SustainabiliTEAM

On Thursday, November 30th, our project group SustainabiliTEAM created a successful tabling event that educated people on simple, easy ways to be more environmentally sustainable in their daily life. This event also produced a visual representation of the impact the event had on the campus community with the SustainabiliTREE. So, we ended up accomplishing what we set out to do. The event accomplished the central goals we originally set: educating and promoting sustainable habits on campus. The way that we ended up fulfilling these goals, however, was completely different to the original vision. Our original vision was to create a video educating students on simple environmentally sustainable habits. This video never got past the planning stage, as we quickly realized it was an unrealistic goalª and, we scaled down our project to a tabling event that produced the same results we expected from the video.

Three BLI Leadership Habits that were essential to our project include Start Where You Are, Collect, Combine, Create, and Start Small.

  • Start Where You Are: Where we were in the beginning of the course and the connections we had, it just wasn’t feasible for our video. We found that the resources we had could be the start of an event or smaller project, and began to formulate that instead.
  • Collect, Combine, Create: We all came into this project with a lot of new ideas and different backgrounds. All of our strengths came together to formulate this project, and we were able to work through each other’s weaknesses. Our project was successful.
  • Start Small: We had started with a huge goal of implementing a sustainability video on campus. This was unrealistic for our time. So we scrapped this idea and started small, with a more realistic goal that could be accomplished.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 12.14.21 PMThe most important challenge our team faced was coming up with a realistic plan that would still fulfill our goal in educating students on how to be more environmentally sustainable on and off campus. We started off with an unrealistic goal in mind, but through feedback from others, self-reflection, and group discussion, we formed a cohesive achievable target that satisfied the bottom line we set while including unique aspects. With our collected ideas and rational thinking, our tabling event went smoothly and fast-paced as anticipated.

We had a positive group dynamic. Our team worked well together and ran into few internal complications. We met every Sunday to discuss our progress and what steps need to be taken. We had additional weekly gatherings as needed. For example, members of our team met to speak to stakeholders and make posters during times outside weekly meetings. The most significant change we could make to improve effectiveness would be devoting more individual time on the project outside of these meetings. We were all effective when working together, but if we could have completed more of the tasks on our own time, which would have left more room for productivity and growth during our group meetings.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 12.14.31 PMWe had a few setbacks in the planning stage of our project. After getting told that our initial idea would likely not work we did not know what to do. We had to change our idea quickly because time kept moving even though we did not want it to. When we came up with the idea of a tabling event in Mason Hall, we knew that we had hit a good idea. I think that we learned about flexibility and how to get up after you knocked down. We evaluated the success of our project through how many paint chips we had on the tree and how quickly we ran out of doughnuts. The next steps for our team is to continue utilizing all that we have learned about leadership and working in groups in our everyday lives. This lab has served as a valuable stepping stone for each of us to learn effective leadership strategies while practicing them in our everyday lives. As for our project, we successfully created an awesome educational project that we will continue to promote. Sustainability is a very important topic, and with our knowledge on the subject we will be able to teach the importance of it to others.

By: Olivia Chan, Laci Duvernois, Allyssa Garza, Charles Jones III, Katie Kubityskey, and Maddie Topping

Emily – Whakatiwai, New Zealand

EcoQuest, a New Zealand-based ecology and environmental studies program, was a rare and exciting chance for me to learn about the natural environment in a small, hands-on setting. In our community space, we had numerous opportunities to discover and pursue our interests, meet environmental leaders, and become leaders ourselves.

The program had only 26 students and most learning occurring outdoors in ecological settings directly applicable to course concepts. For example, if we were learning about marine ecology, we were being lectured on a boat in a marine reserve and then went snorkeling to observe sea life. When we learned about extractive industries, we were given talks by guest speakers on the outskirts of an open-pit gold mine. This individualized attention and direct experience in what we were studying made learning an effortless but exciting task.

Through EcoQuest connections, I also had to opportunity to personally meet many frontrunners in environmentally-related fields. These leaders told their stories of how pursuing their passions helped them to the positions they are in, not the other way around. Their talks have inspired me to fully pursue my passions, mainly in restoration ecology, and let my excitement in the field lead me to the right position.

With these exemplary leaders in mind, I was then able to test my own leadership skills as I strived to help create a successful learning community. As a small group of students, all living in learning in the same limited space, we had to be inclusive and considerate of each other while still adding our own talents and personalities into the space. As I think one of the most important leadership skills is leading by example, I hope that I was able to exemplify aspects of considerateness and acceptance so that others around me, if they were not already, would do the same.

In addition to creating a positive community setting within our small student group, our interactions with the broader community also had leadership implications. We, as a group, had to lead by example with our community lifestyle choices, such as reducing our waste, keeping our surroundings well cared-for, and choosing to use our time productively. We had a special chance to showcase these choices as we presented our research at the local Mauri, or the gathering place of the local Maori people. There, we told the community about our environmental field work and research results, as well as their wider implications, in hope that our interest and example would inspire the community to take action on important environmental issues.

EcoQuest was the best learning experience I have had in my life. I have gained invaluable skills, motivation, and outlook from my time in New Zealand and from those who I was able to spend time with and learn from. This experience has driven me to pursue more travel-related experiences in the hope of further peaking my curiosity about the world and to gain the necessary skills to help me pursue my passions in the natural environment. I would like to thank the Barger Leadership Institute for helping fund my experience and for helping inspire these outcomes.