Students in Sustainable University course present research projects

Clark University students completing a fall semester course titled “The Sustainable University” recently made a public presentation of their final research projects, revealing issues and posing solutions to Clark’s role in sustainable practices on campus and beyond.

This course, which includes undergraduates and also graduate students enrolled in a graduate-level course called “Sustainability and the Role of Higher Education,” is part of Clark’s Environmental Science & Policy program, within the International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE) Department at Clark. Professor Jennie Stephens teaches the course, which explores the theory and practice of sustainability through the lens of the university as a societal organization. Along with research and study of these ideas, students work on a variety of semester-long team projects related to furthering campus sustainability.

“Working as a team is a critical part of the challenge of this course,” Stephens said. “Students focus not just on sustainability principles, but also on community engagement, problem solving and presentation skills.”

Twenty students, undergraduate and graduate, presented five team projects during the final presentation, on Dec. 10. A final report detailing each of the team projects will be available online at Clark’s Campus Sustainability website in early January.

Renewable Energy Options: Undergraduate students Benjamin Gardner, Nathaniel Maltais, Elizabeth Redlich, Liam Byrne and graduate student Zhonghui Lv focused on finding alternative energy options for the Clark campus. Their work involved placing wind sensors and, in the future, solar sensors on Clark buildings. Sensors can be used to present data on the effectiveness of wind or solar power as a means of powering Clark University.

Behavior Change through Competition in the Residence Halls: Sarah Pollock, Janessa Frias and Sean-Paul Fitzgerald, all undergraduates, worked with Clark’s Eco-Reps, to organize an innovative program wherein residence hall students were encouraged to engage in sustainable practices though friendly competition. This was the second year that the Hall vs. Hall competition was implemented by Eco-Reps, a student leadership network based in the residence halls at Clark. The winner – Wright Hall – hosted an ice cream party courtesy of the Ben & Jerry’s company. Some of the project’s power-conservation measures included “lights-out” evening events such as star-gazing and campfires. The project team coordinated these events and designed outreach materials to encourage students to change their behavior and use less electricity.

Massachusetts Climate Action Network Annual Conference: Undergraduates Eliza Lawrence, Melissa Skubel and Dania Idriss, and graduate student Tung Huynh, worked with the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) to plan this organization’s annual conference that was hosted at Clark on Oct. 24. The student team organized volunteers and helped to promote the event, which was themed “Act Locally or Sink Globally.”

Sustainability of Food on Campus: Undergraduates Justin Boyle, Marie Bozeman, Rebecca Hertz and Daniel Pologe discussed campus eating habits and food infrastructure and their work with a new group on campus called the Food Policy Council. The students presented dining services administration with a baseline assessment about how much food served is local, organic, or sustainable. They also surveyed the student body to discern how important sustainable food is to them, and if they would pay more for local or organic food in the Higgins Cafeteria. They found a high level of student interest in sustainable food.

A Fund to Support Sustainability Projects: Graduate students Faith Tendo and Faustina Ganaa were joined by undergraduates Kate Cleminson and Reza Brooks in presenting their research into the feasibility of establishing different kinds of funding mechanisms at Clark to support sustainability projects.

Since its founding in 1887, Clark University in Worcester, Mass., has a history of challenging convention. As an innovative liberal arts college and research university, Clark’s world-class faculty lead a community of creative thinkers and passionate doers and offer a range of expertise, particularly in the areas of psychology, geography, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. Clark’s students, faculty and alumni embody the Clark motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.

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