Campus awards recognize efforts to improve sustainability

Campus Sustainability Awards

The UO recently celebrated efforts in research, teaching, campus operations and more at the University Sustainability Awards ceremony.

Hosted by the Office of Sustainability, the annual event honors achievements that represent the versatility of the UO’s contributions to sustainability.

The campus operations award went to David Ward, from Facilities Services, and Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg from the College of Design. Ward and Van Den Wymelenberg collaborated on a building systems improvement pilot program in the HEDCO Building. The project improved comfort for building occupants while lowering energy use and costs.

The model established by the pilot program will be used in other campus buildings. The award is co-sponsored by Facilities Services and Utilities and Energy.

The green athletics award was given to Fei Li-Welker for her leadership in enhancing sustainability in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. In just one example of her work, Li-Welker recently led a plastics round-up, a collaboration between athletics and the Office of Sustainability that collected 560 pounds of plastic for recycling that otherwise would have gone in a landfill. The award is sponsored by athletics.

Sarah Stapleton won the excellence in teaching award. A professor in the College of Education, Stapleton designed a first-in-the-nation class focused on food in K12 education that trains the next generation of teachers in how to teach and think about food in their classrooms, schools and communities. The award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost’s Teaching Engagement Program.

The new research award was given to Lucas Silva for his work studying the effects of climate change on natural and managed lands. Silva is a professor in geography and environmental studies, and his research not only uncovers atmospheric causes of soil and plant changes but also proposes management and restoration strategies. The award is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

The innovation award went to Mary Wood of the School of Law. Wood’s groundbreaking legal approach known as the atmospheric trust litigation argues that governments have an obligation to protect earth’s atmospheric and environmental resources as they do for other public spaces.

Plaintiffs around the world are using Wood’s legal approach in suits seeking government accountability for excess atmospheric carbon, the leading cause of global climate change. The suits include the Juliana v. United States trial, based in Eugene and representing youth plaintiffs from around the country, including students at the UO. The award is also sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

This year’s campus design award went to honors college Dean Gabe Paquette and Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration Renée Dorjahn for supporting the sustainable renovation of Chapman Hall. The project redesigned the home of the Clark Honors College to make it more accessible and sustainable and a better space for student learning and collaboration. The award is co-sponsored by the departments of Campus Planning and Design and Construction.

The town and gown award goes to UO people and projects that increase sustainability and engagement with the local community. This year’s award went to Yekang Ko, Jacques Abelman and Kory Russel, three landscape architecture faculty members who collaborated across courses to prototype sustainability projects at Eugene’s Opportunity Village.

In their Landscape for Humanity project, Ko, Abelman and Russel brought their individual expertise and enlisted the work of their students to increase sustainability, comfort and empowerment for community members experiencing housing insecurity. The town and gown award is sponsored by Community Relations.

Last, two student leaderships awards were given this year for achievements by a graduate student and an undergraduate student. Aurora Ginzburg,  a doctoral student in chemistry studying nanoparticles for use in biomedical applications, won the award for her focus on unexpected environmental toxicity from the interactions of nanoparticles.

Jade Menchaca won the undergraduate award for her work managing the Student Sustainability Center’s food security programs and projects. Some UO students don’t have enough to eat, and Menchaca’s work helps address the need with programs such as Ducks Feeding Ducks and support for eligible students receiving SNAP benefits.

By having the programs led and supported by students, Menchaca hopes to diminish the stigma around food insecurity and increase awareness of the problem even at seemingly affluent places like universities. Both student leadership awards are sponsored by the Student Sustainability Center.

In remarks opening the ceremony, UO President Michael H. Schill mentioned the university’s recently updated Climate Action Plan.

“Environmental challenges are real and top-of-mind for many in our campus community, students particularly,” he said. “And while it would be easy to rest on our laurels, this room is filled with people who not only keep the practice of sustainability front and center on campus but push it to new levels and find unique ways to incorporate it throughout every aspect of our organization.”

To learn more and see videos related to each award, visit the Office of Sustainability awards webpage.

—By Sarah Stoeckl, Office of Sustainability