The University of San Diego has, especially in recent years, grown exponentially as an institution of higher education that’s dedicated to programs, projects and actions to better educate the campus community about taking better care of the environment.
The university, through its one-plus year status as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, announced on Tuesday a new opportunity for students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, family and friends of the university to generate awareness and to get involved in solutions for a more sustainable world.
The USD One Challenge, a concept devised by USD’s Changemaker Hub, brings all agents of change together to find ideas and solutions for one major problem. A committee of USD-affiliated and local community leaders came together earlier this year and put forth three topics for consideration. From there, videos and an online voting campaign through the USD Changemaker Hub Facebook page determined the challenge topic.
Juan Carlos Rivas, assistant director for USD’s Changemaker Hub, announced that the winner of the video vote was “The Environment: Wasteful Production and Consumption,” at a Green Gathering event hosted by USD’s Office of Sustainability. The environment issue outdistanced veteran integration and child health and wellness as among the three nominees.
“We’re really excited to get started with the USD One Challenge and we’re also very excited to announce that we’ll be partnering with the Office of Sustainability,” Rivas said. “We look forward to working with them to help us all generate ideas for this important topic.”
The USD One Challenge is an active process to stimulate change and awareness through different outlets, including seminars, workshops, and discussions, written word, videos, music, art and more. It’s a chance for a student organization to create a project or event. It also provides organizations the chance to partner with other student organizations or centers to strengthen their idea for environmental awareness.
Rivas said one proposed action is to designate USD’s spring 2013 semester as “Earth Semester,” thus pointing to Earth Day in April. Last spring, the university, led by the Office of Sustainability and other campus departments, tabbed April as “Earth Month,” with a host of informative and fun activities.
Tuesday’s event, in addition to the USD One Challenge announcement, gave attendees a chance to meet and hear from visiting scholar, Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, former president of Maine’s Unity College and a noted sustainability educator, who shared his nine elements of sustainability on a college campus.
The event drew a cross-section of USD students, staff and faculty whom can play a role in the success of the USD One Challenge.
Cliff Abbott, a junior English major, is also in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program on the USD campus. He attended the event as the newly elected sustainability representative for the 250-plus-member battalion. He was at the event to learn more about the One Challenge and to network with others who share his passion for the environment.
Mechanical engineering senior Liz Kimbrell, and Danidu Wijekoon, a first-year International MBA student, attended because of their passion for environmental issues and they, too, wanted to learn more. Kimbrell, who graduates later this month, said she’s enjoyed opportunities to learn about sustainability through trips with USD’s Outdoor Adventures and her own research on biomimicry. Wijekoon, who earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in Auckland, New Zealand, said he was actively involved in sustainability issues as a student there and he’s already connected to USD’s Office of Sustainability.
Ernie Salazar, a grounds maintenance department supervisor for USD Facilities Management, said USD has been working effectively on water usage management campus wide, that it recycles green waste and continues to seek ways to help the campus community become more conscious about environmental matters.
These are just a few campus connections available for learning about environmental issues and ideas and solutions. It is the USD Changemaker Hub’s hope to utilize all resources to not only create change, but to meet the challenge together as one.
— Ryan T. Blystone