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'Sustainability' set as 2005-06 theme for new academic year
August 11, 2005
Provost and Dean of the College James May has announced that "sustainability" will be the college's main academic theme during the 2005-06 academic year. With the unveiling of a new composter this summer and wind turbine in the fall, and the adoption of campus-wide sustainable design guidelines, the time seemed right, says May.
"Such a theme could provide impetus for activities for Week One [when new students arrive], various guest lectures supported by faculty and student groups and other such events during the course of the year," says May.
The focus will be academic as well, as professors across disciplines incorporate the sustainability theme into their syllabi.
Before the Class of 2009 arrives on campus, the students will take a survey to gauge their environmental values and ecological literacy. Upon their graduation Professor of History Jim Farrell plans a similar survey to determine how students' environmental concerns might have changed.
Plans for Week One include familiarizing new students with the college's current sustainable practices, many of which are detailed on the St. Olaf Black & Gold and Green website.
For example, junior counselors (college juniors who provide an upperclass resource for first-year students) will give tours of the natural lands. The welcome picnic will serve locally grown food, including vegetables grown by the student-run St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works (STOGROW), served on biodegradable tableware.
At Stav Hall, the student dining facility, Bon Appetit chefs will describe sustainable campus food preparation methods to new students. And when students register for classes, Farrell and Director of Facilities Pete Sandberg will give presentations on the college's ongoing sustainability projects.
Environmental Coalition, a student organization concerned with environmental issues, and the Student Government Association (SGA) will lead student involvement during the year, such as through the creation of a one-year sustainability committee. The Green Machine bike project will provide students with communal campus bikes.
In the fall, November will mark the 100th anniversary of electricity in Old Main. In November 1905, says Farrell, they ordered a special meal of oysters, and everyone waited patiently. "But of course, there were technical glitches when they tried to turn on the lights."
The wind turbine, which will generate almost 25 percent of the college's energy needs, should be in place by early winter. "We will lay the foundation and establish the electrical connection to campus this summer," says Sandberg. The turbine is another step in further reducing energy costs. By using power generators during peak-use periods, St. Olaf already saves approximately $150,000 a year through an Xcel Energy program.
In the spring, the biennial conference Worship, Theology and the Arts will focus on care of creation and stewardship of the earth. One of the conference speakers will be Gordon Lathrop, author of "Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology." And when the St. Olaf Cantorei tours next year, its program theme will be, "For the beauty of the earth." Throughout the year, Farrell plans to bring to campus a variety of speakers and panels with various viewpoints, including those of political, religious and business leaders.