By Liz Warren-Pederson
Sixty students from eleven universities nationwide gathered at the College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business for theCorporate & College Collaborative for Sustainability. The conference, sponsored byIBM, brought together students, faculty, and business leaders to create new paths in sustainability education.
Pre-business honors students Elizabeth Schmitt and Kjersti Johnson were among the 60 students who participated. “I found out about the conference when Dr. Bill Neumann told our MIS 111 Honors class about it,” said Schmitt. “He invited our class to apply.”
“This year’s Honors Showcase has a sustainability theme,” said Neumann, senior lecturer in MIS. “When I found out about the conference, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.” Five UA students were able to attend — Schmitt and Johnson’s participation was funded through the Dean’s Excellence Fund, and three additional students from the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences were supported by their school.
“I thought it was a great opportunity, especially as a freshman, and because I am pursuing a dual degree in anthropology and business,” Schmitt said. “Sustainability integrates these two majors and I thought the conference would be a great way to learn about how I could take something crucial and apply it in a business setting.”
“I learned so much from the event, but my biggest takeaways were from students from other schools,” Johnson said. “Hearing what other universities around the country are doing was really interesting and eye-opening. Some schools take a sustainable approach to everything from their buildings to their food service.”
“My biggest takeaway from the event was the Do One Thing, or DOT campaign,” Schmitt said. “The DOT campaign advocates committing to one small thing that will impact the world. For example, my DOT is to turn the air in my dorm room off when no one is in the room. It’s a small, simple action that will save energy in the long run.”
“Aaron Schiller [global director of sustainability, Saatchi & Saatchi] was a speaker at the conference and said something I had never thought of: sustainability isn’t just environmental, but also social, economic, and cultural,” added Johnson. “This concept really makes sustainability relatable to all.”
“The leaders of the Corporate & College Collaborative for Sustainability challenged universities to take the feedback from students and think critically about the curriculum and extracurricular organizations to find a way to change education and create a business world with stronger global connections and more creative leadership,” Schmitt said.
“I plan to meet with the other UA attendees in the coming weeks,” Schmitt said. “We’ll further discuss ideas generated at William & Mary that can be implemented here at the UA.”
Neumann said through the Honors Showcase project this semester, the students will identify sustainability-related challenges on campus and propose solutions. “The best thing about working with freshman is how creative they are in their thinking,” he said. “At this stage in their careers, they don’t know what they can’t do.”