College wins prize in ES program competition
On Monday, April 2, the College was elected the national champion of the first March Madness Tournament for Environmental Science, winning $5,000.
A panel of expert judges in the field of environmental science judged the competition. Velislava Ivanova, the global sustainability practice director at the sustainable engineering company CH2M HILL, and Don Cuffel, the manager of environmental engineering at Valero/California.
This tournament, hosted by Enviance, a leading provider of environmental enterprise resource planning software, aimed to determine the college with the best undergraduate environmental studies and sustainability programs.
The competing schools went through three elimination stages: the “Sustainable 16,” “Environmental 8,” “Final 4” and then the panel announced the winning school, Colby. The College was asked to submit photos, videos and essays describing the strengths of the environmental science and sustainability programs.
However, for Associate Professor of Environmental Studies (ES) Philip Nyhus, this was more than just a tournament. “This was a small competition and award but, more than anything else, it showed the tremendous community of students, faculty and staff that the ES department has. It is an opportunity to celebrate Colby’s academic study and the green initiatives that Colby has embarked on. It is a reminder that when we work together we can create something special, like the ES program,” he said.
This is a mentality that seemed to reverberate across the ES department, as well as the rest of the College. Vice President Doug Terp and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer endorsed Colby’s ES program, signed a supporting letter and participated in the video that contributed to the tournament.
Visiting Assistant Environmental Science Professor Gail Carlson sent in an essay emphasizing one of the main themes of the ES program: human health and the environment. The College offers an array of courses in focus areas such as global public health, and Carlson, along with students, professors and staff, is instrumental in influencing Maine’s legislation. This includes initiating the Kids-Safe Products Act (KSPA) which would monitor and restrict toxic chemicals in children’s products. This is one of the many things that this tremendous collaboration has achieved.
“One thing I have learned is that Colby ES students are interested in making the most of their classroom learning, so they are willing to take risks and get involved in civic engagement and even political advocacy for environmental causes. Their passion knows no bounds, and they put that energy to good use in order to work for better protections for the environment and human health,” Carlson said.
The College’s ES program offers students the opportunity to explore this field through studying abroad, completing independent research, pioneering initiatives and taking the Green Cluster which explores different facets of ES.
Nyhus expressed that each year he is amazed by how passionate students are. He said that Sarah Sorensen ’11 worked tirelessly for four years to eliminate much of bottled water on campus and Steve Erario ’10 helped to win Maine’s third-biggest Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, worth $170,000, towards energy conservation in Waterville and Winslow.
Blair Braverman ’11 won national and international acclaim for her writing on environmental issues after graduating. “This shows how far commitment and passion can take you and Colby students remind me of this each and every day,” Nyhus said.
ES Program Coordinator Lia Morris compared the current world of environmental studies to when she was an undergraduate student in the 1990s, saying, “There was some momentum but not nearly as much as what is present today. That’s why it’s so neat to see students, faculty and staff immediately jump on the band-wagon when presented with the March Madness tournament. Besides this, Colby is located in Maine, which is at the cutting edge of environmental policy and initiative, making it the perfect classroom.”
Nyhus will be attending the award ceremony in San Diego from April 16-20 where he will lead a panel titled “What tomorrow’s Environmental Leaders Need to Know.”