Workshop gives students tools to build sustainability leadership skills
At Radford University, students, faculty and staff are proud to be a small, but integral, part of solving the world’s sustainability issues.
As the University’s academic program manager in the Office of Sustainability, Josh Nease is doing his part by working with students on campus every day to give them the knowledge and tools to effect change, first on campus, and then in their communities and around the world.
The need to educate and grow leaders of sustainability initiatives is the impetus behind the popular Sustainability Leadership workshop, now in its second year, which brings together Radford University and Virginia Tech students, from various majors, for a full day of training, activities and networking opportunities.
“We’re trying to give them tools to better understand themselves and their sustainability values, learn to establish a mutual understanding and respect of various stakeholders and build a consensus toward implementing sustainability solutions,” says Nease of the most recent workshop, which was held on January 25, 2020 at Radford University’s Selu Conservancy.
“It was a day of brainstorming, collaboration and discussion revolving around sustainability,” says Sophia Schroeder, a Radford University senior biology major from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Saturday workshop began with a startup activity and progressed with a card game and simulation in which students worked in groups as if they were members of an organization’s board of directors working on sustainable development.
Later, two groups of Radford University students and four groups from Virginia Tech delivered speed presentations on various ongoing projects around their respective campuses. Each group had five minutes to present their work in slides, which advanced automatically every 15 seconds.
Presentations focused on campus initiatives, such as bike repair stations, food, water and groundskeeping.
Schroeder and her group presented information about their participation in the campus Food Recovery Network chapter, though which Radford University Sustainability Leadership Team members deliver leftover, pre-packaged food to the Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread food bank two times each week during the academic year.
Senior history major Pat McBride of Sterling, Virginia, says food waste has a huge environmental impact. “We all directly impact it, but we can change it,” he says.
Later in the workshop, the two student groups examined the New River Valley Livability Initiative, which contains “many sustainability-related strategies, ideas and goals,” Nease said.
“Using their new skills and tools provided during the workshop, they evaluated a strategy in the New River Valley Livability initiative using a checklist for Community Problem Solving,” Nease said. “They had to answer the questions: What are the real problems? Who are the major stakeholders, and how are each impacted? What are potential solutions, and what is our path forward?”
Groups worked on the exercise for 45 minutes and then made pitches and fielded questions from other students and workshop organizers.
These tools reinforce the training the Radford University students receive throughout the academic year as members of the Sustainability Leadership Team. The team is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of students who learn about sustainability, gain project management experience, practice professional skills and build the leadership competencies.
“This workshop is an extension of what we do on campus with our leadership team,” Nease says. “Plus, it is a great opportunity for our students to work together and network with Virginia Tech students. They are just 15 minutes down the road, so we are all part of this same community in the New River Valley.”