The new topper of my “Super Stressful But Rewarding Things I’ve Done” list is helping to host the recent Student Sustainability Leadership Symposium. The Office of Sustainability had been planning this symposium all summer and this fall semester, and I had been helping since my return to school this fall. The two-day event had me up at 9 a.m. on Saturday, running around to hang posters, mingling with students from about 20 different schools, and mixing hot chocolate with coffee to get a sugar and caffeine boost. It also gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas and projects with students from other colleges, provide a tour of the library and speak with Conn alumna—and fellow runner—Amanda King ’02, and attend workshops held by our office and offices from other schools focused on sustainability. Amidst all of the stress and running around, I enjoyed being surrounded by students who nerd out over sustainable clothing swaps, lending libraries and finding ways to encourage peers to take shorter showers.
On Sunday, my main objective was to encourage as many students as I could to attend an amazing keynote from Majora Carter. Majora is an urban revitalization strategist whose work is mostly based in the New York City area. I found myself sitting at a table with her, her husband and her daughter, chatting about bike safety and standards in cities, and later about my passion for environmental communication. When Majora spoke, the room was packed (to my relief). She shared her “secret sauce” with us on how to create meaningful sustainable projects that will succeed. It boiled down to: find a market or policy need, design a solution, get funding, launch a beta version, reflect and refine the project, and do it again (but better) and expand. Afterwards, everyone I knew approached me and told me how much they loved the talk, which I found extremely rewarding. The rest of the day was a blur of attending workshops hosted by other centers, offices and Genevieve Harding ’13. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and treated myself to an off-campus dinner at the Thai restaurant Lazy Leopard with my roommate, Natalie.
As stressful, crazy and rewarding the symposium was for me, it was nothing compared to what my good friend and colleague in the Office of Sustainability, Jill Ouellette, or the Office of Sustainability Manager Josh Stoffel were feeling. They put on the entire event, organizing everything: the visiting schools, the workshops, inviting Majora Carter, the posters, the food and the schedule. It was all done by them, and they deserve all the credit. My experience is only a fraction of what happened at the symposium, and while it was crazy, it was an event that I am so glad I attended and helped to make possible. I made excellent connections and learned a lot from everyone I interacted with.