The Next Generation of Leaders in Sustainability
Sometimes, changing the world can seem like an impossible task to take on. What if you had peers, mentors, and tools to make that task a little easier? Sustainability Education’s Undergraduate Leaders Program helps undergraduate students undertake a project or practice related to sustainability. Through monthly workshops, guest lectures, retreats, and peer reflection, the program gives students the tools to succeed and become leaders in their community.
Elizabeth (Libby) Marti, a third-year student as an Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management major with minors in Sustainability Studies and Climatology, is an alumna of the 2018-2019 cohort of Undergraduate Leaders. In collaboration with Beth Mercer-Taylor, Libby decided that she wanted the University of Minnesota to offer an introductory sustainability course. Through her participation in the Undergraduate Leaders Program, she began working on proposing a Sustainability 1001 class after learning, through 200 responses to her survey, that students nearly unanimously agree that sustainability topics are important to learn. Read about what she has to say about her experience below:
Why do you think the University needs a Sustainability 1001 class?
I think the University needs a sustainability 1001 course because we do not currently have a course that teaches the basics of sustainability for students who just want to dip their toes into sustainability. I sent a survey out across all colleges to get a better understanding of how students feel about our current academic position dealing with sustainability. Out of the 200 respondents , over 90% said that sustainability topics are important to know and understand and that there should be a course available for students who just want to graze the top of sustainability-related topics. The Sustainability 1001 course would give students a strong academic background in basic topics while allowing them to explore how these topics relate to their own personal lives, ideas and values.
How did the Undergraduate Leaders program help you in your project?/ What skills have you gained as an Undergraduate Leader?
The Undergraduate Leaders Program gave me immense confidence in myself. I had gone through times where I did not know if I was cut out for my project, but the other students and the mentors I talked to gave me a lot of strength and faith in myself and my abilities as an Undergraduate Leader.
I really valued the connections and friendships I have made through this program. There are a lot of amazing minds at work and it is really cool to see how everyone manifests their interests into a sustainable project. I also really value the networking connections I was able to make as a result of the program.
What are your short-term and long term goals for this project?
My short-term goals are to have a syllabus “done”, (rough, rough draft), by July 4th. Then I will present my work to the provosts in the fall. I also want to clearly identify stakeholders, as this will be important in the approval process. My long-term goals are to have the course eligible for enrollment within a year and to hopefully make the course required for all U of M undergrad students.
What is the most fun/memorable thing about this project?
The most fun and memorable thing about doing this project was the Sustainability and Energy Expo. I loved seeing everyone else’s hard work and being able to explore their interests with them as they explained their projects. I also thought we started the program off great with diving right into aquaponics at Gandhi Mahal for our first meeting. This was an amazing way to get to know the other leaders and it made me feel at home in the program right away.