So often, much of the work related to sustainability is made up of very very passionate and dedicated volunteers, but all too frequently, we don’t recognize that hard work and commitment as often as we should. That’s why the NAU Environmental Caucus is excited to celebrate the notable effort of so many campus and community members who worked to make NAU and Flagstaff more sustainable this year. Congratulations to all of our nominees and winners of the Sustainable Leadership Awards. Below is a brief glimpse of the work accomplished by our 2018 first place winners.
Laura Huenneke’s scientific expertise and experience, personal commitment to the environment and sustainability, and effectiveness in getting things done provided the momentum to propel NAU into the national sustainability spotlight. As the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, then Dean of the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, then VP for Research, then Provost, and finally as a faculty member in the School of Earth Science and Environmental Sustainability and in Biology, Laura always led from the front.
Her leadership inspired us in the creation of the Environmental Caucus, the Coordinating Committee for Campus Sustainability (CoCoSus), enhancing the role of undergraduate research across NAU, the school of sciences and environmental sustainability, and numerous research groups energized by faculty hires that she facilitated. Reaching out beyond the campus, Laura recognized the importance of STEM and STEAM education at the primary and secondary levels to help make our community more resilient and sustainable.
Throughout her tenure at NAU, Laura has moved agilely from one position and one set of challenges to the next. Throughout all these transitions, she has kept her eye on the ball: the best interests of NAU students and the NAU community. Thinking outside the box, Laura has championed the role of research in undergraduate education generally as well as the role undergraduate research and internships to enhance campus sustainability activities. Laura has maintained a sense of grace and of humor that made working with her a real pleasure.
This year the Gateway Student Success Center switched to using only Forest Stewardship Council certified paper as well as ensure that double-sided printing is the default setting on all computers throughout the office. The Student Success Center is also helping to make a dent in our landfills by using reusable dishware and utensils for events and meetings whenever possible. Emily Cochren, the Honors College Academic Advisor in the Student Success Center, has pledged to help the new Honors College Building implement Green Office Certification.
Working with Sodexo, NAU administration and OZZI, Genevieve Conley (at right in photo) led the effort to bring the O2GO reusable container system to campus. Her hours of research, sorting through logistics and persistent communication contributed to the large success of the program. In the first two weeks of the program over 1000 O2GO transactions occurred, keeping disposable containers out of the landfill. Every day Genevieve shows that students and women are strong, capable, and determined.
A graduate student in Educational Psychology, Davona Blackhorse studies the psychosocial impacts of long term uranium exposure on the American Indian. There has been little research about this, yet many community members on the Navajo Nation have expressed extreme distress due to ongoing exposure to contaminated uranium mines and wells. To bring these stories to light, Davona, along with her colleagues, orchestrated an exhibition titled, “Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land.” Davona has become a central figure for speaking on this issue. Hope & Trauma will continue to serve as the basis for several research studies in the future.
NAU Faculty Award (tie):
Stefan Sommer is a Research Assistant Professor in SESES and the Director of the Colorado Plateau Biodiversity Center. Stefan is an indefatigable volunteer. He serves as the Vice President for the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries Board of Directors. He develops science kits for children, educational video documentaries for public broadcast, multimedia science games for families and traveling museum exhibits. At the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Stefan oversees the development of mission-based educational programs and materials for NAU students and Native American communities. He has given countless presentations on climate change and is effective at engaging the public. In fact, Stefan cannot be here because he is presenting at Yavapai Community College tonight.
Her professionalism, deep knowledge of energy issues and willingness to learn-by-doing have helped establish Karin Wadsack (at left in photo) as a leading expert on clean energy in the region. She has carried out many research projects, actively contributes to campus energy initiatives and ‘relentlessly’ serves the northern Arizona and tribal communities in multiple capacities. This fall, the students in her climate mitigation course analyzed and developed shovel-ready projects for City of Flagstaff in order to advance the City’s first climate action plan. Her projects have yielded significant innovations and improvements in sustainability across the region. Karin has left an indelible mark on our clean energy landscape which will continue well into the future.
Casey Fisher and Gaby Galvan have been absolutely instrumental in getting the O2GO program up and running. They have dedicated countless hours to marketing and training staff. They respond to problems quickly and efficiently. They ensured that over 1000 people have used the O2GO program this semester. They are looking into expanding the program in the fall. it is hard to imagine the O2Go program being so successful without their leadership.
Persistence, persistence, persistence are three words to describe Emerald McCormick. Emerald has achieved success for sustainability causes many times over in her multiple green roles on campus. Emerald has lobbied for and achieved the first real steps for a Green Fee increase. She has also effectively communicated the need for a new Carbon Neutrality date. She has led the Green Fund into new territory by initiating projects from within the Green Fund and providing assistance to students submitting proposals. But most of all, Emerald is a role model. “She never fails to speak up about what she believes in but she also makes sure everyone’s voice is heard.
For the past fifteen years, the Classified Staff Advisory Council has hosted an annual warm clothing drive. Each fall, CSAC members and volunteers from across campus solicit donations for winter clothing. The clothing drive promotes a sense of social conscience and stewardship at NAU and heightens awareness of the good individuals can do by donating spare clothing instead of throwing them away. This past winter more than 1500 articles of clothing were collected and donated to Flagstaff Shelter Services, the Sunshine Rescue Mission, Sharon Manor and Northland Family Help Center.
I’ve yet to see an activist come in to town with such energy and force as Rolf vom Dorp and the Northern Arizona Climate Change Alliance. They’re working to educate and engage diverse groups on the issue of climate change. In one year they’ve hosted dozens of teach-ins, house meetings, movie showings and speakers. They have petitioned for strong climate action plans, carbon fee and dividend policies and energy efficiency. Recently NAZCCA presented over 3000 petition signatures to City Council. If Flagstaff had five more Rolf’s we’d be one of the most progressive, climate action driven cities in the country. NAZCCA is a great example of how a small group of people can take meaningful action.