By Liz Warren-Pederson
The UA Office of Sustainability deployed about 100 pre-business freshmen to collect data assessing the environmental impact of Homecoming festivities, initiating a first-of-its-kind research project to reduce the environmental footprint of this massive annual event from one year to the next.
The students, all enrolled in the honors section of Bill Neumann’s MIS 111: Computers and the Inter-Networked Society, contributed nearly 500 hours of work to the project. Pre-business freshman Rachel Hansen was among them, roaming campus with a 20-question survey.
Allegra Amend, also a pre-business freshman, pointed out that other MIS 111 honors students attended special Homecoming events and dinners to observe the resources used. “This included counting the number of attendees, the amount of food being served, and the kinds and amount of energy the event used,” she said. “The information will help the Office of Sustainability analyze the kinds of resources the individual Homecoming events require so that future resources can be allocated in greener, more sustainable ways.”
“This was a great chance for the students to get involved and contribute to an event at the University,” said Neumann.
Amend agreed. “This project made me realize that my business experience extends much further than Eller,” she said. “I can bring my knowledge and ideas to many other areas on the UA campus. I feel that my honors experience has allowed me to discuss and think critically about different topics of MIS, which has added to my excitement for future business classes.”
“The students learned firsthand about project management and planning under uncertainty,” added Neumann. “They also got to work with peers from other majors, including engineering, and get to see how data collection for an experiment is done. In the soft skills area, they learned about interviewing and working in teams. For freshmen, we packed a lot into a single experience.”
According to Joe Abraham, director of the Office of Sustainability, the data collected by the students will be integrated into a life-cycle analysis (LCA) model to estimate the full impact of UA Homecoming events and attendees, from air travel to waste streams. Considered state-of-the-art, LCA provides a more comprehensive picture of impacts and thus opportunities to reduce, but until now has not been applied to very large events.
“It is so important to me that the UA sets an example as a leading sustainable university,” Amend said. “Homecoming can be another way to involve faculty, students, and staff in being a part of the green movement.”
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