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Sustainability Mixer Celebrates Hands-On Learning & Student Engagement

Published November 7, 2019

 

 On October 10th, campus and community members came together for the annual Faculty & Staff Sustainability Mixer at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden to celebrate a shared vision of a healthier and more resilient campus environment.  

While it is a celebration meant to bring the community together, the mixer’s purpose is also meant to spark conversations about our sustainability priorities for the upcoming academic year, introduce new people into our sustainability community, and link our sustainability efforts to the broader goals of the university. The event also serves as the venue for announcing the recipient of the Sustainability Champion Award, an honor that this year went to Dr. Christine Whitcraft. 

Fall Mixer

The mixer, now in its sixth consecutive year, is co-hosted by the Office of Sustainability, the President’s Commission on Sustainability and the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. The Forty-Niner Shops’ generous contribution allowed guests to enjoy an open bar, delicious vegetarian appetizers and tasty desserts throughout the evening. 

At the start of the formal program, Division of Administration & Finance Vice President, Scott Apel, reflected on the outcomes of the Imagine Beach 2030 event last November and how the priorities that emerged will play a key role in future campus planning. From implementing resiliency measures on campus to preparing students to become problem solvers and engaged community members, Beach 2030 helped us envision our campus as one in which all can thrive without barriers.

 Of course, elevating The Beach in terms of sustainability, resiliency and education is not possible without the commitment and dedication of a variety of members of our campus community. That’s why each year at the Fall Mixer, the sustainability community recognizes one individual whose commitment to campus sustainability efforts stands out among the rest.

This year Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Environmental Science and Public Policy department, Dr. Christine Whitcraft, was recognized as this year’s Sustainability Champion for her dedication to advancing campus sustainability efforts. Over the years, she served on the Sustainability Task Force, chaired and co-chaired several of the working groups, collaborated with CSULB Sustainability and the Center for Community Engagement to involve her students in sustainability-focused service learning projects, and worked as a consultant on the creation of the College of Professional and International Education’s new Masters in Sustainability degree program.

 

Dr. Whitcraft

When she is not championing sustainability programs on campus, Dr. Whitcraft’s leadership inspires students to be more involved with protecting our natural resources through wetlands conservation and service-learning activities. 

 

In addition to highlighting faculty leaders,  the Fall Mixer program recognized students who are applying their knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems. Senior Industrial Design majors Dominique Gan, Wesley Ihezue, Josselyn Alejandra Alcaraz and Aman Dembe spoke to attendees about their project which earned 2nd place in the 2019 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The Challenge calls on design teams to create a nature-inspired solution to a climate change issue. Of the 98 participating teams from across the globe, not one but three teams from CSULB were named as finalists to advance to the next round of judging in Panama!

 

Design Team

Gan and her design team created “Hexagrain” as a solution to oxygenate the soil in rice fields. Rice farming is the biggest contributor of methane within the agriculture crop sector. It is a water-intensive crop and in the process, the bio-matter creates the perfect environment for methane-creating microbes. The team’s design solution creates a less habitable environment for these microbes, which results in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

During the program, the team shared their insights about how working on this project was a significant experience in their academic careers. “We are meeting with sustainability advocates and learning all sorts of different things. I appreciate where this project is taking me in regards to connections and people,” said Ihezue.

 

The team also gained a better appreciation for the ways in which design can affect the environment, especially in terms of materials used in the process, as well as the role designers can play in bringing about solutions.

 

“It makes us contribute to saving the environment. Climate change right now is a big thing. What we are working on right now is trying to solve some of the issues happening,” said Dembe. 

The evening wrapped up with remarks from Dr. Whitcraft about the priorities of President Conoley’s new Commission on Sustainability, which she also Chairs. Dr. Whitcraft also issued an invitation to attendees to get involved in the work of the Commission via its newly formed Committees. If you are interested in learning more about the Commission or ways to get involved in the Committees, please contact sustainability@csulb.edu.