Western Washington University is looking to become part of a large, international networking organization called Ashoka — an investment company that promotes sustainability.
Anthropology senior lecturer Kathleen Saunders and her research methods class are conducting student interviews this quarter to determine how best Ashoka can make the campus greener.
Ashoka brings universities and businesses in connection with funding sources. That funding comes from an international network of private donors and organizations wishing to partner with change-makers — those who could be interested in furthering sustainability, LGBTQ community rights and social diversity.
Saunders’ class is seeking out student voices to find out what students think will help create sustainable change on campus.
“The campus feels like energy waiting to do something, and there are so many good efforts that exist,” Saunders said.
Student researchers are conducting face-to-face interviews with change-makers — basically anyone who works toward social change, Saunders said.
“I want to get the pulse of the campus on being change-makers,” Saunders said. “I just want a whole lot of student voice, so it is an accurate reflection of the student body.”
In previous quarters the class surveyed students and gathered ideas. The results brought Zoe’s Bagels and the quiet zone system in the library to Western.
The research this quarter, will aid Western’s application to become a certified university by Ashoka, Saunders said.
Western alumna and social entrepreneur Danica Kilander is heading the “change-makers” team, which brings like-minded people together to share ideas on how to continue making innovations to Western’s campus.
Western is sending seven representatives — a mix of students and staff members — to the Ashoka U Exchange at Brown University next month, Feb. 20-22. They will share ideas of social innovation in higher education, Kilander said.
Ashoka has connections internationally with a network of social entrepreneurs, which are people out there changing the world, Kilander said.
“The networking is huge,” she said.
Western is one of the first universities in the nation to have an Institute of Energy Studies, which practices clean energy education. Ashoka may help bring money to it and other programs, Kilander said.
“We already have strong programs, we have a strong vision and we have strong support from our administrators,” Kilander said. “If we come up with a collaborative project or idea, it’s going to be supported both by [Ashoka] and by our [university].”
Other programs at Western include the Green Energy Fee Grant Program, which is $7 added to tuition that pays for the total cost of energy use on campus and also provides a grant program that encourages sustainable technologies on campus.
Sadie Normoyle is a junior at Western studying environmental policy. She is also the Green Energy Fee education coordinator.
Since the program started in 2010, eco-friendly changes have sprouted all over campus. The solar panels on the Environmental Science Building, restorations to The Outback Farm in Fairhaven, water bottle hydration systems and MUG — a coffee mug rental system — are just a few of the projects that have been carried out using the GEF, Normoyle said.
“There is a culture on campus that is amenable to being change-makers, to being the change they want to see in the world,” Saunders said.
Saunders’ program is finding out what Western is doing to be sustainable and what we need to make it even better, Kilander said.
“The class will deliver the results of the study to the campus committee during final’s week of winter quarter,” Saunders said in an email. “The analysis will highlight student attitudes, values and practices around making social change.”