Conference inspires, motivates PSU students, faculty - KOAM TV 7

Conference inspires, motivates PSU students, faculty

Marina Stricklin (Weir, Kansas) and Derrick Decker (Rose Hill) Marina Stricklin (Weir, Kansas) and Derrick Decker (Rose Hill)

As part of Pittsburg State University's growing presence in the world of sustainability, PSU students for the first time attended and presented research at the American Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education national conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Students from the unique PSU program called Sustainability, Society and Resource Management (Bachelor of Integrated Studies) presented findings from a multi-staged research study examining how best to communicate sustainability on university campuses, and to the broader community.  

Two students became PSU’s first AASHE alumni: Marina Stricklin, SSRM senior, Weir, Kansas, and Derrick Decker, Rose Hill, Kansas, a previous SSRM degree graduate and current student in PSU’s Educational Leadership graduate degree program.  

“Our students sat at round table discussions with diverse groups of faculty, operations personnel and other students from a variety of countries including Australia, Germany, UK, and Canada,” said Catherine Hooey, PSU professor of geography.   

Hooey said the students were exposed to multiple perspectives about how to bring sustainable opportunities into PSU’s system of education.  

Currently, there are 593 organizations officially registered as members of AASHE; the annual conference draws an average of 2,000 representatives from institutions of higher education nationally. In 2010, PSU became one of two Kansas Board of Regents institutions formally recognized as AASHE charter members. 

Today, approximately 860 institutions, including PSU, utilize AASHE’s STAR Rating System™ for reporting campus sustainability progress.   

James Triplett, professor emeritus and contributor to the SSRM degree, said that at many institutions of higher education it is the students who lead the way on innovation and engagement with sustainability-related issues. 

The PSU University Sustainability Committee met in October and is reviewing the 5-year strategic planning goals for the campus and community extending through 2022. Based on feedback from the recent campus sustainability survey, student and faculty feedback from the AASHE conference, and the university’s committee recommendations, a strategic engagement plan is anticipated to be complete in December 2017.  

“Given the nature of the conference and the co-benefits of applied learning, professional development and opportunities for campus leadership, it is extremely important for students to be involved in the process,” said Triplett.  

PSU’s first student AASHE conference attendees reported enjoying the learning experience. 

Decker said that connecting with other like-minded people, and seeing how the field of sustainability in higher education is becoming more robust, was motivating.   

“I learned the importance of conveying the end goal or “our vision” of sustainability with others,” said Decker. “It’s important to remember, it’s not all bad out there and there are real solutions to the social and environmental challenges that we all face.” 

PSU has emerged as a regional leader in campus sustainability within the KBOR Regents system by offering the first interdisciplinary sustainability undergraduate degree program in the State of Kansas, retrofitting 27 buildings with energy efficient lighting, providing enhanced temperature controls, installing low flow utilities in dormitories to conserve water and reducing natural resource consumption. The installation of 18 refillable water bottle stations in 14 building across campus within the past three years has saved approximately 1 million plastic water bottles from southeast Kansas area landfills.   

Both students noted that sustainability is more than just resource conservation, and the recent inclusion of wellness into the sustainability framework is a sign of advancement and a key contributor to the culture and resiliency of higher-education organizations.  

During the past two years, PSU has expanded access to basic healthcare services for faculty and staff through the acute care clinic in the Bryant Student Health Center, increased opportunities for faculty and staff wellness and fitness programs through the Student Recreation Center and Robert W. Plaster Center, and created alternative transportation systems for students, in order to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. 

Funding for this student professional development travel opportunity was provided by private donations to the SSRM degree to the PSU Foundation, the Office of Continuing & Graduate Studies, and the College of Arts & Sciences.   

For more information about the Sustainability, Society and Resource Management degree program at PSU visit www.pittstate.edu/ssrm or to donate and support the SSRM degree program click here.  

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