Social Equity and Student Activism

Derrick Robinson, University of North Florida, talks about poverty and service projects, such as a community garden, building connections and teaching.

Derrick Robinson, University of North Florida Environmental Center, tells his story of improving disadvantaged communities through sustainable, urban gardening. His project, in collaboration with Colleen Herms at UNF, is literally and figuratively planting seeds, in the soil and in people’s minds. He is taking a bottom-up approach, starting with the students. His program is based on learning through experience. The experience offers knowledge about poverty and agriculture. Partnership between UNF and Clara White Mission garners experience-based training in sustainable methods in living on both sides.

The Clara White Mission feeds about 400 people per day, and this program expects to establish a program that grows healthy, sustainable food for the mission. One aspect of the program is also preparing the food after it is grown through the Clara White Culinary Art Program, which teaches disadvantaged communities skill sets such as cooking. Clara’s at the Cathedral is a program that allows Clara White’s Culinary Art students to prepare fresh meals while also giving them the training that they need.

The goal of the program is to give the Clara White Mission the tools to continue the sustainable gardening program, “We want to leave them a handbook that explains how to build and garden a 50×50 plot,” said Robinson. “It could be bigger than that, but at least they have this starting point after we leave these tools.”

Emilie Rex, Indiana University-Bloomington, speaks about the imperative aspect of internships in a student's career and their impact on campus sustainability.

Emilie Rex, Indiana University-Bloomington, spoke about student internships as drivers of sustainability on campuses. The mission of the program is utilizing the campus as a living learning lab where students engage in research-based projects aimed at greening campus operations, policy and procedures. There is wide student appeal from a variety of majors, journalism to neuroscience. There are a variety of internships that span cross-campus projects.

IU Energy Challenge has saved $165,000, and it involves over 18,000 students, covering the majority of the residence halls and was organized by two student interns. Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale reclaims student move-out items and resale them to the public. Digital Waste Days is another program that a student intern has worked on that recycles digital waste, and IU has diverted over a ton of digital waste from the landfill.

Student internships are critical to the mission of the campus. Starting in March 2007 the IU task force on sustainability identified that IU needed an office of sustainability. By May 2009, the office of sustainability was established and a director was hired. Students were integral in this project. Initial task force funds have gone toward internships, and now half of the $300,000 budget for the office of sustainability goes to internships.

There are 18 student interns every year, but with over 18,000 students at the university they are expanding`their projects to leverage more student engagement, such as Game Day recycling program, which has between 150-200 volunteers. They are also partnering with classes including a dance class that is creating a dance influenced by sustainability.

“It is important to make the students famous within the IU community,” said Rex. “We send them to all different departments to make them well-known among the campus.”

Final notes:

1) Frame internships as critical to mission

2) Strategically share responsibility and ownership of projects

3) Support professional development of the students

4) Know audience (utilize social media)

5) Expand programs beyond the internships for further student engagement

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