10 Years of Sustainability Education – Alumni Event Recap
If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely heard of the Sustainability Studies Minor at the U. If you have not, don’t worry because 2018 is the best time to hear it for the first time. Why, you ask? Because 2018 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Sustainability Minor at the University of Minnesota! To celebrate this remarkable achievement, we put together a fun networking event, “10 years of Sustainability Education: A University of Minnesota Sustainability Alumni Gathering.”
Not only was this event a celebration of 10 years of sustainability, but it was also the beginning of what we hope will be a long lasting network of UMN alumni making substantial feats in the field of sustainability in the U.S. and around the world. We brought together folks who worked on several aspects of sustainability at the U through each of their unique roles. The alumni event connected current students with a diverse group of professionals who have already achieved a wide array of accomplishments in their fields, in hopes of celebrating, reconnecting and building community.
The event was held at the newly opened Bell Museum in St. Paul! (P.S. Have you looked at the massive wooly mammoth? Wow.) We started off with a wonderful introduction by Beth Mercer-Taylor, the Sustainability Coordinator at Sustainability Education and someone who has been there for all parts of the process for the last 10 years. Next, Jan Gerstenberger, IonE’s Director of Partnerships and Development shared why the alumni relationships matter to IonE and the community beyond. She invited us to be part of IonE’s new initiative called ‘Impact Goals’ that provides an interdisciplinary and holistic perspective to the work we do here. The first set of IonE Impact Goals will focus on transitioning to a carbon-neutral energy system, achieving safe drinking water, and realizing sustainable land use.
After that, it was time to highlight the work our alumni are doing. First, we had Kyle Samejima, a University of Minnesota graduate and former student worker in the Sustainability Education team. She talked about the important relevance that her involvement in sustainability at the U has in her current work as the Executive Director of Minneapolis Climate Action, a local non profit. She said, “I got into this work because I am in love with this planet. I am astounded and awed on a daily basis when I stop to pay attention. And I know that something has been broken in our relationship with Earth. We forgot about reciprocity. We got focused on extracting its riches without thinking how to give back”. Kyle’s words were inspirational and motivational for all the attendees.
Pictured Above: Beth Mercer-Taylor, Sustainability Education Coordinator
Moriah Maternoski, another UMN graduate and former student worker, emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary work in sustainability. She talked about how it was not important that where you work is an organization that works on mainstream sustainability issues. If you work on public health operations, you are still working on sustainability. You can bring in “green” conversations to any workplace. If you give a short presentation about responsible waste sorting at work, then you are already doing your part.
After listening to the spectacular speeches, we moved on to a structured networking activity that encouraged all the attendees to reflect on their personal sustainability habits as well as their professional commitment to sustainability. The activity was facilitated by Andreas Fenner, a former student worker and UMN graduate, and Christina Lundgren, a current student worker for IonE. The attendees worked in groups to write specific sustainable habits that they carry out in every season and thus fostered communication and connection between everyone.
Overall, the event was a huge success and we were able to achieve our three main goals: celebrating, reconnecting, and building community. It was great to reconnect with so many people that our team has worked in the past and also generate new connections within this emerging community! Be on the lookout for more information on how to connect with this community via LinkedIn or social media!