PSU green all-stars!

Portland State has a rich history of being active and engaged with the sustainable community of its urban home. The City of Roses is internationally revered for its green consciousness, and PSU is a cornerstone of the environmental effort generated here.

Portland State has a rich history of being active and engaged with the sustainable community of its urban home. The City of Roses is internationally revered for its green consciousness, and PSU is a cornerstone of the environmental effort generated here.

To put some names and faces to the sustainability efforts on campus, here are four people’s take on what it means to work at PSU, the sustainability community and their goals for the future.

Noelle Studer-Spevak, sustainability coordinator

Since winter term 2008, Studer-Spevak has orchestrated efforts to improve and maintain the awareness of sustainable projects, operations and academics at PSU. She previously served as the sustainability coordinator for Portland Community College and said that she feels PSU is a great place for students interested in pursuing careers in sustainable industries.

“The thing I really enjoy about Portland State students is that they have a chance to work on turning the campus into a place to learn analytical and leadership skills, get to participate in projects and groups that end up on their résumés,” Studer-Spevak said. “They make marvelous things happen and when they graduate, they’ll have done more than just memorize periodic tables and will be able to actually engage in their jobs.”

She said student involvement and advocacy for green initiatives and projects at PSU is very encouraging to her as sustainability coordinator. Her goals for increasing sustainability awareness include recording and analyzing first-use data, switching to real-time meters for energy use by campus buildings and increasing the number of student positions focused on sustainability.

Another goal she has is to realize the concept of a living lab at PSU, which would “bridge the operational and academic parts of the university.”

“It’ll be great to see how PSU stacks up nationally,” Studer-Spevak said. “Students can look at a system and understand why it is working well, or see why it isn’t working and not repeat those mistakes. The cohesion of operations and students is the next frontier for PSU sustainability.”

Heather Spalding, sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator

Spalding began as a student at PSU and has since filled various roles involving work for and with the student body. She was the ASPSU Senate pro tempore before starting as an assistant to Studer-Spevak, and she has since helped to turn the idea of a Web site dedicated to sustainability at PSU into a reality.

The PSU EcoWiki ( is a hub of information about events, classes and volunteer opportunities for students. She said that working with the Environmental Club made her realize how willing students are to get involved and engage in projects both on campus and throughout the community.

“Working with them for a year got me very interested in leadership, and so did being Noelle’s assistant for a year,” she said. “I was focused on adding sustainability to new student programs and orientation…and when this position opened up, I was very happy to take it.”

Spalding’s position as sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator includes overseeing the Sustainability Leadership Center, which includes five student positions to promote green efforts on campus, she said. Her goals for this year include integrating sustainability with the curriculum, increasing branding for PSU sustainability and to continue hiring students to get involved with the SLC.

“I like the attitude sustainable people have, that they’re open minded and want to include everyone,” she said. “I think PSU does a great job of defining what sustainability is and incorporating sustainability into daily practices, and that is very inspiring to me. The people here are motivated by really good intentions.”

Julia Fraser, graduate research assistant

Fraser is pursuing a graduate degree in ecology culture and learning programs at PSU. She has worked in Multnomah County and the City of Portland as a sustainable purchaser, meaning she considers the ecological and long-term impact of how an organization spends money on goods and services.

Currently, she is working to bring a green purchasing project to PSU, which would be housed in the Purchasing and Contracting Office. According to Fraser, the project will boost the amount of university funds spent on green-friendly projects and services.

“We’ll be looking at how best to spend money in the interest of students,” Fraser said. “This will help integrate sustainable practices into purchasing decisions on campus.”

She said the benefits of green purchasing will help boost sustainable practices both by current and future students, and that spending will also be dedicated to boosting the amount of classes that incorporate sustainable topics.

“I’d like to see sustainability become more integrated into curriculum areas, in a way that means we’d learn about the world around us and not just have sustainability tacked onto other subjects,” Fraser said. “I think PSU is in a really great position to do that.”

Her favorite part about working at PSU is how much it applies to her undergraduate studies, especially when it comes to creating and developing programs, which she said has been “a really great opportunity here.”

“I’ve been able to use theories I’ve studied in this community, and it’s been a very good experience,” she said.

Kelly Larson, energy conservation outreach specialist

Larson came to PSU as part of her work with AmeriCorps, a federal government program that provides jobs for the education, public service and environmental industries. She came to Portland after attending the University of Montana.

“After college, I knew I wanted to join AmeriCorps and after applying for a variety of positions, I knew I was Portland bound,” Larson said. “My goal is to finish this term with AmeriCorps and have an enriched experience along the way through working in this community.”

Larson has been involved with organizing on-campus initiatives, such as a competition between residents of the Broadway Housing Building to see which floor uses the least amount of energy, a concept she wants to spread to other campus buildings. She said coordinating with Residence Life made the competition possible and that she hopes other departments on campus will be as willing to reach out to students and decrease energy use campus wide.

“[My favorite part has] definitely been the people and what I’ve learned from them,” she said. “They have been a very positive part of this experience.”

Her goals for the future of PSU sustainability include creating more initiatives similar to the Broadway energy-reduction competition, in addition to “retrofitting facilities that aren’t as efficient as modern buildings and increasing involvement from both faculty and students to drive down carbon emissions overall.”