Sustainability & Community Engagement Mini-Conference 2011

by Natalie Hambalek and Merith Weisman

In March, the Center for Community Engagement, the Sustainability Work Group, the Center for Teaching and Professional Development, and the Chair of Undergraduate Studies, co-hosted a the 2011 Sustainability & Community Engagement Mini-Conference. The Mini-Conference brought together faculty, students, staff and community organizations focusing on environmentalism and sustainability. More than twenty community organizations, including Landpaths, Sonoma County Timebank, and the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, participated.

Above, faculty, community partners and students sharing ideas for future collaboration.

SSU faculty and community representatives engaged in conversation facilitated by Michelle Edwards.  Faculty shared ideas about service-learning in their curriculum, while non-profit organization members voiced what they needed from SSU students. Wade Belew of Cotati Creek Critters expressed, “We finally “got it” with the variety of ways that students can work with non-profits.” Sandra Lupien of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition shared, “I really enjoyed the mini-conference, and got lots of good ideas and made great connections.” This initial conversation is critical for determining just the right level of reciprocity that service-learning requires.  Many connections and commitments were made and we look forward to seeing them grow.

Earlier, simultaneous sessions were held for faculty and community organizations.  The faculty members were prepped to engage with a presentation led by Kevin Kecskes, Associate Vice Provost for Engagement and Director of Community-University Partnerships at Portland State University. Kecskes was introduced by the Chair of Undergraduate Studies, John Kornfeld, who afterwards stated,

“I’m excited about the possibilities. Kevin was successful at inspiring me to follow through on my goal to increase community engagement in the freshmen transition courses. I’m looking forward to connecting with some of our community partners.”

Community organizations explored ways to access the resources of the University in a workshop hosted by Merith Weisman, coordinator of the CCE.  The 2011 Sustainability and Community Engagement mini-conference was a lot of fun and was even more successful than previous mini-conferences.   Be sure to look out for our sustainability event in spring 2012!


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