Here in the Office of Sustainability, the goal of our internship program is to transform our student interns into sustainability practitioners who are equipped to lead others in solving the sustainability challenges our world is facing. One of the most powerful professional development experiences we provide is the opportunity to attend the premier conference for sustainability in higher education. Hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the 2018 conference’s theme was Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge. The diversity of interests from those in our office resulted in a wide range of takeaways from the conference, which we would like to share with you.
Amy Strickland: Program Manager in the Office of Sustainability
Having attended AASHE for multiple years, I wanted to pursue a different strategy as to how I selected sessions to attend this year. After reflecting on my own knowledge-base and experience, I realized I needed to improve my understanding of how inclusion and diversity connect to the field of sustainability. As such, I ended up attending sessions tied to inclusion & diversity for most of the conference and can say it made a real impact on how I see myself, my privileges, and the work of our office. As these concepts and ideas continue to percolate within me, I’m confident they will lead to shifts in not only how our office talks about inclusion, diversity, & sustainability, but more importantly about how our actions around hiring and event coordination can become more inclusive.
Ben Luebkemann: Sustainability Intern studying Architecture
AASHE was an incredible opportunity to meet and learn from like-minded individuals who are making a sustainable impact in various fields. The many challenges that the sustainability movement faces can, at times, become overwhelming. However, interacting with the network of committed individuals at AASHE was very inspiring and proved that sustainability is a global movement of passionate, change-seeking people.
Ferrell Sullivan: Sustainability Intern studying Environmental Design
During AASHE, more than anything, I gained an insight of how many people care and on how many levels these individuals care. This was uplifting and inspiring as a young individual who plans of living, working, and impacting sustainability throughout their life. AASHE brought a spark to me. I want to create outreach to those in my community of what sustainability is in the terms they will understand. This conference, that I was lucky to have the opportunity and means to attend with my relatively small office here in Auburn, exemplified to me that I as a student can make more changes on my campus than I think. Students have power. At one of the posters that myself and another intern viewed, we learned of an sustainable design based event that a student could put on. We stood there in awe then looked at each other in sync knowing we had to do this, especially since we are designers who are also event coordinating interns. This conference laid something in our laps that we could do to make a difference. But more than anything, it made me realize how many projects, actions, and activities there are around us in our everyday life that we can impact. AASHE enhanced how I think about life every day, in every action I make.
Ginny Lampkin: Sustainability Intern studying Biomedical Sciences
AASHE was an incredible opportunity to network with professionals in the sustainability field and learn new skills to use in our operations both at Auburn and as individuals. I enjoyed attending sessions about composting, which I would like to see happen at Auburn in the near future. I attended a session on decolonizing the farm to table dinner, which was especially insightful. A group from the University of North Carolina in Asheville spoke about their experiences transforming their farm to table dinner into an inclusive space to discuss issues their community and its members faced. I think food is one of the best ways to bring people together, and tweaking the farm-to-table concept towards inclusion is brilliant. I hope that we can do something like that when Auburn opens the new community garden space behind the Jule Collins Mus
Jennifer Morse: Communications and Outreach in the Office of Sustainability
With the theme for this year’s conference being Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge, it’s no wonder my biggest takeaway is the importance of framing Auburn University’s accomplishments within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the 17 Goals to Transform Our World. To transform the world we can start right here in Alabama focusing on our mission as a land-grant institution, to serve ‘all Alabamians as the State becomes a part of a global society with all of its challenges and opportunities’. Our university already makes substantial contributions in Alabama, as well as globally. We would heighten the profile of Auburn University by communicating our accomplishments within the framework that the world is using, the SDGs. I challenge you to identify those SDGs that address issues you care about.
It’s not just time to get on board with these 17 Goals to Transform Our World, it’s time to lead the way through the innovative research Auburn is doing, the courses we teach, the student organizations and other opportunities that we create here at Auburn. It’s with urgency that we need to think both locally and globally, take action where our passion and skills can make the greatest difference, and transform our future into one that serves all people and living beings everywhere. It’s time for each and every one of us to look at what we are doing in both our professional and personal lives, and take actions to create the future the world needs.
Katy Duncan: Sustainability Intern studying Industrial Design
AASHE taught me the critical, undeniable, and largely unnoticed relationship between sustainability and social justice. I knew that society and wellbeing were facets of sustainability, but being made aware of the magnified effects that environmental efforts (or the lack thereof) have on the poorest in our world was jarring. I am walking away from AASHE with a more holistic, challenged, and urgent view on the state of the planet, our human race, and my role within those.
Michaela Walton: Sustainability Intern studying Communications, Sustainability Minor
AASHE was intimidating at first because I had never been to a conference before. I was expecting to meet accomplished sustainability advocates who had all of the answers tucked away in a business casual pantsuit. Refreshingly enough, AASHE was packed with accomplished people who readily admitted that they didn’t have all of the answers! Being surrounded by those who admitted their failures and difficulties as easily as their accomplishments reassured me that sustainability is a difficult field to work in but it makes big and small successes even sweeter.
Mike Kensler: Director of the Office of Sustainability
My takeaway from AASHE this year is that more and more colleges and universities are finding the path to renewable energy; and through renewables, alternative fuel vehicles, and energy efficiency measures, are taking their commitments to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions seriously.
Sadie Gurkin: Sustainability Intern studying Environmental Design and Pre-Landscape Architecture, Sustainability Minor
AASHE was such a remarkable experience, one that I am so grateful to have been afforded to me. In our relatively small office here at Auburn it is easy to be fooled into believing that we are on a sole island campaigning for these issues that mean so much to each of us. Being at AASHE, It was incredible to see just how off base those feelings are and be surrounded by so many with the same passion and drive for sustainability, getting a chance to catch a glimpse into their own personal drives and ambitions. One take away that most hit home to me came in a session discussing student campaigns for 100% renewable campuses. I find myself often feeling inadequate, worrying that I don’t have expertise to successfully form something as in depth as a plan for campus wide renewable energy. In this session, it was stressed that taking the initiative to advocate for a plan was just as important and beneficial as the ability to make a plan. This mentality stuck with me and is one I hope to translate into many areas of my life going forward.
Taylor Kraabel: Sustainability Intern studying Industrial and Systems Engineering
The biggest piece of information I took away from AASHE was the challenges involved with actively engaging the student community. Many of the presenters stated this as an obvious obstacle, but they also shared differing ideas on how they chose to deal with this. For instance, one presenter discussed her campus’s “Fix It” event, where students were encouraged to bring broken shoes, bikes, etc. and learn how to fix them. Instead, the event ended up being more focused on “Hey come get your stuff fixed for free”. Overall, AASHE shed more light on how hard it is to get people to care about sustainability.
Bailey Rathmann: Sustainability Intern studying Biosystems Engineering
Sustainability is a part of everyone of our lives because of the interconnectedness of each faction of sustainability. The best way to get people involved in sustainable practices is to cater it to them and make it personal. The world is changing very fast, but with everyone doing their part a sustainable world can be achieved.