Written by: Raynna Jackson, SOU Student Sustainability Co-ordinator
While most have been attending SOU remotely, SOU has continued to strive for sustainability all across campus from new renewable energy projects, social justice, equity, waste management initiatives, to academia, and more!
SOU holds many values, some include critical thinking, engaged learning, inclusivity, equity, economic vitality and environmental sustainability. In view of this, one of SOU’s Strategic Directions in its Strategic Plan centers around sustainability. It states that “SOU will actively model an environmentally sustainable campus and engage in collaborative research to promote an ecologically-resilient bioregion.”
The 3 goals under this overarching Strategic Direction are as follows:
With these goals in mind, SOU has multiple groups and departments on campus who work together to deliver sustainability. Sustainability is about a better and sustainable future for all and is as much about protecting the environment as it is about social equity.
SOU’s Sustainability Office
The Sustainability Office is where Becs Walker, SOU’s Sustainability and Recycling Manager, and two PEAK students, work on coordinating and driving forward sustainable practices across campus. I am one of the PEAK students and employed as the Student Sustainability Coordinator. I have been working in the Sustainability Office for 2 years. While campus went online, I have continued to work on SOU’s sustainability initiatives with the rest of the team. A few highlights of my job role includes: working on SOU’s climate action plan, posting sustainability outreach through social media campaigns, supporting campus resource centers activities like Earth Month, and writing quarterly newsletters to keep everyone on campus up to date on new sustainable initiatives and practices. There is always room for more sustainability at SOU.
Progress at the Sustainability Office in 2020/2021 includes:
IMAGE TEXT: “Celebrating our commitment to a greener, healthier environment through trees.”
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is committed to promoting an inclusive process by working together to ensure equitable access to opportunities, benefits, and resources for all faculty, administrators, students, and community members. More information can be found at https://edi.sou.edu/get-involved/.
Social Justice and Equity Center
Connecting sustainability on a student level, there are student-led teams within the Social Justice and Equity Center that hold many roles for sustainability at SOU. The Social Justice and Equity Center explicitly names Racial Justice, Gender and Sexuality Justice, Student Sustainability and Basic Needs Resourcing, and Veterans Resources as areas of focus and aims to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus with their accessible resources and event opportunities. A few examples of what this looks like are:
The center provides excellent opportunities for the student body as well as great support and resources for when you are in time of need. Student to student, staff to student, they have your back.
Sustainability in SOU’s Curriculum
As mentioned in the Strategic Goal three, incorporating sustainability in the curriculum is critical for SOU wanting to achieve its milestones. In 2019-2020, the first cohort of the SOU Sustainability Curriculum Initiative (SOUSCI) presented by Pavlina McGrady, Chris Lucas, Jamie Trammel, and John Gutrich submitted a proposal to integrate environmental aspects of sustainability into courses and was graciously accepted. A cohort of 10 faculty members from the BCE department worked towards changing the curriculum to incorporate a “commitment to sustainability.” Pavlina McGrady, an assistant professor in the business department and the head of the sustainability cohort, mentions course examples and how sustainability could fit into them, “…from Argumentation and Critical Thinking, Operations Management, Food and Beverage Management, to Film Theory and Practice and Management Information Systems.” All these different courses can benefit from learning about sustainability and how to improve the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit).
The second cohort of the SOUSCI submitted a proposal for the 2020-2021 academic year to integrate social aspects of sustainability (equity, diversity, inclusion) and cohort of ten faculty, led by Alena Ruggerio, Precious Yaamguchi, and Pavlina McGrady, worked on integrating social elements of sustainability, with focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion into their curriculums. A few of the courses where EDI changes are implemented include Public Speaking, International Financial Management, Marketing, Land Use Planning, and Environmental Field Methods, among others. It is important to implement social aspects in courses because this allows students to gain an understanding of social justice and equity and obtain diverse leadership skills. Lastly, the SOUSCI team has submitted a proposal of integrating economic aspects of sustainability into the curriculum for academic year 2021-2022 with focus on economic aspects of sustainability (closing the loop of the triple bottom line). Another big milestone SOU has accomplished is offering a major in Sustainability! This degree will give students an opportunity to study and learn about sustainability in all aspects of people, planet, profit, and education! The Sustainability major will require courses from all different disciplines such as business, economics, environmental science, sociology and anthropology. The relation between courses will show students how important sustainability is in all fields of study.
Working in Sustainability at SOU has been such an inspiring experience because of everyone working together to make this world (and campus) a better place. A few highlights I enjoyed this year were attending Earth Month events, reading the Social Justice and Equity Centers’ informational posts, and knowing that SOU is integrating sustainability across the curriculum including a Sustainability major! From in-person staff meetings to online zoom meetings, everyday was an opportunity to promote sustainability and to spread love and kindness. Because to me, sustainability means putting everyone’s health and wellbeing first, while ensuring the available resources are being equally shared and not being destroyed.
As my time at SOU comes to an end, all I can say is I am grateful I have been able to work with such amazing people on campus. Surprisingly, I am graduating with a Business Administration degree, but that did not stop me from developing an extensive sustainable business plan for my capstone project. An article from the Portland Business Journal once said, “businesses are starting to realize they can no longer afford to put profits ahead of the environment.” Sustainable changes are important in one’s personal life, however, businesses shifting to more sustainable practices is crucial to saving our planet. To read more of the Portland Business Journal article, the link is here.
The SOU community has done incredible work towards making campus more sustainable over the last year (remotely). We are looking forward to everyone being back on campus in Fall Term so we can continue our sustainability work with our amazing students, staff, and faculty! Above all, we cannot be sustainable without you.
I would like to dedicate this article to a few people who have made a positive impact on my life during my time at SOU and who have always encouraged me to follow my dreams. Thank you for everything, Becs Walker, Jill Smedstad, Leslie Eldridge, John Kinard, Alissa Kolodzinski, Grandma Juju, Mom, Dad, Tai Afrae, and Nicky Ottinger.