Institute on the Environment http://environment.umn.edu Discovering Solutions the World's Environmental Challenges Fri, 23 Sep 2016 16:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 101511003 SUST 3480 | Leading the Renewables Revolution: Germany http://environment.umn.edu/education/susteducation/sust-3480-leading-renewables-revolution-germany/ Thu, 22 Sep 2016 21:24:11 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=5115 Head to the country that invented the vision of cities and regions powered 100% by renewable energy and wants to create a more sustainable future. Meet with the leaders of that effort and become part of a big movement! Enroll in this special study abroad course.

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Head to the country that invented the vision of cities and regions powered 100% by renewable energy and wants to create a more sustainable future. Meet with the leaders of that effort and become part of a big movement! Enroll in this special study abroad course.

SUST 3480 “Leading the Renewables Revolution: Germany”

Germany’s growing renewable energy system emerged through collaboration across political, business and nonprofit sectors and in dialogue with science. Meet leaders from Germany and Minnesota who are involved in solving the social, technical, and political challenges of transforming industrial economies. In this study abroad course, you will have the opportunity to get an in-depth look at the political, social and technological drivers behind renewable energy development. Visit Munster, Dusseldorf and Saerback, award-winning cities that excel in advancing renewable energy storage, combined heat and power, solar and wind power, and the electrification of transportation.

What:        Team-taught study abroad course to Germany
When:       Jan. 3-15, 2017
Who:         Undergrads at UMTC, UMM, UMD, UMC, and UMR from any discipline.

If you are interested in sustainability or renewable energy or the connection between technology and culture, you are a great fit. Should be of great use to majors and minors in Sustainable Systems Management, Environmental Policy, Science and Management (ESPM), Applied Economics, and Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Geography, Journalism, German, English, Political Science, and other social sciences.

CREDITS:     2 credits
FACULTY: 

  • Sabine Engel, PhD, Institute on the Environment
  • Beth Mercer-Taylor, JD, sustainability education coordinator at the University of Minnesota
  • Shane Stennes, director of sustainability for the University of Minnesota.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Oct. 15

Expectations for the course are: Strong interest in renewable energy transition, willingness to prepare before the trip, ability to travel with a group, walk up to several miles a day, capacity for active participation during the trip and engagement in Minnesota’s energy transition efforts upon return.

POSSIBLE INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES IN SUMMER!

FULL INFO and enrollment links:
https://www.cfans.umn.edu/germany

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Sustainability Action! welcomes U of M class of 2020 http://environment.umn.edu/education/susteducation/sustainability-action-welcomes-u-m-class-2020/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/susteducation/sustainability-action-welcomes-u-m-class-2020/#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 13:48:58 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=5059 Where can you learn about sustainability groups on campus, taste tap water from various locations around the Twin Cities and talk to a pirate about reducing, reusing and recycling? At Sustainability Action! On Friday, September 2, IonE hosted an orientation experience designed to connect incoming freshmen with University and community organizations that have a sustainability focus. With over 35 groups […]

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Where can you learn about sustainability groups on campus, taste tap water from various locations around the Twin Cities and talk to a pirate about reducing, reusing and recycling? At Sustainability Action! On Friday, September 2, IonE hosted an orientation experience designed to connect incoming freshmen with University and community organizations that have a sustainability focus. With over 35 groups and organizations providing information, this year’s showcase offered a wide variety of sustainability programs and initiatives that students could get involved with.

Incoming freshmen lined up for Sustainability Action!, IonE's annual Welcome Week event.

Students swarmed into the Learning and Environmental Sciences building on the St. Paul campus to meet representatives of the many sustainability groups on hand to greet them. “It was very satisfying seeing students come through who found clubs very relevant to their studies or interests,” said Mark Houle, a student with the Environmental Student Association. “They were so excited to talk with us. It reminded me of how I felt finding ESA when I was a freshman.”

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More than 3,000 students participated in the event. One Welcome Week leader said, “It was a great experience for the students because they all seemed to find something to spark their curiosity or excitement.” 

The Sustainability Education table (pictured at the top of the page) highlighted the variety of disciplines that could integrate sustainability education into their studies. “The wall behind our table was covered in technicolor hexagon-shaped pieces of paper,” said Andreas Fenner, a communications team member with Sustainability Education. “Written on each piece of paper was a different major that students have paired with the sustainability studies minor: architecture, biology, economics, Spanish and even dance.”

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Dana Donatucci (pictured above at right), the U of M Waste Recovery Service Program’s recycling supervisor, really got into the swing of things. This marked his third year dressing up as a pirate for Sustainability Action! As students approached a wooden plank on the ground, Dana asked whether they knew about the three “aRRRs”` of sustainability (reduce, reuse, recycle). Once the students “got it,” he invited them to walk the plank into the ocean of sustainability. “I see this as a fun and interactive way to engage students to remind them of the importance of recycling, and it seemed to grab attention,” said Donatucci.

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Water Bar, an interactive art project that aims to raise awareness of the benefits of tap water versus bottled water, provided different tap water samplings from around the Twin Cities and highlighted the effect water has on our lives and communities.

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Having a variety of clubs and programs in one central location allowed students to get acquainted with all of the opportunities to connect with and participate in sustainability activities on campus. Judging from the excitement the event generated, we should have a sustainable year ahead!

Browse the directory for a full list of UMN student organizations.

Photos by Kimberly Long, Institute on the Environment

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Boreas: A stew of leadership opportunities http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/boreas-stew-leadership-opportunities/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/boreas-stew-leadership-opportunities/#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:49:35 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=5043 What sets leaders apart from the pack? Is it the ability to influence change? Is it being able to bridge a communication gap between diverse voices? Students are exploring these questions and many others through the Boreas Leadership Program. The Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program offers University of Minnesota graduate, professional and post-doctoral […]

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What sets leaders apart from the pack? Is it the ability to influence change? Is it being able to bridge a communication gap between diverse voices? Students are exploring these questions and many others through the Boreas Leadership Program.

The Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program offers University of Minnesota graduate, professional and post-doctoral students free leadership development opportunities that build on the strengths of graduate education to help students become effective change agents. Boreas offers several avenues for students to connect, including workshops and professional networking nights called “booyas” throughout the semester.

Booyas are occasions that foster community, where people gather and share ideas, everyone throwing something into the pot, says Boreas director Kate Knuth. On select Thursdays, Boreas participants can meet each other, learn from professional guest speakers and get re-inspired on their leadership journey. At the fall kickoff on Sept. 22, students will have a chance to interact with other change makers and get to know the student advisory team of 14 graduate students from colleges across the UMN system.

The Big Boreas Booya, happening on Oct. 6, is fast becoming a fall tradition at IonE. It’s an occasion to gather the Boreas campus community around a communal pot and talk about a stew of leadership issues. A 10-gallon pot of stew — booya — will start cooking in the morning. In the afternoon, a panel of university deans will discuss the question, “What kind of leadership does it take to make progress on environment and sustainability challenges?” and take student questions before the stew is served. Learn about the tradition of booyas in this Star Tribune article. 

Boreas also offers a series of workshops in four key areas: communications and media, integrative leadership, public skills, and systems thinking and tools. They range from several hours to daylong hands-on learning opportunities that can propel participants into the next phase of their careers. “I really learned a lot from the two workshops I’ve attended,” says ecology, evolution and behavior Ph.D. student and Boreas student adviser Siddharth Iyengar. “The presentations workshop especially has changed the way I think of how to deliver content to my audiences, and how I teach undergraduates about making presentations.” Participants in the workshops will be introduced to and have a chance to practice useful skills and make a plan for applying them in different leadership contexts.

Visit the Boreas website for more details.

Photo by Rawpixel Ltd (iStock)

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Top biologists provide road map to protect biodiversity http://environment.umn.edu/news/top-biologists-provide-road-map-protect-biodiversity/ http://environment.umn.edu/news/top-biologists-provide-road-map-protect-biodiversity/#respond Wed, 14 Sep 2016 16:07:21 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4999 Elephants. Pandas. Bees. These species are familiar to us because researchers have studied and collected detailed data about their habitats, their diets and their responses to environmental and human stimuli. But there are millions more species in the world that have not received the same attention, threatening their continued existence given that policymakers and resource […]

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Elephants. Pandas. Bees. These species are familiar to us because researchers have studied and collected detailed data about their habitats, their diets and their responses to environmental and human stimuli. But there are millions more species in the world that have not received the same attention, threatening their continued existence given that policymakers and resource managers don’t know enough about what is needed to protect them in the face of climate change.

That’s why a group of 22 top international biologists have called for a globally coordinated effort to collect high quality data about how a plant or animal’s unique biology governs their responses to climate. The paper was published last week in the journal Science.

The biologists, including IonE director Jessica Hellmann, suggest setting up a global clearing house to organize and monitor six classes of biological mechanisms — physiology, demography, evolutionary potential, species interaction, dispersal and responses to environmental variation — and recommends methods of data collection along with a list of biological mechanisms to record.

Models that include biological mechanisms have been used to project (clockwise from top) the evolution of disease-harboring mosquitoes, future environments and land use, physiological responses of invasive species such as cane toads, demographic responses of penguins to future climates, climate-dependent dispersal behavior in butterflies, and mismatched interactions between butterflies and their host plants. Image courtesy of the study group.

Models that include biological mechanisms have been used to project (clockwise from top) the evolution of disease-harboring mosquitoes, future environments and land use, physiological responses of invasive species such as cane toads, demographic responses of penguins to future climates, climate-dependent dispersal behavior in butterflies, and mismatched interactions between butterflies and their host plants. Image courtesy of study authors.

“Right now, we’re treating a mouse the same way as an elephant or a fish or a tree. Yet we know that those are all very different organisms and they are going to respond to their environment in different ways,” Mark Urban, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut and the paper’s lead author, said in a recent press release. “We need to pull on our boots, grab our binoculars and go back into the field to gather more detailed information if we are going to make realistic predictions.”

“Ecologists have made great strides in developing tools and techniques for predicting where species might live — and might not live — in the future because of climate change,” says Hellmann, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences. “To make on-the-ground decisions about managing biodiversity, however, we need methods of prediction that are better still. This paper provides a road map for building those predictions to enable planning and decision-making.”

Photo by popofatticus (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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Not all bioplastics are created equal http://environment.umn.edu/press-release/not-bioplastics-created-equal/ http://environment.umn.edu/press-release/not-bioplastics-created-equal/#respond Tue, 13 Sep 2016 16:31:26 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4842 University of Minnesota research suggests forest residuals provide cleaner feedstock for bio-based plastic than fossil fuels or row crops Conventional plastics are seen as environmentally unfriendly because they’re made from fossil fuels. As plastic production grows — it’s expected to double over the next 20 years — plant-derived polyethylene terephthalate (BioPET) has been touted as […]

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University of Minnesota research suggests forest residuals provide cleaner feedstock for bio-based plastic than fossil fuels or row crops

Conventional plastics are seen as environmentally unfriendly because they’re made from fossil fuels. As plastic production grows — it’s expected to double over the next 20 years — plant-derived polyethylene terephthalate (BioPET) has been touted as a more environmentally friendly alternative to PET, a plastic primarily used in beverage bottles. But a University of Minnesota study published in July in the Journal of Cleaner Production suggests that’s not always the case.

Researchers from the University’s Institute on the Environment compared the environmental impacts of 12 types of bottles with varying proportions of PET made from fossil fuels, row crops and forest residues — what’s left after the usable part of the tree has been removed. They found that BioPET made from row-crop feedstocks such as corn grain and stover, wheat and switchgrass performed worse than traditional fossil-fuel-based PET in almost every environmental impact category assessed, including smog and particulate production, acidification and fossil resource depletion.

However, BioPET made from forest residues was found to require 22 percent less fossil fuel inputs and produce 21 percent fewer greenhouse gases than traditional PET.

“Compared to other renewable feedstocks used in BioPET bottle production, the use of forest residue feedstocks can significantly reduce important environmental burdens,” said Luyi Chen, graduate research assistant for IonE’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and the study’s lead author. “Not all BioPET is equally beneficial to the environment, some BioPET is better than others.”

A major benefit of producing BioPET versus other types of renewable plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (used in pipes) and polylactic acid (used in clothing, among other things), is that it can be seamlessly dropped into existing recycling systems. “Our findings shed light on which types of BioPET bottles reduce impacts in their production, while providing renewable products that won’t inhibit efforts to increase recycling later on,” Chen said.

“As we seek ways to reduce our dependence on fossil resources and our contributions to climate change, bio-based chemicals and materials provide a real and viable path,” said NiSE graduate research assistant and study co-author Rylie Pelton. “But studies like ours also show that we need to be smarter about the trade-offs created through new technologies such as bio-based plastics manufacturing.”

The research was funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance. Timothy Smith, NiSE director and professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, is also a co-author on the paper.

The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment is leading the way toward a future in which people and the environment prosper together. For more information, visit environment.umn.edu.

Photo by zone41 (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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Acara expands its borders http://environment.umn.edu/education/acara/acara-expands-borders/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/acara/acara-expands-borders/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 19:57:39 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4906 Since 2009, the Institute on the Environment’s Acara program has been helping student entrepreneurs plan and launch businesses that address social or environmental needs through Grand Challenge Curriculum courses, competitions for seed funding and study abroad experiences. Now Acara is expanding to better teach, fund and mentor students interested in learning about and developing innovative […]

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Since 2009, the Institute on the Environment’s Acara program has been helping student entrepreneurs plan and launch businesses that address social or environmental needs through Grand Challenge Curriculum courses, competitions for seed funding and study abroad experiences. Now Acara is expanding to better teach, fund and mentor students interested in learning about and developing innovative and financially sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

To ramp up its efforts, Acara is:

Adding to its roster of distinguished faculty and staff: Tom Fisher, a professor in the College of Design, and Steve Kelley, a senior fellow in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will join Acara director Fred Rose as instructors of the GCC course Global Venture Design: What Impact Will You Make? (GCC 5005), launched in 2009 in the College of Science and Engineering. Fisher was recently touted by the StarTribune as being a “leading voice in the world of design” and lauded for his new book that details why design thinking can help solve society’s big social problems. Kelley served in both the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives. Global Venture Design was among the first of the University’s courses to receive the GCC designation in 2015.

While Acara works with students on ideas for Minnesota and around the globe, its international staff was primarily focused on supporting students to design solutions in response to community needs in India under the guidance of India program coordinator Aruna Raman, based in Bangalore. This year it’s adding part-time staff in Kenya, Uganda and Nicaragua to expand mentorship opportunities to other parts of the world. Closer to home, Acara has hired Megan Voorhees as associate director and Erin Kayser as program coordinator. Voorhees previously was the director of the Public Service Center and assistant dean of students at the University of California Berkeley. Kayser is a College of Science and Engineering graduate and a 2015 Acara fellow. 

Reaching bold frontiers: Adding to the GCC, Rose and co-instructor Cheryl Robertson will apply lessons learned from the U.S. Agency for International Development–sponsored One Health Workforce program experience of teaching in Africa to a Minnesota classroom. Robertson, a professor in the School of Nursing, was recently recognized with an Outstanding Nurses award as someone who publicly advocates for public health by Mpls/St. Paul magazine. The course, Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues (GCC 5003), will explore complex problems at the nexus of animal, human and ecological health, and involve some of the same East African staff mentioned above. And in May 2017, Acara will offer a new study abroad course in rural Nicaragua in addition to its well-established study abroad course in India. 

Shaking hands: Come meet Acara staff, fellows and interns at the annual open house Monday, September 19, 5–7 p.m. at the Institute on the Environment. Acara alums Eat for Equity will provide refreshments.

Illustration by djvstock (iStock)

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December 1 Booya – Daring to Have Unreasonable Goals, and Making Them Reality http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/december-1-booya-daring-unreasonable-goals-making-reality/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/december-1-booya-daring-unreasonable-goals-making-reality/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:59:48 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4885 December 1 – Daring to Have Unreasonable Goals, and Making Them Reality Facilitated by Student Advisory Team At Boreas, we encourage people to dream big, to imagine goals that to others may think are unreasonable. And then we like to figure out how to turn so-called unreasonable dreams into real change and impact in the […]

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December 1 – Daring to Have Unreasonable Goals, and Making Them Reality
Facilitated by Student Advisory Team
At Boreas, we encourage people to dream big, to imagine goals that to others may think are unreasonable. And then we like to figure out how to turn so-called unreasonable dreams into real change and impact in the world. Turns out this is not easy. Taking inspiration from the Unreasonable Institute, this booya offer inspiration, strategies, and more for translating the unreasonable into the future we all want.

Time: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Location: IonE Commons, Room R350 of the Learning and Environmental Sciences Center
1954 Buford Ave, Saint Paul

What are booyas?
The heart of Boreas is the community we create – graduate and professional students and post-docs from across campus connect through Boreas. We host a series of Boreas Booyas (based on the Upper-Midwest tradition of community stews called booyas). At these events, you’ll be able to connect with fellow participants, learn from community leaders, and delve deeper into select leadership topics. Booyas happen on select Thursdays from 4:30 – 6 p.m. through the semester. Check out the rest of the fall schedule.

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November 17 Booya – Special Guest, Larry Herke http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/november-17-booya-special-guest-larry-herke/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/november-17-booya-special-guest-larry-herke/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:56:26 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4883 November 17 – Special Guest, Larry Herke Director of the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Sustainability The State of Minnesota uses a lot of buildings (29 million square feet owned, another 3.6 million leased) and buys a lot of stuff (about $2.2 billion annually). Meet the person responsible for reducing the carbon footprint of Minnesota’s state […]

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November 17 – Special Guest, Larry Herke
Director of the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Sustainability
The State of Minnesota uses a lot of buildings (29 million square feet owned, another 3.6 million leased) and buys a lot of stuff (about $2.2 billion annually). Meet the person responsible for reducing the carbon footprint of Minnesota’s state operations and making them more sustainable, Larry Herke. Mr. Herke will be a few months into this new role in state government, and he’ll share his experiences and leadership lessons. He will also draw from his career in the US military, where he most recently led efforts to drive sustainability in Minnesota National Guard facilities, including aiming to make two major installations net-zero. These efforts were recognized by the Pentagon in 2015 with the Secretary of Defense’s Sustainability Award. Mr. Herke retired from the US Army National Guard as a Colonel in July of 2016.

Time: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Location: IonE Commons, Room R350 of the Learning and Environmental Sciences Center
1954 Buford Ave, Saint Paul

What are booyas?
The heart of Boreas is the community we create – graduate and professional students and post-docs from across campus connect through Boreas. We host a series of Boreas Booyas (based on the Upper-Midwest tradition of community stews called booyas). At these events, you’ll be able to connect with fellow participants, learn from community leaders, and delve deeper into select leadership topics. Booyas happen on select Thursdays from 4:30 – 6 p.m. through the semester. Check out the rest of the fall schedule.

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November 3 Booya – Hopeful Engagement in Politics http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/november-3-booya-hopeful-engagement-politics/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/november-3-booya-hopeful-engagement-politics/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:52:24 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4880 November 3 – Hopeful Engagement in Politics Facilitated by Student Advisory Team With the election a few days away, politics is everywhere you look! And while it’s an exciting time for change… politics can also be confusing, draining, and at times disheartening. Join us for a booya that will be the perfect cure for your political doubts […]

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November 3 – Hopeful Engagement in Politics
Facilitated by Student Advisory Team
With the election a few days away, politics is everywhere you look! And while it’s an exciting time for change… politics can also be confusing, draining, and at times disheartening. Join us for a booya that will be the perfect cure for your political doubts and woes. We’ll start with the idea that politics and civic work are how we decide our future together and explore ways to enter into this work with energy, inspiration, and hope. You’ll also get some last-minute tips on how to be a well-informed voter on local to national elections!

Time: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Location: IonE Commons, Room R350 of the Learning and Environmental Sciences Center
1954 Buford Ave, Saint Paul

What are booyas?
The heart of Boreas is the community we create – graduate and professional students and post-docs from across campus connect through Boreas. We host a series of Boreas Booyas (based on the Upper-Midwest tradition of community stews called booyas). At these events, you’ll be able to connect with fellow participants, learn from community leaders, and delve deeper into select leadership topics. Booyas happen on select Thursdays from 4:30 – 6 p.m. through the semester. Check out the rest of the fall schedule.

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October 20 Booya – Special Guest, Jamez Staples http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/october-20-booya-special-guest-jamez-staples/ http://environment.umn.edu/education/boreas/october-20-booya-special-guest-jamez-staples/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:42:42 +0000 http://environment.umn.edu/?p=4878 October 20 – Special Guest, Jamez Staples President, Renewable Energy Partners, Inc. Jamez Staples is a Minnesota entrepreneur working to build the renewable energy economy and make it work for everyone. His company, Renewable Energy Partners, develops the clean energy workforce by training people in low-income communities for jobs in the burgeoning solar industry. Meet […]

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October 20 – Special Guest, Jamez Staples
President, Renewable Energy Partners, Inc.
Jamez Staples is a Minnesota entrepreneur working to build the renewable energy economy and make it work for everyone. His company, Renewable Energy Partners, develops the clean energy workforce by training people in low-income communities for jobs in the burgeoning solar industry. Meet this engaging business and community leader to hear about his path in business and entrepreneurship and his vision for making a just, clean energy future a reality.

Time: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Location: IonE Commons, Room R350 of the Learning and Environmental Sciences Center
1954 Buford Ave, Saint Paul

What are booyas?
The heart of Boreas is the community we create – graduate and professional students and post-docs from across campus connect through Boreas. We host a series of Boreas Booyas (based on the Upper-Midwest tradition of community stews called booyas). At these events, you’ll be able to connect with fellow participants, learn from community leaders, and delve deeper into select leadership topics. Booyas happen on select Thursdays from 4:30 – 6 p.m. through the semester. Check out the rest of the fall schedule.

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