HomeEducationSustainability EducationDay at the museum: Undergraduate Leaders’ kickoff inspires and connects

Day at the museum: Undergraduate Leaders’ kickoff inspires and connects

Why was this thing being held in an art gallery?  Why did I say I’d do this anyway?  Now I’m stuck here for my whole Saturday.  Will I like the other people?  The whispers of doubt floated through a head or two, or fifteen, as a group of UMN undergraduate students representing five different colleges made their way up the stairs to the NASH Gallery at the Regis Center for Art.  They represented the students selected for the Institute on the Environment’s Undergraduate Leaders Program and it was the Kick Off on November 8th, 2014.  They shared in common an interest in sustainability, making a difference, and leadership.

In their hands, they brought a representation of sustainability and un-sustainability to put on a timeline. (Well….and a few people had some cakes and cookies too).

Here’s what they said afterwards.

The Undergraduate Leaders’ Kick Off was….

  • “A new perspective on an old passion.”
  • “An incredible opportunity to meet fellow undergrads who are passionate about sustainability and social change. We had the opportunity to collaborate on our ideas for what the next AASHE Conference in 2015 can look like, and, for me, it was valuable to continue the discussion of bringing a social justice lens into sustainability.  Best of all…we all like each other a lot!  I can’t wait for the next one. :)”
  • “A breath of fresh air for my soul.”
  • “My first introduction to on-campus peers who are also passionate about sustainability and activism. I loved it!”
  • “Inspiring. The connections and experiences at the Kick Off empowered me to take these messages out into the world and not be afraid to shake up Business as Usual”!
  • “REFRESHING!”
  • “Inspiring! It was so cool to learn about other people’s views on sustainability. I’m super excited to grow with this team and learn about how we can make a difference!”
  • “Engaging and built social capital.”
  • “A unique way of bringing multiple disciplines together to discuss sustainability issues.”
  • “Connecting.”

What happened in between?  A lot of team bonding and thought and practice about creative means of communication.  Centering around sustainability as equity and reciprocity, one of the major tools this year is to think about how to effectively communicate and represent sustainability in a way that facilitate it to be more inclusive and interdisciplinary.

Leaders were greeted by the thinking making living exhibit at the NASH.  The exhibit drew on a range of artists and mediums to create a public art platform that required participation and confronted us to “think making and make living.” Through art, it questioned how we are in the world today, how we relate to each other and interact with the ecological, political, and cultural issues that shape our lives.  It immersed the group within creative forms of expression on sustainability, equity, diversity.

They made their way to a project space located within the exhibit itself. It was not a museum that shushed people into a quiet observance, but one which encouraged engagement. That was good since a gurgle of talking and laughter starting flowing from the group almost immediately as they shared out on who they were, made goofy grunting noises while throwing around an imaginary ball, and did some team building.

“I appreciated having the time to get know each other,” Miah Ulysse, a student in Food Systems and Leadership.

Flash forward to Representation.  Question: How can we be creative communicators and represent a vision of sustainability that is inclusive and diverse?  Methodology: As one of our activities at Kick-Off, we will be creating a History of Unsustainability/Sustainability Timeline to help us contextualize sustainability as well as introduce each of us to each others’ views on sustainability.  Come with a “representation” of an event, invention, social change, person, power shift, etc. that you feel is important to both the history of unsustainability/sustainability and your vision of sustainability.

As each of the students explained their representations, everyone brought something a little different to the table.

“Is it good?  Or is it bad?  Sustainability is often not black and white.” John Thompson of HECUA said as he thought through his presentation on several inventions that have impacted our past, present, and future.

Exploration.  Take time explore the gallery to see how public artists are engaging sustainability.  Then translate that to your own art project and work.

“I was looking at Seitu Jones’s Self Portrait andSeed on Drawing and saw they were connected.  He was the seed and the seed was him.  It was like an ah ha. We are the seeds and they are us.  We’re connected.  Sustainability, I am in you.  Sustainability is us,” said Kyle Samejima, a student in environmental communication, as she thought about how to integrate some of the ideas on thinking making living into her own work.

Application.  Apply these creative thoughts to reality.  What do you think should be in the call for proposals for the 2015 AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education)conference that will be hosted in Minneapolis should include.  Students thought outside the box to come with a wide range of ideas that will go to the conference planners.

 “Being surrounded by art and positive energy today was really refreshing,” commented Beth Mercer-Taylor, UMN Sustainability Studies Minor Advisor to sum things up.

Thanks for the great time.

If you have questions about the Undergraduate Leaders Program, contact Kate Flick at flick063@umn.edu.

Erica Vanden Busch

Graphic Design Intern

vand0827@umn.edu

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