This week, a group of students, faculty and staff from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point will have a chance to learn more about sustainability in higher education.
The group will travel to Minneapolis to attend a four-day conference sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. It features workshops, case studies, panel discussions and keynote addresses delivered by experts in the field.
Alex Thomas, senior waste management major and Student Government Association green fund coordinator, Dave Barbier, UWSP sustainability coordinator, and Cathy Scheder, administrative program specialist, will join three UWSP students and over 2,000 attendees from around the world at the event.
Thomas helped secure SGA funding during September to cover the students’ conference fees and created an application process for students. Applicants were selected based on involvement and time remaining before graduation, Thomas said.
“We made a good case, and we realized we want to have our school represented at this national platform,” Thomas said. “Our hope is that students will take what they learn and start implementing it here on campus.”
Thomas said the students represent three different colleges and grade levels and will each attend a different array of programs. Thomas, for example, will be attending talks on organic collection.
“It’s a unique opportunity to not only see what’s going on at other campuses but also to talk to the people behind them,” Thomas said. “This is a great tool to learn what else we can do.”
Minneapolis is the closest location the conference has been held to Stevens Point since it began in 2004. Previous locations were prohibitively expensive and time consuming for student involvement, Thomas said.
Barbier has attended the conference before and said the level of exposure to sustainability leaders has an empowering effect.
“It’s sort of a great inspiration for people,” Barbier said. “It gets people excited because they’re seeing successes that other students have had on campuses.”
Barbier will focus on sustainability in athletics programs during the conference and said the networking opportunities are a big part of the experience in terms of sharing UWSP’s successes and learning from others.
Scheder will also be focused on making connections at the conference. She will represent the school of education in anticipation of a new doctorate of education degree program in educational sustainability beginning in fall 2016.
“For me, it’s really about getting a better understanding of this group as a whole,” Scheder said. “My goal is to go and begin to network with similar programers like UWSP.”
Scheder will use the conference as a tool to promote the program and explore new ways to improve the curriculum. The degree is one of three offered in the United States and is geared toward integrating sustainability into schools, businesses and communities, she said.
“It’s another program that enhances our sustainability efforts on a variety of levels,” Scheder said. “This conference is a really good match.”