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Inspiring future leaders at Sustainability Action!

Almost every student at the U either went to or has heard about Welcome week, the week of nonstop activities that introduce students to all The U has to offer. One of the great orientation activities during this time is Sustainability Action!, an event hosted by the Institute on the Environment on the St. Paul campus. Here, students have the opportunity to learn about the plethora of sustainability related programs, organizations, groups, and academic opportunities that are easily accessible to students. On Friday, September 1st, we welcomed more than 3,500 students from the class of 2021 to the Learning and Environmental Sciences building for this orientation event. Over 30 groups and organizations were ready to meet the students as they flowed through the four water-themed categories: The Well, The River, The Lake, and The Tap.

The Well – Student Groups and Involvement

With each bus arrival, the line of students at the door grew, ready for SustAction to start. As they entered through the door they were ushered to “The Well” where 19 different student groups awaited them, excited to connect with the incoming freshmen and give them an opportunity to become part of a group that holds interests similar to their own. This station was where students learned how they could be involved in sustainability on campus as well as find others with similar interests and passions. *coming soon…a quote here*

The River – Community Organizations and Academics

After hearing about what their fellow students were doing on campus, they were ushered towards “The River,” a room containing different community organizations and academic opportunities that relate to sustainability. Here, students had the opportunity to learn about sustainability focused organizations in the Minneapolis and St. Paul communities. Students could also learn about sustainability majors and courses, which can be extremely helpful for students who haven’t pinned down what they want to do quite yet.

The Lake – Sustainability at The U

The Lake, which was in the center of the LES building, had different programs and organizations at the U that work toward sustainability. This is where the Sustainability Education table was, offering students information about sustainability related studies including the Sustainability Studies Minor and several study abroad opportunities. We also offered students an opportunity to be included in our bi-weekly newsletter and by the end of the event, we had over 100 students signed up! Gerald, a communications team member at Sustainability Education, commented on the effect he felt was left on the students, “I loved being able to connect with students who are filled with a desire to gain knowledge and experience that will help them build a better and more sustainable future. Letting them know about the many opportunities in the Sustainability Studies minor led to a lot of profound conversations about their goals and aspirations. I can’t wait to see what they do!”


The Tap – Water Bar

The final station led students outside to the back patio where they attended Water Bar, a public art project established to encourage conversations about our water sources. As students stepped up they were offered a flight of water, one from Brainerd, Lanesboro, and the other place of which I cannot remember. Despite it all being water, the source of each water affected the taste. This surprised most students and brought up questions regarding water. This sparked conversations about how we treat our water sources and the negative aspects of plastic water bottles.

Overall, Sust Action! was a huge success. The energy from the students as well as everyone involved made the day incredibly fun and left us filled excited for next year’s Sust Action!


Photo courtesy of Sean Quinn

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