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Sustainability Focus at UW-Milwaukee Has Wide-Reaching Effects


This week, UWM is holding a sustainability symposium.

Chief sustainability officer Kate Nelson says the program has a serious thrust, but it also has its fun side, in an effort to engage students.

“There’s a recycle fashion show has been a feature for years during Earth Week events. And things concludes with a bicycle-powered concert on Thursday night, which is really, really fun. Those concerts are 100 percent powered by those bikes and if you pedal you’ll know why,” Nelson say.

Nelson is dead serious about the importance of the symposium Workshops range from workshops covering climate change and public health.

The Office of Sustainability came to life in 2008 and more recently the school earned Silver Rating in a nationwide Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System – known as STARS.

“This is the way we build the next step. This is the way we build the campus engagement. And we knew we had to put together a good program to bring everyone to the table around it,” Nelson says.

Last summer says she sent out a campus sustainability progress report to individuals directly involved in those efforts.

“It went out the 75 people who helped,” Nelson says.

She hopes to draw a much wider circle into the next step in planning.

“Because as much as we’ve done, I think there’s so many places to go and I want to hear from the campus about what those priorities should be,” Nelson says.

The symposium will end Friday, with what Nelson calls ‘a student advising – slash – therapy session.’

“I know that sounds a little bit strange, but it’s a moment to bring students in a more relaxed setting; to sit around and really go over the courses taught here in all the school and colleges; because they all have something to do with sustainability. That’s what we discovered in our report. To share that information, to broaden students opportunities on campus and then we’re also working with the career development center to say what do you want to be, what does a green job mean to you,” Nelson says.

Nelson believes building future campus growth and development with sustainability as the centerpiece, will draw and retain more students.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.