May 20, 2012

Sustainability coordinator candidates visit campus

The search to fill Knox’s newly created sustainability coordinator position is nearing completion, with two of the final three candidates having visited campus this past week.

Announced in February, the creation of the position is intended to provide a central locus for campus sustainability efforts. The sustainability coordinator will not only initiate projects but also work with student groups to bring their ideas to fruition.

The first candidate, Shawn Tubb, spoke on Tuesday, May 15 to around 20 students, faculty and staff. The second, Zia Brucaya, spoke on Wednesday, May 16 to a slightly larger audience. Both candidates began with stories from their parents’ farms to explain how they had become interested in sustainability.

“I learned the value of just diving in and trying hands-on projects — that any of us can do that kind of work,” Brucaya said. “It doesn’t have to be scary.”

Brucaya moved from her parents’ farm to study art history in college and later earn a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Wisconsin. Currently, she works at the Sitka Conservation Society as the Conservation Solutions Coordinator, building relationships between businesses and community members in Sitka, Alaska.

“This is a way we can create social change,” she said. “We can help build communities where people love to be, where people are proud of where they’re living.”

Tubb, who has a dual master’s degree in architecture and community planning and previously served as sustainability coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, mentioned the allure of a small campus in terms of building relationships between a variety of constituencies.

“I feel like you’d be able to see the change you’re making on an almost daily basis and have that one-on-one interaction with a lot more people,” he said.

While at Cincinnati, Tubb created a bike-sharing program after finding an unused space on campus in which to base it. He also spearheaded a biweekly lecture series, expanded recycling and put together a green roof master plan, all while his position remained without a budget for two years.

“I think not having money is sometimes actually a benefit because it makes you more creative,” Tubb said.

Brucaya echoed his sentiments during her forum after an audience member pointed Knox’s monetary shortfalls.

“I have no concern about working with limited funds,” she said.

Whatever initiatives they implement at Knox, both candidates discussed the importance of publicizing them as evidence of the college’s commitment to sustainability. Tubb mentioned similar problems that he had encountered at Cincinnati.

“Just like at Knox College, a lot of stuff had been happening for years, but … most people didn’t realize half of these things were happening,” he said.

Brucaya also mentioned communicating ideas about sustainability to nontraditional audiences, including students who may not take an interest in environmentalism.

“I don’t like working in stereotypes, and I feel like the idea of sustainability … gets put in a box,” she said. “So that’s something I really want to work on: making these concepts and this movement accessible to everyone.”

Overall, students were impressed with both candidates, citing the alignment between their ideas and projects already in the works at Knox.

“Almost everything he [Tubb] talked about is already in the works here; it just needs that extra push of support,” junior Josh Gunter said.

“She [Brucaya] has a lot of good ideas and already is thinking about things that we’ve started, so I think that’s really good that she had those ideas before she even knew what we were doing,” sophomore Emily Cooney said.

The final candidate for the position will speak on Tuesday, May 22 at 4 p.m. in Ferris Lounge, with the intention of having a decision made before the end of the term.

Anna Meier

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