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Green living, eco-internships all part of UB’s new Sustainability Academy

Sustainability Academy students

Sustainability Academy students volunteered at a community garden on Aug. 21 as part of an Undergraduate Academies event. 

Published September 24, 2013

“We aim to give Sustainability Academy students the tools to productively reflect on the impact they are having here on campus and throughout their life”
Kenneth Shockley, Sustainability Academy's Academic Director
Professor of Philosophy

Eco-minded students will have the chance to intern with environmental organizations and get a behind-the-scenes look at UB’s operations this year, thanks to the university’s new Sustainability Academy.

The program, launched this fall, is one of five Undergraduate Academies that enable students with shared interests to live and learn together at UB.

Each academy hosts activities unique to its theme, ranging from seminars to movie nights. The Entrepreneurship Academy co-sponsors an entrepreneur’s bootcamp this fall, for instance, while the Civic Engagement Academy organizes service learning events that bring students into Buffalo to work with organizations like Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

In its inaugural year, the Sustainability Academy will host seminars related to sustainability, facilitate student participation in a wide range of projects like the planting of a food garden on UB’s North Campus next spring, and place undergraduates in internships with GrowWNY through the Western New York Environmental Alliance. Partners that play a key role in helping to facilitate these and other activities include the UB Office of Sustainability and Campus Dining & Shops.

Academy members can live in residences including Lehman Hall, where the university is planning to install dashboards that track — in real time — how much energy the building is using. The devices will give residents a means to monitor their collective consumption and compare past and current usage.

In the future, this technology will complement another opportunity for students: There are plans to provide students the chance to see how various UB facilities, like low-waste dining halls run by Campus Dining & Shops, operate behind the scenes.

“We aim to give Sustainability Academy students the tools to productively reflect on the impact they are having here on campus and throughout their life,” said Kenneth Shockley, the program’s academic director. “We want to use the university and the community as a living laboratory. We want students to see how we can live more responsibly, and how they might tread lightly on the planet.”

The Sustainability Academy’s first class includes 48 freshmen majoring in many different fields.

Many of the students participated in their first academy event on Aug. 21, heading out to the city of Buffalo to weed, shovel and build paths in community gardens as part of a service learning day that brought all five Undergraduate Academies together.

The event, which benefited Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo and the Food Bank of WNY, was the first of many this year that partners the Sustainability Academy with other organizations within and outside of UB.

Other major sustainability-themed activities in 2013-14 will include the Office of Sustainability’s ongoing Sustainability Film Series, which is open to the public. The next screening, on Sept. 19, is of “A Fierce Green Fire,” which chronicles the environmental movement of the past half century, examining issues from conservation to climate change.

For more information on UB’s Undergraduate Academies, which currently serve 950 students, visit