Sustainability is an important part of who we are at SIU. We want our students to live and learn in a healthy environment. In fact, the commitment of faculty, staff and students has led to “Green College” recognition the past two years from the Princeton Review. Only 322 universities nationwide make that list.
One of the reasons for that honor is our “Green Fund.” Students led a campus referendum initiative in 2009 that resulted in a $10 per semester fee to support sustainability. The fund supports campus projects proposed by students, faculty and staff that involve renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.
Leslie Duram, who joined the faculty in 1994, is one of the university’s strongest voices for environmentally friendly practices. She is a professor of geography and environmental resources and director of the Environmental Studies Program, which offers an interdisciplinary minor for undergraduates. Faculty from a diverse array of programs, including cinema and photography, history, anthropology and management, teach courses in the minor.
“I tell students they can add some green to any major,” Leslie said. “It allows them to broaden their career opportunities, and it gets them to think about how to solve some of our environmental issues.”
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Leslie also serves on the nine-member Sustainability Council, which includes students, staff and other faculty members. The council and its Green Fund committee award funds for those “green” projects proposed by members of the campus community. One initiative funded last spring, for example, was the Dental Hygiene Program’s move to a completely paperless and chemical-free patient record system.
“At SIU, and in higher education, we have a dual responsibility,” Leslie said. “We should lead by example; we should be sustainable in our institutional practices. We also have a responsibility to educate our students about sustainability. We have an opportunity and a responsibility because we are in the forefront of teaching, educating and acting sustainably.”
I have been impressed by how much Leslie does just that — lead by example. She does so through her teaching, her research and through her work with Local Organic Gardening Initiative in Carbondale (LOGIC). Leslie is the faculty advisor to this registered student organization.
“This began around the same time as the Green Fund, when a very active group of undergraduates decided there should be an organic farming presence on campus,” Leslie said. “They created the plan for it as a class project and worked to get it implemented.”
Students from all of our colleges and almost every major participate in LOGIC. The garden is part of the Center for Sustainable Farming, located along Pleasant Hill Road. In addition to growing fruits, vegetables and herbs, the area serves as an important research tool. The students also sell produce from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday at a farm stand in Faner Hall breezeway.
“LOGIC allows students the opportunity to learn personal sustainability,” Leslie said. “The first step toward sustainability is personal action, followed by community action.”
We have a responsibility to leave the campus, and the world, in better shape for those who follow us. Thanks to Leslie and many other members of the SIU community, I am confident we will do just that.
RITA CHENG is chancellor of SIU Carbondale. Her column appears weekly in Southern Plus.