Students work toward a more sustainable Clark University

January 2, 2014

Strategies to "green" Clark University, ranging from planting "edible landscaping" to divesting in fossil fuels, formed the theme of final team projects in The Sustainable University course taught by Jennie Stephens, associate professor of environmental science and policy in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment. The student teams made their proposals at a session held Dec. 9 in the Lasry Biosciences Center.

Among the presentations:

  • Matt Alvarado-Ross '17 and Jennessa Piccirilli '17 proposed ways to improve recycling and energy conservation practices at the Sustainability Hub, the National Grid facility on Main Street that promotes smart grid technologies. Their recommendations included eliminating the use of paper cups and water bottles on-site, reducing lighting inside the building during daylight hours and pursuing LEED certification.
  • Sarah Maloney, Matt Sullivan and Rose Watts, all class of 2017, researched the possibility of Clark divesting in fossil fuel companies. The students said they've talked with President David Angel as well as with representatives from other schools that have divested. Before making such a move, they said, it's necessary to accurately define the risks and benefits, present a firm justification for divesting, and consider alternatives.
  • Olivia Cecchi '15, Zachary Peloquin '16 and Thorsen Akerley, graduate student in environmental science and policy, investigated Clark's preparedness for severe storms. While the University has solid procedures in place, they recommended improving student enrollment in the Clark Alerts system (particularly texted alerts), and increasing the amount of food and water kept in storage. The students said Clark must also consider its obligations to neighborhood residents if it's the only operational institution in the area during a severe storm.
  • Samantha Dokus '17, Michael Macomber '16 and Erin Wurtemberger '16 noted that introducing new plants, such as blueberry, winterberry and milkweed, will attract populations of wildlife not normally seen on campus, like hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. They suggested new plantings can be made outside Dodd Hall, Wright Hall and the Goddard Library.

Additional presenters and their proposals included: Erick Bilides '15 and Verna Zhao '17 recommended that Clark adopt a rainwater catchment/drip irrigation system for the community gardens behind Harrington House; Ekaterina Taunova '17 and Madeleine Ohno '16 offered a proposal for a bicycle energy generator to demonstrate how much human power is needed to produce electricity; Cameron Catarius '15 and Sanjiv Fernando '15 interviewed Worcester officials to determine the city's resilience in the face of climate change; and Suram Edirisinghe '15 and M.B.A. student Shinobu Turner offered an assessment tool to gauge Clark students' knowledge of sustainability issues.

Stephens noted the assistance she's received with the course from Jenny Isler, Clark's sustainability coordinator, and peer learning assistant Sharon Bort '14.