Building the Bridge
A collaboration between academics and research The Office of Sustainability, or OS, embarks on a mission to encourage the University of Wisconsin-Madison to join many other universities efforts in combining education and research with science and physical practices. The idea of sustainability reaches many areas of campus through infrastructure developments, scientific and agricultural research while focusing on the UW and Madison community. Co-director Faramarz Vakili believes the Office should concentrate on some core issues including water, finance, energy, health, food and community. The OS hosted a launch in March of this year as a way to highlight the work that
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has been completed thus far, as well as where the advisory board, leadership and task force hopes to go in the future. The board members use the accomplishments and goals of the OS to show how its existence is crucial to the growth of campus as a higher-education insitution while merging sustainable research and academia. This collaboration will assist UW-Madison in reducing waste and energy through a financially efficient system that leads to longer lasting sustainable practices across campus. The idea behind the OS as a campus wide resource is to help improve conservation while reducing waste so both are incorporated into daily routines. Frank Kooistra is a UW-Madison faculty member who wears many hats. His involvement with the OS is with working to coordinate the operations side of the OS’s initiative. Working closely with the teaching and research coordinator, Sabrina Bradshaw, Kooistra is able to help implement the goals and aspirations of the OS.
There’s an important difference between being efficient and being sustainable. Kooistra, Bradshaw and roughly 25 other involved members offer an abundance of information including organizations, university departments and courses as well as scholarship opportunities that educate the UW-Madison community on how to get involved with the OS’s efforts. Co-director Vakili says there is an important difference between being efficient and being sustainable. Vakili and other don’t want to just reduce waste and lower the campus’ energy consumption but rather establish methods that can become ingrained into dayto-day routines and replicated in the future. This is done by combining classroom curriciulum with research-based practices in a variety of disciplines. One way the Office will reach its goals is through student and community involvement. The OS website offers information on how to get involved, ‘Op-
Research portunities’. This ‘Opportunities’ section lists the organizations the OS has made relationships with in order to spread awareness about sustainability through active engagement. A few examples include the Environmental Studies Club, ReThink Wisconsin and FH King Students for Sustainable Agriculture. These three have their own mission and vision for creating sustainable methods regarding the environment in general, food and waste reduction specifically as well as agriculture and farming practices.
These organizations and others similar are giving students the resources to make conservation and waste reduction a priority. Due to the OS’s support, the methods and sustainable practices developed in student organizations can be spread across campus and into the Madison community. Another component of the Office’s eagerness to involve undergraduate and
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Academics graduate students is through competitions and grants. Vakili believes the Office’s duty lies in facilitating solutions through creating and fostering partnerships while offering assistance with funding. The Wisconsin Idea Fellowship is one that the OS supports, and encourages the students selected to implement a sustainable method that can be applied here on campus or abroad. The OS offers their contribution to these projects in order to help students reach their goals and make a difference. Similar to the scholarship portion of involvement the OS has recently introduced two internship opportunities. The internships are designed to promote active participation from academic and research projects on campus. The Got Ideas? internship is unlike a traditional internship, however, encourages students to present an idea or work to establish the growth of an existing idea. The OS can offer their resources and guidance, which will compliment the student’s efforts. The application process for the Got Ideas? internship states how the OS will offer logistical, technical and financial support while
helping the student make connections on campus. Vakili closes his speech at the OS launch with a quote that incorporates the OS’s mission statement while giving direction for a more sustainable future. “We will know when we have reached our goal when we can look ourselves in the eye and know that we care, we think, we learn, we discover, we influence, we conserve” said Vakili.
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