Reaching for STARS
By John H. Gormley, AIA, Campus Architect/Director, Planning Design & Construction
“The outcomes from this process include the comprehensive assessment of sustainability initiatives and procedures at CI, but more important, by embracing our Mission to place students at the center of the educational experience, two graduating seniors are now trained to be experienced members of the work force and ambassadors for change for sustainability.” - John Gormley
A year ago, CI began a comprehensive assessment to measure our sustainability performance in curriculum and research, operations, and administrative policies and procedures. CI selected the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) as the critical first step of the sustainability strategic initiative that is part of CI’s five-year strategic plan. STARS provides a transparent framework for reporting our efforts to the campus and other colleges and universities for a meaningful comparison on a common set of parameters.
As current co-chairs of the Sustainability Task Force, Dan Wakelee, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and I felt that student involvement would be an opportunity for students to learn more about their University and how to organize a comprehensive effort requiring input from across the campus constituencies. Judy Gamboa (BS Environmental Science & Resource Management ’11) and Laurel Replogle (BA English ’11) were hired to work on the project last spring. Judy worked with Dan on the Education & Research credits, collecting data on the curriculum and research activities that integrate sustainability by researching the course catalog, asking faculty about the content of their coursework, and identifying research projects with a focus on sustainability. Judy’s studies helped her in understanding where to look and who to ask for the information, but she also gained valuable experience in the development of a process to accurately track the data and prepare it for input into the STARS reporting website. Judy said that she has gained better research and organizational skills and learned how to effectively communicate with groups that have differing focuses.
Laurel began with no background on sustainability and little understanding about campus operations. Working closely with me on the Operations credits, she began by identifying the requirements for each credit, organizing a procedure for the collection of data and synthesizing it into a form that complies with the reporting requirements. By the fall 2010 semester, she had already collected 75% of the information. More importantly, she learned a great deal about her University, how sustainable we are and how we can improve upon this. Laurel adds, “In retrospect, I learned more than I ever would have if I just studied English. English has taught me how to write, be creative, and explore different issues; however, this job allowed me to use those skills.”
Both Judy and Laurel are now champions for sustainability on campus, speaking to student groups, writing articles for various campus periodicals and developing CI’s sustainability web page, as well as life-long friends. For more information visit http://www.csuci.edu/sustainability.