St. John Fisher College recently launched a new Center for Sustainability, marking an increased commitment to reducing the college’s environmental footprint.
Led by Michael Boller, associate professor of biology, the center is a two-year strategic initiative focused on facilitating a larger impact on environmental sustainability. A longtime member of the College’s Recycling and Sustainability Committee, Boller is director of the sustainability minor and in the laboratory, conducts research focused on aquatic ecology. As director of the new Center, Boller will create events, initiatives and programs that will operationalize sustainability efforts on an institutional level, while influencing individuals to practice more environmentally friendly behaviors.
“Hopefully, our efforts will make it easier to be more sustainable,” he said. “We’re focused on encouraging people to make the decision to recycle, turn off the lights, and be more thoughtful as to how we’re engaging with our environment.”
The center will have several areas of emphasis: energy efficiency; campus green space preservation; recycling; and community engagement. Initially, the center will work on benchmarking the college’s current efforts in relation to sustainability and identifying achievable goals.
As the “home for environmental community engagement,” Boller has already fostered a number of on- and off-campus partners. Working with Fisher’s Office of Facilities Services, he is hoping to assess the college’s energy policy and secure grant money to fund initiatives that can lower its energy footprint. In the community, Boller looks to collaborate with the Fast Forward Film Festival, Genesee River Watch, Seneca Park Zoo and other area colleges, including the Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College, to bring greater environmental awareness to campus and share best practices in how to achieve sustainability goals. Through the center, the college also is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, REV Campus Challenge and New York Consortium for Sustainability in Higher Education.
At the heart of the process is engaging undergraduate students in the center’s work. Three seniors — Julia Green, Angela Mang and Melissa Lindine — will assist Boller in the benchmarking and goal-setting process as an independent study.
“All three students are minoring in sustainability and are working on the project in a way that synthesizes their liberal arts training, their majors, and the minor,” Boller said.
Boller also hired first-year student Erin Turpin to work on center projects. A sociology major with a double minor in international studies and sustainability, Turpin was a member of her high school’s Sustainability Corps, assisting in the district’s composting process, sorting recycling, planting produce for the school and helping to maintain its aquaponics system.
“We’re thinking about how we can use the campus as a living and learning environment and support sustainability scholarship,” Boller said.
A steering committee will help guide the center’s efforts. Members include Ken Widanka, director of facilities services; Michelle Gosier, associate director of transfer and graduate admissions; Melissa Head, director of development; Renuka Manchanayakage, associate professor of chemistry; Eileen Lynd-Balta, associate provost; Kevin Mannara, director of campus ministry; Linda Seavy, office manager at Lavery Library; Derick Wigle, assistant director of residential life; and Kate Torok, director of marketing and communications. Student Kenneth Caminero, who is vice president of operations for the Student Government Association, will also serve on the committee.
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