Oregon Campus Compact celebrates green leaders

Several of the driving forces in the effort to make Oregon more sustainable met Thursday for the fourth annual Oregon Campus Compact Civic Engagement in Sustainability awards.

Several of the driving forces in the effort to make Oregon more sustainable met Thursday for the fourth annual Oregon Campus Compact Civic Engagement in Sustainability awards.

Among the seven recipients was Portland State student Heather Spalding, who won the Faith Gabelnick Student Leadership award. Spalding works as Portland State Campus Sustainability Office Manager Noelle Studer-Spevak’s assistant and is also a driving force behind the Environmental Club.

“I feel like I’ve been working really hard on a lot of different projects over time, and PSU is so big that at times I wonder what I am doing and if it’s making an impact even though I am working every day as hard as I can and I really care,” Spalding said shortly before receiving her award. “But to get an award, I guess it’s nice to get appreciation and understand that other people do see the results of what I am doing, so it’s been really rewarding.”

The many projects Spalding has been involved with include helping develop Portland State’s eco-wiki Web site, helping create a new zine for incoming freshmen, working with ASPSU senator Brendan Castricano to create the Green Fund initiative and working to reduce bottled water consumption on campus.

The day started out at the Multnomah County Central Library, where Spalding joined fellow recipients Robin Morris Collin, Brook Muller, Briana Orr, Michelle LaPierre, Carrie Wittmer and Jesse Hough on a panel discussing issues relating to sustainability.

“My classes are a constituency for sustainability,” said Collin, a Willamette University professor who was the first law professor to teach sustainability. “If we do not attend to that constituency, people might start to think that sustainability is brainwashing. We cannot have sustainability that is unjust.”

Much of the panel discussion revolved around how to engage the community at large in the issues surrounding green life.

“We’ve been doing the ‘do it’ side of sustainability since 1960,” said Wittmer, a professor at the Oregon Institute of Technology.

She mentioned that OIT is heated with geothermal energy, even though she said few on OIT’s rural Klamath Falls campus would mourn if its recycling program were to suddenly disappear.

Oregon Campus Compact, now in its 20th year, counts Dean Marvin Kaiser as one of its founders. ORCC, as the organization is known, is a statewide collection of colleges and universities with the goal of promoting civic and community engagement as a core educational approach to the development of students as citizens and leaders.
Emily Gillilard is the organization’s executive director.

“We provide resources around the state to help higher education organizations connect with their communities,” Gillilard said.

She said that unlike normal awards ceremonies where recipients gather at a dinner or cocktail party to pick up their award, ORCC aims at using the opportunity that a gathering of talented individuals presents.

“We wanted to make sure we could take advantage of the great minds that come to these events,” Gillilard said. “Ideally there might be sharing of information on a really basic level. Let’s see what can we learn from each other.”

Gillilard said that this year ORCC received nominations from 11 different institutions, including two- and four-year public and private schools. Past winners and experts judge the four categories, which aside from the student leadership category include faculty awards, an innovation award and a community partner award.

After the panel discussion, the festivities continued at the Ace Hotel, where Gillilard handed out certificates and tote bags full of goodies.

“It truly is an extraordinary time in the life of campus community,” she said before acknowledging each winner individually. “We hope that every community benefits from having a college or university in their midst.”