What typically comes to mind when you picture a small group of 18-year-olds tasked with changing the entire culture of a state university with over 12,000 students and 500 faculty members in three months? Terror? Uncertainty? Images of the whole group playing on their phones?
Actually, this is precisely what has been achieved in less than three months at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. And, trust me, no one has been playing on their phones. In fact, the Innovation Lab course and green|light, a green|spaces program, have worked with the faculty and staff at the school to create and better implement school policies regarding recycling, wellness, energy use, water conservation, landscaping, purchasing, transportation, and cleaning. The course is a new type of class that is a part of the Honors College and is taken by mostly sophomores and juniors for a full year. The students are tasked with choosing a local community partner and undertaking a major project to improve the University. The class, along with their faculty instructor, chose green|spaces and their sustainability program green|light to be their community partner.
Since the first time they met in August the students have been inspired, fearless, and relentless and they have commanded the ear of the University. They quickly learned that there are many different departments that handle the separate components of the program and they successfully scheduled meetings with the correct people on campus. They broke up into groups and researched their respective topics to hone and polish professional presentations that were well received. They also learned how sustainable their campus already was and got excited that they could tell the “UTC Green Story” to their classmates and peers.
One example of their success is that all “E-waste” is being now being collected around campus so students and staff can recycle old phones, pagers, printers, calculators and the like. The students took a field trip to West Rock recycling (formerly Rock Tenn) to see recycling on a large scale and the impact that can be made from diverting this waste from the landfill.
Green|spaces is so honored to have been chosen as the community partner for this class and this is a true testament to the effectiveness and usability of the green|light program. Not only did this group of 18-year-old students embrace the program, they mastered it.
--Natalie Hostetler, green|light program director
Fall Semester 2015