Students won't be the only ones in the classroom this fall, as a unique pilot program involving University of Michigan students and staff kicks off as part of the university's commitment to sustainability.
Through a collaboration involving the Graham Sustainability Institute, University Housing, the Office of Campus Sustainability, the Voices of the Staff Environmental Stewardship Team and the Student Sustainability Initiative, a new seminar-based program will provide the necessary skills and training for "Planet Blue Ambassadors," while exploring similarities and differences between student and staff experiences. Planet Blue Ambassadors will model and teach sustainability practices and serve as "eco-reps" to the U-M community. The ultimate program goal is to create a culture of sustainability across all U-M units.
"This is an opportunity to connect students from diverse academic backgrounds with members of the U-M faculty and staff by providing an action-based learning experience," said Mike Shriberg, education director for the Graham Institute and a lecturer in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). "The primary goal is to teach best practices so that students and staff can encourage environmentally responsible behaviors both in the residence halls and in organizational units throughout campus."
The two-credit seminar is open to all students living in university housing and will meet every two weeks during the fall 2011 and winter 2012 semesters for classroom education and training. Students will dedicate an additional three hours per week to working on various projects. Members from the Voices of the Staff Environmental Stewardship team will join the seminar once each month as part of their regular program of meetings.
"The Voices of the Staff Environmental Stewardship team felt this was a great opportunity to not only connect this program with residential students, but to more formally put in place a program where staff members can do outreach in their buildings and really engage occupants in sustainability efforts," said Tim Kennedy, U-M building automation systems manager and co-chair of the Voices of the Staff Environmental Stewardship team. "Having staff ambassadors who are focused on energy savings, material reduction, reuse and recycling, and sound sustainability practices will be helpful in continuing to advance the university's overall commitment to sustainability throughout the campus."
The new pilot program is a continuation of the university's commitment to foster sustainable behavior on campus. For example, what began as a basic recycling program in campus residence halls in 1989 has become a comprehensive effort to reduce energy, water and material waste. Among the many elements of the University Housing's sustainability efforts, the spring "Move-Out" most recently resulted in collecting 11 tons of materials that were donated to local charities.
The Planet Blue Ambassadors pilot program will accept a total of 25 students, with 10 staff members participating. As part of their training, these ambassadors will gain familiarity with all sustainability-related resources and units on campus. Specific program goals include:
- Train Planet Blue Ambassadors in theory and practice for encouraging environmentally responsible behaviors.
- Provide a forum to encourage peer-to-peer learning for Planet Blue Ambassadors on skills to influence environmental behavior and support sustainability education.
- Provide training in effective leadership, communication and organizational change, and link with campus and public outreach resources.
- Connect and align activities of students and staff to support consistent, long-term education and science-based sustainability efforts across campus.
- Develop an effective model for expanding and delivering the program for the long run.
Student eligibility criteria and the application form, along with additional information on the seminar and overall program, are available for interested students online.