It’s always impressive when students attend national and regional conferences. That happens a lot at the College of Charleston. But it’s even more impressive when those students are invited to make presentations. That’s the case for eight students representing the College’s Office of Sustainability who will present an array of projects at the Southeastern EcoReps Conference in Columbia, S.C. on Feb. 27 and 28, 2016.
According to Ashlyn Hochschild ’11, who oversees student activities and internships for the office, being invited to present research at this conference is an important opportunity. Over 20 different universities and colleges from Florida to Texas to Kentucky have attended this conference since its inception, and that includes faculty, students and administrative staff members.
“Our office is student-driven and we provide all of our students real-world experience in solving issues on campus,” Hochschild says. “I’m really proud and excited for them to be able to show students from other colleges and universities how to accomplish sustainable initiatives. We have such a variety of projects from zero waste to social justice and everything in between. Its a great opportunity for our students to gain experience talking about their work and teaching others.” She adds that this is the largest group of students from the College to ever have attended this conference.
Here’s an overview of the students who will be attending and presenting work on behalf of the College:
Arthur Phillips, a senior philosophy major, and Sarah Orlando, a junior majoring in business administration, will offer a presentation about Zero Waste events (Zero Waste events are those at which less than 10 percent of the resulting waste is sent to the landfill). The College’s Office of Sustainability has partnered with other offices on campus to stage several Zero Waste events, and these will form the core of Philips and Orlando’s presentations.
Nicole Fernandez a senior double-major in biology and French and Francophone Studies (with a minor in environmental studies) will be presenting her initiative about social justice and sustainability. Fernandez and junior Aishia Gallion (anthropology major, African American Studies minor) developed the Social Justice Coffee Hour at the College as a platform for furthering awareness and engagement in issues of social justice. “I wanted to present this project,” says Fernandez, “because a lot people see sustainability as recycling and composting, but it’s so much more than that. I want people to redefine sustainability to include the social aspects, the aspects that emphasize the human community. A community cannot hope to sustain itself if some of its members are disenfranchised, oppressed, and silenced – and that’s where the social justice element comes in.”
Two seniors, Isabelle Sui, who is pursuing majors in business administration and studio art, and Elena Mpougas, a marine biology major, will offer a presentation about their 71 Percent Project. They established this project to generate greater awareness about important issues including plastic contamination, acidification of the ocean environment and species conservation (The oceans make up 71 percent of the earth’s surface). Both students helped to orchestrate one of the Office of Sustainability’s Green Bag Lunches this semester focused solely on the issues underlying their project.
Olivia Cohen, a senior double major in international studies and political science, will present her work regarding the College’s Garden Apprenticeship Program. This program enables students to explore the theoretical and pragmatic applications of sustainable urban agriculture through workshops, field trips and hands-on experience in campus gardens.
And seniors Katie Doherty and Sarah Fox will offer a presentation about the College’s Sustainable Greek Initiative. This program, which has been in place for three years, is an effort on the part of the Office of Sustainability to integrate and apply knowledge of sustainable practices within fraternity and sorority life at the College. Doherty, who is a marine biology major and Fox, who is pursuing majors in communication and public health, have both served as chairs for this project.
Learn more about these projects and other programs at the Office of Sustainability’s web pages.