team members. “I was so excited to have our campus well represented and for everyone to be able to attend so many workshops and sessions,” she says. “We could cover so much more ground since there were more of us, and now we have many new ideas to pursue.”
One of Lindsey’s biggest takeaways was learning how to more effectively engage faculty and staff in sustainability at SCU. She wants to develop a staff advocate program to empower SCU employees who are really passionate about sustainability and to give them the tools they need to engage their colleagues.
Similarly, Michelle and Cara Uy, the sustainability coordinator, both appreciated the amount of brainstorming that happened during AASHE. “I feel like it was a magnificent brainstorm session,” says Cara. “When you have a lot of different minds striving toward the same goals and sharing with each other, you can draw a lot of inspiration and energy from that dialogue.”
Michelle was most interested in the sessions that connected sustainability to diversity initiatives. Michelle is the Director of the Multicultural Center at SCU, and she has been brainstorming ways to connect her work with the Office of Sustainability to diversity on campus. “It was nice to hear that other universities are trying to promote sustainability while supporting students of color,” she says. “I went Texas A&M's presentation about the need to bring more students of color into sustainability work, and I am going to continue talking with the presenters to brainstorm ideas that can bridge this gap.”
After three full days of workshops, sessions, guest lecturers, and keynote speakers, the students and staff from SCU couldn’t wait to get back to SCU to start working right away on the many new ideas and projects they took away from AASHE.
The conference next year is in Nashville, TN, so it is unlikely so many of the Office of Sustainability’s team will be able to make the trip, but this year’s conference was a valuable networking and educational experience for everyone who attended.
“SCU needs to have representatives at AASHE because we have a strong sustainability mission within our Jesuit education ideals, so we bring a unique perspective to sustainability,” says Cara.
Indeed, the Office of Sustainability was happy to send so many representatives who could learn while helping others learn how to cultivate a culture of sustainability on their campuses. Leadership for sustainability is needed at all institutions of higher education, and students and staff who attended the conference were fortunate to take advantage of this unique opportunity to grow as sustainability leaders.
By Aven Satre-Meloy, '13 Sustainability Intern -- Communications