The Office of Sustainability at Connecticut College has been selected to host the first-of-its-kind Student Sustainability Leaders (SSL) Symposium. The symposium will be a two-day event that is focused on holistic sustainability and practical leadership skills and techniques.
On Saturday, November 7, student sustainability leaders from colleges across the Northeast are invited to participate in skill-building, interactive workshops. The symposium is an opportunity for aspiring student leaders to learn and be inspired by one another, while developing practical leadership skills that can be applied to their own campuses and communities. Preliminary ideas for workshops include: Effective Communication, Developing a Systems Thinking Approach to Problem-Solving, Power Mapping, Managing Up - How to Develop the Most Effective Relationship with Administrators, and Planning Ahead by Planning Backward. The second day of the symposium, Sunday, November 8, is designed specifically for the Connecticut College community. It embodies the tenet of full participation by inviting community members, prospective students and alumni to join current students, staff, and faculty in enhancing practical leadership skills that will help us all develop sustainable communities locally, nationally and globally. To find out more about the symposium, click here.
We were chosen to host this event, despite being up against strong contenders because of our holistic view of sustainability. At Connecticut College we believe that sustainability is a framework by which long-lasting solutions to local and global challenges are developed through understanding the connections among social equity, environmental stewardship, and economic well-being and including all within decision making.
When I came back to campus at the beginning of August, I began working as the student coordinator for the SSL symposium. So far it has already been an amazing experience to be working on an event like this. In addition to being the first symposium that focuses on sustainable skill development in the Northeast region, it is also the first major event that the Office of Sustainability is hosting and planning, so I’m incredibly grateful to play such an important role. What is most exciting is that this symposium has the potential to make a big impact, whether it be on Conn’s campus, or another in the Northeast, or in a local, national or global community. I feel that as a student it is easy to be discouraged when learning about current events and the challenges that surround us, and feeling incapable of generating real change. I want this symposium to make students feel empowered, and to understand that even their work on small scale projects are significant. My goal is that all attendees will walk away from the symposium feeling inspired, feeling confident that they can make a difference, and feeling that they can accomplish something great because of the skills and tools from the workshops that they can continue to develop.
The symposium is rapidly approaching, but I’m confident that with help from all of the other awesome fellows in the Office of Sustainability (Go team!) we can pull off a successful, intellectually stimulating, unique symposium.
Every year, students find that there are things in their dorm room they don’t want or need for the summer or next year. Instead of simply throwing away those items, we encourage students to donate them to Give and Go.
Give and Go is program run by the Office of Sustainability through which students can donate all unwanted items to local non-profit organizations that are connected to the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.
Items that the non-profits have identified as being useful to them are: - Lamps/Lighting - Housewares and Supplies - Electronics - Clothing/Shoes - Mini-Fridges - Bedding/Linens - no foam egg crates or mattresses - Food - Books
Donation pick-up runs through finals and senior week, so you can start dropping off goods anytime between Saturday, May 9, and Commencement.
All the Give and Go Collection Points are set up in either the lobbies or common spaces of each dorm. Please donate any items that you do not wish to take home or store over the summer! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Sustainability at email@example.com.
Our work has entailed three main components. First, we’ve been working to wrap up the project to install the SEAT bus stop at the edge of campus. This project was spearheaded mostly by Hallie Grossman '16 in previous semesters, but was just installed this semester. While the current bench and sign are just smaller placeholders until the bench and sign that were actually approved are installed, we’re ecstatic to have this historic piece in place to better connect the College to New London. Second, we are student representatives on the Dean of Student Life’s Transportation Task Force. On this committee, we work with staff and faculty to define, evaluate and propose improvements to the transportation offerings on campus so as to ensure their sustainability and equitability in terms of access.
Lastly, we’ve crafted a proposal to install electric car charging ports on campus. This proposal calls for a dual port Stage 2 charging station to be installed to significantly increase the usability (i.e. range) of an electric vehicle for any member of the college community wishing to transport themselves in this sustainable manner. We are in the process of trying to move this proposal through the appropriate channels of the administration.
Working in the Office of Sustainability is different than working in any other office or department or center on campus. While there is academic credit given, it is not all about academics. It is about skill development and hands-on praxis with regard to real challenges facing our community. In addition to this, the Office has connections to the wider New London community and a commitment to working with them; as well as working critically to create an open dialogue and a space that fosters inclusion and systems makes us different.
As a content developer and editor of the Office of Sustainability, I have learned a huge amount about working with others and developing effective communication strategies for an organization. With my position, I created a system and schedule for when blog posts are written, I have had to organize my time to ensure that I edit and organize blogs in a timely manner, and I have learned how to use a new computer software program in order to successfully post the blogs. All of these skills were ones I have highlighted in my resume and I have described in detail to potential employers. Only at the office did I have the opportunity to learn these skills and hands on experience using them.
Here are some experiences from other students that have worked and collaborated with the Office of Sustainability:
Julia Goldman ‘15: Through my position as Senior Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC), where I manage a team of six student fellows working on various community projects, I experience and interact with the local food system, examining the limitations and potential for growth. I have overseen projects including a double your dollars program for SNAP/WIC at farmers markets, a pilot program for farm to school education for preschoolers, a grow-a-row program with fresh produce to be donated to a local food center, and a food hub feasibility study, funded by a USDA grant. I make sure that each of the fellows are making progress in their area and help to connect them with community partners. This experience has taught me about the political framework which community projects operate and has familiarized me with a wide array of food related government programs and policies.
Soo Cho ‘17: I would say that the most important skill that I have learned while working with the Office of Sustainability, as a Senior Fellow for the Residential Fellows as well as the Children's Center's Garden Fellow, would be how to work with different personalities. People who work in the office come from all backgrounds and fields of study, so working with such a diverse group of students has given me the opportunity to develop a new kind of attentiveness.
Taryn Kitchen ’16: My work in the Office of Sustainability has helped me develop many professional skills: emailing, phone etiquette, website design, political prowess, time management, meeting planning, and so much more, while constantly thinking about how to thoughtfully collaborate with community organizations.
Marina Milan ’17: During my two years in working with the Office of Sustainability, I have learned a great deal about professional communication. I have honed my email writing skills and have learned how to work with other members of our college community in a mutually respectful and beneficial way. I have also learned to write complete yet concise proposals to target certain audiences and achieve my goals.
Check out the list of available positions here: http://www.conncoll.edu/sustainability/student-sustainability-programs/sustainability-fellows-program-/ Let us know what position you are interested in and send your resume and cover letter or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Affordability and Access Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC), it is my job to coordinate projects that combine both environmentally friendly initiatives with economically friendly policies, making fresh produce available at affordable prices to food insecure families. Currently I am working on developing a double value coupon program (DVCP) at several farmers markets in the county. Farmers markets are great places to get fresh, healthy produce while supporting local organic farmers, but we all know how expensive their fruits and veggies can be compared to supermarket prices. The DVCP is an effort to make this produce more affordable and available to individuals and families that receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
First piloted by the Connecticut-based company Wholesome Wave in 2008, the double value coupon program doubles the purchasing power of SNAP users by providing funds to match any purchase made by a SNAP user at a farmers market. In other words, if a person buys $10 worth of produce on their SNAP card, the DVCP will give them another $10 worth of fruits or veggies. The funds to back this type of program are usually provided by an outside source, like Wholesome Wave or the NLCFPC, and then donated to participating markets. The funds will then be used to reimburse market vendors from whom DVCP purchases are made.
Our ultimate goal is to make farmers markets in New London County more equitable places by making the produce more affordable for food insecure individuals and families. In doing so, we also promote sustainable practices (buying fresh produce from local farmers rather than packaged and processed food from large supermarkets) across a broader range of socio-economic classes. The future of sustainable practices relies on everyone’s participation!
This past summer, I interned with Wellness in the Schools (WITS), an organization that provides health and wellness programming in high-poverty New York public schools. After my summer with WITS, I was inspired to further research the benefits of early childhood nutrition education, which is how I became the Nutrition Education Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council.
As part my senior integrative project for the Holleran Center, I will be piloting a nutrition education course at Connecticut College's Children's Program, which is located across Route 32 on Nameaug Avenue. Modeled after UConn's Husky Reads program, the main objectives of our Camel Sprouts program curriculum are:
- Provide basic nutrition education and healthy opportunities for preschoolers
- Improve willingness to try and recognize various foods
- Build a foundation for lifelong good health and well-being
- Motivate parents and caregivers to reinforce healthy behaviors
If you are interested in volunteering, please feel free to contact me! My email address is email@example.com. We hope that our pilot program will become a permanent part of the Children's Program and other preschools within the greater New London County.
The Lending Library started with the purpose to bring new life to used books. Students were giving away books that future students were going to need. The Office of Sustainability saw this as an opportunity. We started collecting books at the end of each academic year and making them available to the whole campus community at the start of the following year for free. This way, students can save money by not purchasing expensive books and the books are not thrown away after only being used by one person.
The Lending Library’s system is simple: once a student checks out a book, it is theirs until the end of the semester. There is no limit to the number of books that a single student can check out; however, it is a library, so students have to return the books at the end of each semester to help the program continue.
We are now working to make the Lending Library both easier to use and more efficient. The first step is reorganizing the books and creating a cataloguing system that makes them easy to track. We are also starting a new system for checking out and checking in books so that the Lending Library is open and available for as many students as possible. In the future, we are looking to know what books people need the most and cater to those needs.
As a member of the New London County Food Policy Council Food Hub Project, we are currently partnered with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and New Venture Advisors in conducting a food hub feasibility study for New London County. The Council is a collaboration of food growers, local institutions and organizations, and strives to ensure that affordable and nutritious food is available to every resident of southeastern Connecticut. One effective way that has been replicated in other regions around the country is the creation of food hubs.
Food hubs are organizations that aggregate, market, and distribute the products of local and regional producers, with the end goal of strengthening the local food economy. Buyers might include restaurants, schools and grocery stores, and chefs, while suppliers would mainly rely on local farmers and specialty producers. Our consultants, New Venture Advisors, have been hired onto this project with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of a federal initiative aimed at improving local food system stability.
However, in order to implement a food hub, we are conducting a feasibility study, which entails a large scale cost-benefit analysis, a local production analysis and a local demand/consumption analysis. We are currently beginning the data collection process that will allow us to complete these three important analyses. To achieve this study we are collaborating with New Venture Advisors, a consultant group with expertise in food systems! To start the study we had a kick off event. The event took place at the Charter Oak Credit Union Headquarters in Waterford on Thursday, February 26, at 8:30 AM. There was a portion that was a presentation from the consultants and the leaders of the study, and we then broke up into three tables, having conversations about the food possibility of a food hub. We had over 50 community members from all across the county representing the sectors that will collectively make this study a success: growers, buyers, government, hospitals, non-profits, and K-12 and higher education. We were incredibly pleased to see the wide variety of community organizations represented at the kick-off event because this effort belongs to everyone in New London County and its ultimate success will depend on our commitment to open and dynamic collaboration.
When I explain to most people that I do policy work for The Office of Sustainability, they look puzzled. I imagine this is because their first thoughts are somewhere along the lines of “how is policy environmental?” Or for those with a greater understanding of the definition of sustainability, "what does policy contribute to the spheres of holistic sustainability?” To be perfectly honest, I had similar thoughts, and only recently have I really begun to understand the relationship between policy and sustainability, and how my work with the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC) has had widespread, and more importantly, lasting impact.
Doing policy work involves many things, first, getting to know politicians and forming relationships and researching what currently policies are in place. Next comes critically examining if current policies are effective and developing policy recommendations, in addition to extensive amounts of research into other policy councils and seeing what has been successful.
In working with the NLCFPC, there are many facets to food policy, from affordability and accessibility, to education and agriculture. While these different working groups develop ideas in order to make the work more sustainable while also benefitting the most people, the policy-working group is there to ensure that these changes are sustained as policies are what people are required to follow. If policy work were not present, then these new and creative ideas would not be everlasting and therefore not sustainable.
Because policy and the council itself deal with many different facets of food policy, the work we do is widespread. Our first job is to compile a list of policy priorities. By working with each working group I have been able to narrow down a specific policy to examine and critique what currently exists, while also working to develop policy recommendations and other improvements that can make a policy more sustainable. For example, Connecticut is part of the $10.10 minimum wage increase. While people initially think that an increase in minimum wage is a great thing, it's important to examine the whole picture. The increase means more money for people, especially those currently living in poverty, but it may also mean that they no longer qualify for SNAP or WIC benefits due to the increase in their salary. Policies such as these are important to consider, especially as they also overlap with affordability and accessibility of foods.
Our project is working to renovate the garden that belongs to the Connecticut College Children’s Program at 75 Nameaug Avenue. They have a small garden next to the school that the Office of Sustainability is working to bring new life into, in the form of vegetables for them to eat.
When we first started working, the ground was barely visible, the weeds and plants had gotten to the height of an adult! In other words, it was a mess and hardly what anyone would call a "garden". The first step was the clean it up. In two weekends and with the help of a couple of helping hands, we were able to clear the entire garden so the walkways were visible. We were now able to see the outline of the entire garden. After shoveling dirt out of the walkways in one workday, we were able to lay gravel stones everywhere, with the help of the amazing Jim Luce from Facilities, of course.
Now, we are actively looking/applying for grants so that we can fund the growth of the garden, like planting and maintenance. We are also collaborating with one of UConn's program called "Husky Reads." Their goal is to provide basic nutrition information and healthy food tasting to young children. Paige Ziplow, a Senior at Conn, is piloting a similar program at the Children's Program! Through this collaboration, we hope to work more closely with the children to integrate a solid garden curriculum into their education program.