Preserving a Changing Earth

They’re everywhere: in our classrooms, by sidewalks, even in the dorms. Recycling bins are taking over our campus. These paper, plastic and aluminum receptacles have been popping up all over the place, and really, it’s an indication that MSU is taking the phrase “Go Green” to a whole new level.
In September 2000, a group of concerned faculty members received a three-year grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to take action on campus to help the environment. When the grant expired, MSU trustees agreed to keep financing the group: this move resulted in the creation of the Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS).
But it’s not only the environment that the OCS is concerned with. “Sustainability is about long-term perspectives – environmental, social, and economic,” OCS Director Terry Link said. The goal of sustainability is to ensure a livable world in the future by conserving and managing resources today.
Many things the OCS does aren’t easy to see. One of the first actions with the grant was changing the light bulbs in campus buildings to be more energy-efficient by installing compact fluorescent bulbs and motion sensors. Quick switches of a light bulb cut carbon dioxide emissions drastically and save loads of valuable energy.
MSU’s commitment to doing little things, like changing light bulbs, paid off last September when it was named a campus sustainability leader by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. MSU was one of four schools, along with Middlebury College and Green Mountain College, both in Vermont, that were recognized for their dedication to sustainability in administration, education, research, and actions. MSU accomplished this by having the least emissions per square feet of building, incorporating hybrid vehicles into the university’s fleet of cars and serving fair-trade coffee in the cafeterias and coffeehouses, among other things. MSU also has a campus-wide recycling program and works to reach out to the community. OCS invites guest speakers to campus to inform students, faculty and community members about various issues related to the future of the world.
Other colleges are starting to do their part as well, according to the association’s report. The University of California at Berkeley received an honorable mention for the award because of its goal to reduce emissions to 1990 levels. Closer to home, the University of Michigan is pitching in to the sustainability cause by maintaining a recycling program and having the greenest fleet of passenger vehicles of all U.S. universities: 87 percent used alternative fuels in 2006.
But organizing projects like these for MSU’s 46,000-student, 5,192-acre campus isn’t an easy thing to do.
“The size of the system creates a challenge,” Link said. For example, MSU used about 2.8 million eggs last year, but all those eggs can’t come from Michigan farmers, so money and energy needs to be spent to get them here. Sustainability actions seek to meet the challenge of getting needed materials to MSU with maximum input to the economy, but minimum impact on the environment.
Global warming has put the environmental protection aspect of sustainability at the forefront. “Global climate change is a scientific fact,” Stuart Gage, a professor of natural resources, said. “There are significant patterns of warming with strong evidence of human impact. There’s evidence in this all over – birds are migrating earlier, insects like Japanese beetles that have never been in Michigan are showing up.” [gage]
Now more than ever, many students are beginning to notice the seriousness of the climate changing. “I definitely think that global warming is a problem,” interior design freshman Kelsey Blakkan-Strauss said. “I think if the ice caps melt, it won’t directly affect Michigan like it will Florida, but it will be felt somehow.”
The loss of coastal land is just one of a wide array of problems that may occur if sustainability is ignored. Researchers predict the future holds melting ice caps, overpopulation and economic decline.
While MSU students are beginning to accept the reality of the issue, taking action and changing their lifestyles can often be the most difficult part of being “green.” Issues like climate change, use of natural resources and land use are significantly related to sustainability, but getting students to realize their impacts, and motivate them to reduce it, isn’t always easy.
“I recycle and pick up litter,” Blakkan-Strauss said. “But it’s not like I go around picking up trash as a hobby.”
The main issue the sustainability cause faces is awareness of the ecological choices that students make everyday. “Some people care, others just don’t give a hoot,” Link said. “The question we have to ask is, ‘Are we graduating students who understand what their choices mean?'”
It’s not easy to get most students to look at their ecological impact 50 years from now – most of them are focused on their test next Wednesday or the big game on Saturday. “Generally, there is a lack of knowledge, that environmental and economical effects don’t effect everyone,” said sociology junior Skye Black. “There’s a feeling of invincibility – most people don’t see what’s happening on earth, so they don’t think it will effect them.” However, some organizations, like Be (Spartan) Green, are trying to raise awareness on campus and inform students on how they can help.
The Be (Spartan) Green campaign has put posters up around campus and has a Web site with features to teach students how to be more environmentally friendly. The basis of the campaign is to get students and faculty to “think, act, live” green everywhere.
“What you’re seeing around campus is the beginning of communication of what we’ve been doing,” said Jennifer Sowa, project coordinator in the office of the vice president for finance & operations and environmental stewardship communications team leader. The Be (Spartan) Green program is more than the ads you see around campus, they’ve been studying students habits when it comes to things like how much food they waste and recycling. “We want to reduce input to the campus and reduce harmful output from campus.”
Another initiative, Residential Initiative for Studies of the Environment (RISE), works to breed awareness among students about the sustainability issue. Students from all majors can be in RISE, a residential option in Hubbard Hall. Along with dorming together to promote sustainable living, they also take classes that allow them to graduate with an Environmental Studies specialization. Black is also a member in the RISE program and feels strongly about the issue. “When I think about sustainability, the word balance comes to mind.” Black said. “There should be a balance between what we take from the earth and what we put back in. Right now, it’s very unbalanced.”
When it comes down to it, sustainability is an evolving idea, one that continues to develop as more information becomes available. “There are more questions than answers,” Link said. We’re unsure of all the problems, and even more unsure of how to solve them. Since there’s no way to track exactly how much each person impacts the world, there’s no easy way to show what the problems are. Without that instant gratification, people are not easily drawn to care about sustainability. It’s no small wonder when you consider that it’s based on getting people to turn lights off and understand fair-trade practices in Africa.
Seeing as there is no specific path to creating a sustainable environment, finding support for such a long-term project can be a challenge. Though MSU was awarded for its efforts in sustainability, there are still issues in trying to gain support, especially financial support, for its endeavors.
There are also some people that disagree with the reality and urgency of the climate change crisis. “The earth goes through natural cycles of heating and cooling,” Gage said. Some people aren’t sure whether or not the small increase in temperatures is due to human impact or if it’s part of the globe’s natural cycle, but it has been proven that these temperatures are rising faster than they would, which is an effect of overuse of fossil fuels. “If we take the short view, say over the next 100 years, the impact won’t be that great, but in the long term, it adds up.”
Finding inexpensive, easy ways to reduce MSU’s global impact isn’t an easy task. “We spend about $28 million on fuel every year, and there are a lot of fuels that are greener, but more expensive,” Link said. “So, where does that money come from?”
An important aspect of OCS is it’s still a very young program. As time goes on and people realize climate change isn’t the only reason sustainability is an issue, its scope will expand, and the program will have greater success in obtaining funds and the means to make campus “green.”
[stanley] MSU’s commitment to sustainability isn’t only good for its own campus. Since MSU is an integral part of Michigan as a whole, the more MSU does to preserve ecosystems, the more other organizations and individuals will follow. “We are a big part of the state and the area we’re in,” psychology junior Sandte Stanley said. “The things we do won’t affect our generation as much as it will our children and our children’s children.”
Being named a campus sustainability leader by the AASHE means MSU works toward not only being a green campus, but toward educating everyone involved with the university about ecological and economic responsibility. Today’s younger generation is being charged with taking care of the world. It is, after all, the generation with the technology, purchasing power and ambition to change how the world thinks and acts about its own future.
But how to start on this daunting task? Asking everyone to take a huge step like buying a new hybrid car isn’t the way – small steps are key. Small things like changing one regular light bulb for a compact fluorescent bulb, buying local fruit, and utilizing the recycling bins that have cropped up everywhere are a good start.

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Dormitory Makeover

After living on campus for a year or two, students discover which dorms have the nicest rooms, the best location and the tastiest food, and students clamber for rooms in the most sought-after dorms. It’s very likely that all of the hoopla surrounding the remodeling of Snyder-Phillips drew the attention of the dorm-dwellers, and Ngan Kim Nguyen knew exactly what she was doing when she signed up for a room in the highly-advertised pair of dorms. Nguyen is a political theory junior and lives on the third floor of Phillips hall in a single. She’s hopped around campus, living in both Gilchrist and Case halls, but settled on the revamped Snyder-Phillips for her third year in the dorms. “I like the old feel and architecture of these buildings, and I like the new interior,” Nguyen said.
[d1] The charm of the hall’s old architecture meeting the updated interior is the result of a year of extensive renovations. It’s doubtful any student didn’t notice the intense construction taking place last year, and after a few semesters’ worth of switching routes to classes in order to avoid the area completely, students are now welcome in the historic part of campus. Snyder-Phillips hall has re-opened and is now home to the new Residential College of Arts and Humanities – and as a bonus, it also houses a fancy new cafeteria called The Gallery.
The Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH) is the newest living-learning program on MSU’s campus. Living-learning programs house students with similar majors together in one dormitory. Classrooms, faculty offices and labs are also contained in the building where students live. “Students feel positive about living-learning programs,” said Cindy Helman, the coordinator of Living Learning Programs. “They’re surrounded by people with the same interests.”
In 2006, 1,940 freshmen students, or about one-third of the total freshman class, were in living-learning programs, between the Lyman Briggs College of natural sciences and James Madison College of social science, the oldest residential programs at MSU. “[These programs] are key for undergraduate education, especially in large schools,” Helman said. Because the students in these dorms share majors and a living space, they also often share time together in extra-curricular activities, creating a strong base for relationships. For some, these programs help students find their niche at MSU, which can often be challenging due to the size of the university.
Brandon Bourdganis, an international and social relations sophomore in James Madison, benefits from the academic support. “It’s nice because the intellectual thought continues from the classroom to where you live,” he said.
[steve1]Because a living-learning option is attractive to so many, it is something valuable to East Lansing that high school students seriously consider when applying to colleges. “Students are drawn to Lyman Briggs and James Madison because they want to be doctors or lawyers, but for a long time, there was no force like that for the arts and humanities,” said RCAH Dean Steve Esquith. Prospective students in the humanities can now look to RCAH the same way students interested in science and politics have looked to Lyman Briggs and James Madison for years. RCAH, along with smaller programs such as ROSES for engineering students and BROAD for business majors have broadened MSU’s scope for living-learning options. The ROSES, or Residential Option for Science and Engineering, was formed in 1993, and its students are housed in Bailey Hall. BROAD, within the Eli Broad College of Business, is a more recent living-learning program that was formed in 2006. Students are accepted to the BROAD program on an invitation-only basis and are housed in Shaw Hall.
Much of the initial push for this project came on behalf of the administration. In her 2004 manifesto, “Realizing the Vision,” President Lou Anna K. Simon recommended creating another residential option for arts and humanities students when she was serving as the provost. “Strengthening the degree-oriented residential options offers the promise of attracting and engaging a wider range of students, including high-ability students from outside Michigan,” Simon wrote. Attracting more students, especially those from out of state, is a necessary step in expanding the university’s reach and reputation.
Enter: Snyder-Phillips. The building’s need for renovation and the university’s need for a location for the new residential college led Snyder-Phillips to be the logical answer for the new home of the RCAH.
The dorms are facing more competition from non-dorm housing options, leading to an exodus of upperclassmen off-campus. “We can’t be complacent,” said Paul Goldblatt, director of Residence Life. “We need to stay on top of trends and focus on those things that will keep students on campus.” But what will keep students on campus when the plethora of apartments, condominiums and houses behind Grand River Avenue seems so appealing? Installing WiFi in residence halls, offering more single-person rooms and creating an overall feeling that is more like an apartment and less like a dorm could be the answer.
Well…Snyder-Phillips has WiFi. The third floor of each building is strictly singles. There’s even a coffee shop outside the cafe. [phil1]
The updated building is unfinished as of now, with only living areas and the dining room in use, but when it is complete, it will contain classrooms, faculty offices, and even an art gallery. The closest thing to art in students’ houses off-campus is an intricately designed beer pong table at a frat house or a mural of red and orange flames at a co-op.
Although much off-campus housing may lack artistic touches, students are able to avoid some of the mysterious cuisine that appears in campus cafeterias. However, it seems Snyder-Phillips has taken care of this woe as well. “I like terming it a restaurant, not a dining cafeteria,” Dining Services Manager Kurt Kwiatkowski said. With its six dining choices, from “The Berg,” which offers gourmet-style salads, to “Latitudes,” serving different styles of world cuisine, students have more choices when it comes to eating in the dorms. The cafeteria, named the Gallery, is focused on following trends in food preparation. “We’re trying fresher products, looking at anything from Michigan we can get,” Kwiatkowski said. “Entrée salads are (very popular).”
The Gallery’s motto is “experience the art of food,” and one of its aims is to show students about what good food is. “One of my goals is food education,” Kwiatkowski said. “Let’s show them crème brulée and let them taste it.” And students seem to be responding well to this specialty treatment, coming out of the woodwork all over campus to try out the new dining experience. “Everything is very, very positive,” said Kwiatkowski. ‘Students don’t mind waiting for the food. We have people living in Brody coming out here two or three times a day … the first week we were open, we were getting about 1,000 students for lunch and dinner from other residence halls.”
Increasingly, students that live off-campus are choosing to not eat in the dorm cafeterias. However, the promises of many choices and late hours at the Gallery are bringing non-residents back into the cafeterias. “I’ve noticed a lot of people from off-campus paying for their meals,” said finance junior Kristina Cowden, a member of the Gallery’s kitchen staff. Drawing the interest of students all across campus is the result of a combination of things. “I like it here because it’s high-class; the set-up and atmosphere are really nice,” English sophomore Goldie Currie said, who travels the short distance from Mason Hall to eat at the Gallery.
“Everything here is hot – it’s made just for you,” Cowden said. “It’s nicer and it’s what you’d expect from a school like MSU.” With higher tuition and living prices, students and their families are counting on more from the university. The duo of the Gallery and RCAH are showing just how far that money can go.
Although the remodeled dormitories are getting a lot of attention from students, there are students who feel the whole set-up is a bit too fancy. Sometimes students want to grab a quick bite in between classes, and the wait required for many of the dining options might be too much. Sometimes, students just want a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, not a three-cheese panini sandwich with gazpacho. “There’s really not that much variety,” Nguyen said. “I mean, there are more stands, but most of them serve the same thing all the time. In Case (Hall), virtually everything is fried, and I liked that. It was a lot of comfort food.”
Another downfall to the living-learning option is the high probability these students may form a sort of “bubble” community. It also has the potential to breed a lot of cliques within the college. This could be problematic if students share similar academic schedules. Bourdganis has noticed some of the negative aspects of living together with his James Madison peers. “[Living in Case] gets really stressful around midterms,” he said. “It’s stressful because you have something like 100 people stressing out about the same thing.” [phil2]
Besides bringing Snyder-Phillips into the 21st century, the new residential option helps individual students do well in classes. By having the students live in the same building as the faculty offices, an open dialogue between students and instructors is enabled. RCAH faculty also is working with the new building to personalize students’ university experiences. Ideas such as language tables in the Gallery, where students can gather with a language instructor, and a poetry center in Snyder-Phillips Hall are in the works.
If the new Snyder-Phillips is any indication, the future of dorm life looks exciting. The meshing of academics and living is beneficial to students, both academically and socially. “Students retain their relationships with faculty and neighbors after they leave the programs,” said Helman. If the university keeps evolving by expanding and integrating residential options and by paying attention to detail in dining areas, students will leave college with more than a degree – they’ll leave with a truly personalized college experience.

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Dormitory Makeover

After living on campus for a year or two, students discover which dorms have the nicest rooms, the best location and the tastiest food, and students clamber for rooms in the most sought-after dorms. It’s very likely that all of the hoopla surrounding the remodeling of Snyder-Phillips drew the attention of the dorm-dwellers, and Ngan Kim Nguyen knew exactly what she was doing when she signed up for a room in the highly-advertised pair of dorms. Nguyen is a political theory junior and lives on the third floor of Phillips hall in a single. She’s hopped around campus, living in both Gilchrist and Case halls, but settled on the revamped Snyder-Phillips for her third year in the dorms. “I like the old feel and architecture of these buildings, and I like the new interior,” Nguyen said.
[d1] The charm of the hall’s old architecture meeting the updated interior is the result of a year of extensive renovations. It’s doubtful any student didn’t notice the intense construction taking place last year, and after a few semesters’ worth of switching routes to classes in order to avoid the area completely, students are now welcome in the historic part of campus. Snyder-Phillips hall has re-opened and is now home to the new Residential College of Arts and Humanities – and as a bonus, it also houses a fancy new cafeteria called The Gallery.
The Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH) is the newest living-learning program on MSU’s campus. Living-learning programs house students with similar majors together in one dormitory. Classrooms, faculty offices and labs are also contained in the building where students live. “Students feel positive about living-learning programs,” said Cindy Helman, the coordinator of Living Learning Programs. “They’re surrounded by people with the same interests.”
In 2006, 1,940 freshmen students, or about one-third of the total freshman class, were in living-learning programs, between the Lyman Briggs College of natural sciences and James Madison College of social science, the oldest residential programs at MSU. “[These programs] are key for undergraduate education, especially in large schools,” Helman said. Because the students in these dorms share majors and a living space, they also often share time together in extra-curricular activities, creating a strong base for relationships. For some, these programs help students find their niche at MSU, which can often be challenging due to the size of the university.
Brandon Bourdganis, an international and social relations sophomore in James Madison, benefits from the academic support. “It’s nice because the intellectual thought continues from the classroom to where you live,” he said.
[steve1]Because a living-learning option is attractive to so many, it is something valuable to East Lansing that high school students seriously consider when applying to colleges. “Students are drawn to Lyman Briggs and James Madison because they want to be doctors or lawyers, but for a long time, there was no force like that for the arts and humanities,” said RCAH Dean Steve Esquith. Prospective students in the humanities can now look to RCAH the same way students interested in science and politics have looked to Lyman Briggs and James Madison for years. RCAH, along with smaller programs such as ROSES for engineering students and BROAD for business majors have broadened MSU’s scope for living-learning options. The ROSES, or Residential Option for Science and Engineering, was formed in 1993, and its students are housed in Bailey Hall. BROAD, within the Eli Broad College of Business, is a more recent living-learning program that was formed in 2006. Students are accepted to the BROAD program on an invitation-only basis and are housed in Shaw Hall.
Much of the initial push for this project came on behalf of the administration. In her 2004 manifesto, “Realizing the Vision,” President Lou Anna K. Simon recommended creating another residential option for arts and humanities students when she was serving as the provost. “Strengthening the degree-oriented residential options offers the promise of attracting and engaging a wider range of students, including high-ability students from outside Michigan,” Simon wrote. Attracting more students, especially those from out of state, is a necessary step in expanding the university’s reach and reputation.
Enter: Snyder-Phillips. The building’s need for renovation and the university’s need for a location for the new residential college led Snyder-Phillips to be the logical answer for the new home of the RCAH.
The dorms are facing more competition from non-dorm housing options, leading to an exodus of upperclassmen off-campus. “We can’t be complacent,” said Paul Goldblatt, director of Residence Life. “We need to stay on top of trends and focus on those things that will keep students on campus.” But what will keep students on campus when the plethora of apartments, condominiums and houses behind Grand River Avenue seems so appealing? Installing WiFi in residence halls, offering more single-person rooms and creating an overall feeling that is more like an apartment and less like a dorm could be the answer.
Well…Snyder-Phillips has WiFi. The third floor of each building is strictly singles. There’s even a coffee shop outside the cafe. [phil1]
The updated building is unfinished as of now, with only living areas and the dining room in use, but when it is complete, it will contain classrooms, faculty offices, and even an art gallery. The closest thing to art in students’ houses off-campus is an intricately designed beer pong table at a frat house or a mural of red and orange flames at a co-op.
Although much off-campus housing may lack artistic touches, students are able to avoid some of the mysterious cuisine that appears in campus cafeterias. However, it seems Snyder-Phillips has taken care of this woe as well. “I like terming it a restaurant, not a dining cafeteria,” Dining Services Manager Kurt Kwiatkowski said. With its six dining choices, from “The Berg,” which offers gourmet-style salads, to “Latitudes,” serving different styles of world cuisine, students have more choices when it comes to eating in the dorms. The cafeteria, named the Gallery, is focused on following trends in food preparation. “We’re trying fresher products, looking at anything from Michigan we can get,” Kwiatkowski said. “Entrée salads are (very popular).”
The Gallery’s motto is “experience the art of food,” and one of its aims is to show students about what good food is. “One of my goals is food education,” Kwiatkowski said. “Let’s show them crème brulée and let them taste it.” And students seem to be responding well to this specialty treatment, coming out of the woodwork all over campus to try out the new dining experience. “Everything is very, very positive,” said Kwiatkowski. ‘Students don’t mind waiting for the food. We have people living in Brody coming out here two or three times a day … the first week we were open, we were getting about 1,000 students for lunch and dinner from other residence halls.”
Increasingly, students that live off-campus are choosing to not eat in the dorm cafeterias. However, the promises of many choices and late hours at the Gallery are bringing non-residents back into the cafeterias. “I’ve noticed a lot of people from off-campus paying for their meals,” said finance junior Kristina Cowden, a member of the Gallery’s kitchen staff. Drawing the interest of students all across campus is the result of a combination of things. “I like it here because it’s high-class; the set-up and atmosphere are really nice,” English sophomore Goldie Currie said, who travels the short distance from Mason Hall to eat at the Gallery.
“Everything here is hot – it’s made just for you,” Cowden said. “It’s nicer and it’s what you’d expect from a school like MSU.” With higher tuition and living prices, students and their families are counting on more from the university. The duo of the Gallery and RCAH are showing just how far that money can go.
Although the remodeled dormitories are getting a lot of attention from students, there are students who feel the whole set-up is a bit too fancy. Sometimes students want to grab a quick bite in between classes, and the wait required for many of the dining options might be too much. Sometimes, students just want a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, not a three-cheese panini sandwich with gazpacho. “There’s really not that much variety,” Nguyen said. “I mean, there are more stands, but most of them serve the same thing all the time. In Case (Hall), virtually everything is fried, and I liked that. It was a lot of comfort food.”
Another downfall to the living-learning option is the high probability these students may form a sort of “bubble” community. It also has the potential to breed a lot of cliques within the college. This could be problematic if students share similar academic schedules. Bourdganis has noticed some of the negative aspects of living together with his James Madison peers. “[Living in Case] gets really stressful around midterms,” he said. “It’s stressful because you have something like 100 people stressing out about the same thing.” [phil2]
Besides bringing Snyder-Phillips into the 21st century, the new residential option helps individual students do well in classes. By having the students live in the same building as the faculty offices, an open dialogue between students and instructors is enabled. RCAH faculty also is working with the new building to personalize students’ university experiences. Ideas such as language tables in the Gallery, where students can gather with a language instructor, and a poetry center in Snyder-Phillips Hall are in the works.
If the new Snyder-Phillips is any indication, the future of dorm life looks exciting. The meshing of academics and living is beneficial to students, both academically and socially. “Students retain their relationships with faculty and neighbors after they leave the programs,” said Helman. If the university keeps evolving by expanding and integrating residential options and by paying attention to detail in dining areas, students will leave college with more than a degree – they’ll leave with a truly personalized college experience.

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