Student sustainability leaders from more than 15 northeast colleges and universities gathered on the Connecticut College campus Nov. 7-8 for a first-of-its-kind symposium focused on holistic sustainability leadership development.
The two-day Student Sustainability Leadership Symposium featured a series of interactive workshops through which participants honed practical skills, such as effective project planning and community organizing, to apply to new and existing projects.
“The message behind the entire weekend is that sustainability is about more than just the environment,” said Josh Stoffel, manager of sustainability who co-directs the Office of Sustainability at Connecticut College. “To develop truly sustainable, long-lasting solutions to current challenges, we must understand holistic sustainability as an approach to problem solving.”
Connecticut College was selected to host the symposium because of its deep commitment to holistic sustainability and its practical application. The College defines sustainability as a framework by which long-lasting solutions to local and global challenges are developed through understanding the connections among social equity, environmental stewardship and economic well-being.
“We invited people from different backgrounds and with different interests, encouraged them to use our sustainability model to see connections they did not beforehand, and helped them break barriers and build collaborations,” said Yu-Cheng Liu ’17, a sociology and art history major and senior fellow for communications in Connecticut College’s Office of Sustainability
One of the attendees was Xi Xi, a junior math major and environmental studies minor at Wellesley College. She said the conference was an opportunity for her to meet peers “who care about the same things, who face similar struggles and who have succeeded in things I wish to achieve.”
“I’m very excited to have more intercollegiate interactions so we can learn from each other and bring in new energies from other campuses,” she said.
Alisha Pegan, a senior environmental studies and engineering major at Wellesley, facilitated a workshop on systems thinking with Xi. She took a class last semester that focused on observing systems, and she was excited to share what she had learned with her peers—and in turn, learn from them.
“My biggest takeaway is to share,” she said. “Getting my world shaken up is fun, as is shaking up other people’s worlds.”
In addition to the workshops, the conference featured a welcome by Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron and a keynote address by Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer and Peabody Award winning broadcaster.
Carter is responsible for the creation and successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies and job training and placement systems. After establishing Sustainable South Bronx and Green For All (among other organizations) to carry on that work, she built on this foundation with innovative ventures and insights into urban economic developments designed to help move Americans out of poverty.