Magazine On-line [fall 2010]
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Around Campus

Sustainability workshops inspire green thinking on campus

One of Angela Dossett’s goals when she came to Transylvania in January was to help the campus care about the importance of being sustainable. She can probably go ahead and check that off her list.

Sustainability was the topic of the annual faculty workshop June 7-11 and the staff workshop August 24, and both Dossett, who is the campus sustainability coordinator, and chemistry professor George Kaufman, who organized the faculty workshop, said they were thrilled with not only the participation, but the eagerness with which the faculty and staff tackled the subject.

staff workshop
Sustainability coordinator Angela Dossett addresses the Transylvania staff in the William T. Young Campus Center gym during the staff sustainability workshop.

The staff members were divided into tables of approximately eight people each, and they were asked to come up with sustainability goals for Transylvania to accomplish over the next five to 10 years. Each table wrote down the goals they came up with, possible barriers to achieving those goals, and how they could get past the barriers. They then presented their lists to the group, and Dossett collected them to compile a master list.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Dossett said of the results of the workshop. “I got a lot of great ideas. I knew that people were interested in sustainability, but I was surprised at the enthusiastic response, generally. That was good to learn.”

Many of the staff’s suggestions had to do with paper use on campus, an issue that Dossett did not know was so important to the staff. Many of the groups endorsed reducing paper consumed at Transylvania, but President R. Owen Williams, who was a part of his first staff workshop at Transy, took it a step further and announced that his goal was for Transylvania to become a paperless institution by the end of the 2010-11 academic year.

“He’s really excited about the initiative, and I am also,”Dossett said. “He’s been in communication with me and the IT department to see what we need to do to make that happen. Right now we’re in the process of talking to all of the offices and departments across the university to see what they’re doing to reduce their paper use, what resources they’re going to need, and asking them to lay out a plan for how they’re going to reduce paper in their office.”

Community gardenJunior Danny Woolums, far right, gives faculty members a tour of Transylvania’s community garden during the faculty sustainability workshop.

The faculty spent five days studying the concept of sustainability and its importance to our world. Rather than find ways to enhance efforts on campus, they came up with ways to incorporate sustainability into their curricula.

“Instead of just saying, ‘There was the dust bowl that tied into people having economic loss; now we’re going to read The Grapes of Wrath,’ you can talk about why that happened and some lessons that we learned from it,” Kaufman said. “Now we can look at Arizona and the Colorado River basin and see if we’ve learned lessons from history in what we’re doing there now.”

During the five-day workshop, the faculty heard guest speakers, discussed readings, and took tours around Lexington to see what other groups are doing, all the while thinking of ways they could infuse those ideas into their courses.

“They had the whole summer to think and reflect on the workshop, and by August, they individually came up with a way to change a class or come up with a new class or something that they could test over the course of this fall term or the winter term,” Kaufman said. “We’re going to get back together in the winter to see how it worked.”

There have already been some visible changes on campus since the workshops. Several printed forms that students used to fill out have been put online, and work-study students can opt to be paid in a paperless way if their bank supports it.

“Our faculty, staff, and students have been thinking about some things, and this is the excuse to go ahead and do it,” Dossett said. “It’s making a difference that people are really thinking about sustainability all the time now, and that conversation is going on out there.”

Keep up with the school’s efforts to go green by visiting the sustainability website.

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