Community Participation at University Events

By Eva Lewandowski

A few weeks ago, I participated in the University of Minnesota’s Sustainability Symposium.  It was a wonderful event that brought undergraduates and graduate students from multiple University of Minnesota campuses to the Saint Paul campus to share the work they’ve done with sustainability.

As a Conservation Biology graduate student at the U, I often participate in environmental events on campus, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of the types of sustainability research and work that was being conducted.  It turns out that I was only aware of a small portion of the sustainability work being done at the University of Minnesota.  I was astonished by the diversity and creativity of the work presented at the symposium.  I learned new things about familiar topics like citizen science, green advertising, and community solar gardens, and I was introduced to some completely new topics, such as minimizing the effects of nanotechnology waste and finding uses for the byproducts of Greek yogurt production.  It was an incredibly exciting and enlightening day, and I was happy to have the opportunity to present my own work and learn about so much more.

I was also very pleased to see several members of the Twin Cities community in attendance.  Like most such events at the University of Minnesota, it was open to the public.  I am often surprised by the lack of community participation that I see at campus events, especially since I know that the green community in the Twin Cities is large and vibrant.  I think this boils down to an issue of awareness.  Many people simply don’t know that these sorts of events take place or that they are often open to the greater community.  Of course, public sustainability-focused events aren’t limited to the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, or even to the greater University system (UMN-Duluth, Crookston, etc.); there are many fine colleges and universities throughout our state that offer high quality public education programming with a green focus.  Hamline University and Winona State University, just to name a few, often have excellent environmentally themed events.

If you’re not already regularly attending events at the college or university closest to you, I encourage you to start.  Go to the school’s website or place a call to their biology or environmental studies department to find out about upcoming events.  The Do It Green! Minnesota event calendar often has postings from local schools, so you can it as a resource as well:

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