UI officials hope to spark sustainability interest

BY DORA GROTE | OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials hope exposing students to sustainability projects might persuade them to pursue careers in environmental fields.

University faculty and staff, student environmental activists, and professionals gathered on campus Thursday for a Sustainability Rally. The event offered students the chance to learn more about sustainability efforts on campus and elsewhere.

Craig Just, a UI civil and environmental engineering research scientist, said he designed the event to introduce students to various sustainability efforts. Thursday's event was the finale of a first-year seminar on sustainability that Just launched this semester. He called the course a "shock and awe tour" to introduce students to the different aspects of sustainability on campus and in the community.

"We're trying to get new people to get plugged in and keep that constant stream of people working in sustainability," Just said.

In addition to seeing sustainability projects, students said they were able to make connections with professionals.

"It was interesting just to see the different ways the campus is going about being green and going behind the scenes to see what they do," UI freshman Jeremy Carlson said. "This experience will come in helpful when interviewing for a job because I will have connections."

One student said she was surprised to learn how much effort goes into maintaining resources.

"It made me more aware of our surroundings and how much time and energy it takes for people to clean our air and water," said UI freshman Emily Reid.

She said the event was also beneficial as a networking opportunity.

Officials from UI sustainability organizations agreed.

Nick Smith, a UI senior who works with Engineers for a Sustainable World, saw the event as an opportunity for students to be involved in campus activities.

"This event is great because students can jump in and act and get involved," he said. "I wish I had had this opportunity when I was a freshman, because I think I would have had the potential to do a lot more for the community and the university."

Smith's organization plays a part in reaching out to children and educating them at an early age. Last year, organizers went to Regina Elementary to make edible landfills with the first-grade students.

"It's about getting those kids excited and have them growing up with that mentality," said Andrew Bennet, the Engineers for a Sustainable World president.

Ferman Milster,the director of utilities strategic planning for Facilities Management, said the UI is trying to reach 40 percent renewable energy for Vision 2020, a challenging but feasible goal.

"I'm really charged up about this and convinced we can do this," Milster said. "The demand and the commitment is there from the university."

Just said he hopes this event will encourage students to pursue sustainability in the future and will help the community work together to reach a sustainable world faster.

"We want to make connections so we can pursue it and make more connections together," he said.

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