Published May 3, 2021
UB Sustainability’s annual SLICE (Sustainability, Leadership, Innovation and Collaborative Engagement) awards recognize outstanding individuals and departments that exhibit a sincere commitment to transforming UB’s campuses into a holistically sustainable community through leadership, innovation and collaboration. Recipients are honored for efforts that demonstrate environmental stewardship, enhance social progress, or promote responsible economic prosperous systems.
Since 2015, awards have been announced at the conclusion of Sustainability Month, which celebrates sustainability in all forms at UB and beyond, as well as Earth Day. This year, the university showcased this breadth and depth by focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and unveiled a new academic platform showcasing the university’s engagement across all 17 SDGs.
Here are the 2021 SLICE award winners:
Award for Sustainability Excellence by a Department or Cross-Function Team: UB’s American Student Dental Association’s Sustainability Club, in recognition of the club’s collaboration and support of reduction, reuse and recycling of dental-specific equipment and supplies within the clinics at the School of Dental Medicine, including surgical mask, N95 and KN95 respirator recycling bins for dental clinics.
UB’s American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Sustainability Club was nominated for this award by Matthew Deck, director of clinical operations, and Matt Blum, director of student services, both at the dental school. Deck and Blum highlighted the following accomplishments:
“The ASDA Sustainability Club presented to the D1 (first-year) class regarding environmental sustainability in pre-clinic, giving them many tips to integrate into their education. They have also taken the environmental mantra of “reduce-reuse-recycle” to heart. The club is currently working closely with supply representatives to reduce the unnecessary purchase of dental materials; constructing a tooth hand-me-down program for students to encourage the reuse of hundreds of plastic teeth purchased annually; and has joined forces with UB dental administration to introduce TerraCycle Zero Waste Mask recycling bins to our school.
The club also collaborated with a local small business, “Life is Succulent,” to raise over $300 to support new recycling efforts. They have also sponsored an Earth Day plant sale and are in the process of planning the first “ASDA Sustainability Amazing Race,” where teams of students will travel around Buffalo to complete sustainable tasks. To accomplish all this in one year during a pandemic is extraordinary and worthy of honoring.”
Student Leadership Award for Sustainable Action: Senior Matthew Taboni, in recognition of his advocacy and leadership for increasing food accessibility to students in need on campus, and his sustainability leadership within the UB residence halls. Taboni has also been named a recipient of the 2021 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
Taboni was nominated by Brian Haggerty, senior associate director for residential life, and Rachel DiDomizio, assistant director of student engagement for community and civic engagement.
“Matt’s leadership within SA, RHA (Residence Hall Association) and the Blue Table food pantry has required him to take initiative, show maturity and go above and beyond what is required of most students,” says DiDomizio , in whose office Taboni has served as an intern for three years. “Because of his dedication, food insecure students have gotten the sustenance they needed.”
“Matt’s contributions as a student leader are representative of the stewardship we seek in transforming our campus into a holistically sustainable community,” says Haggerty. “His contributions as president of the Residence Hall Association, co-chair of the Blue Table program and being a foundational member of the Food Recovery Network are all examples of the meaningful work he has engaged in. His leadership, innovation and collaboration have made lasting impacts on UB.”
Faculty Award for Sustainability in Higher Education: Nicholas Rajkovich, associate professor architecture, in recognition of his work within the Resilient Buildings Lab at UB, and his collaborative effort in advancing UB’s climate action work.
Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, nominated Rajkovich and highlighted his leadership within climate resiliency and his pivotal work at UB.
“Nick is the ultimate climate ambassador, a passion he brings to his teaching, research and critical practice in architecture and urban planning,” says Shibley. “As a scholar, his combination of evidence-based practice and creative coalition-building has advanced innovations in climate resilient design for the university, our community and the built environment professions. His dedication carries into the classroom and studio, where he works tirelessly to prepare next-generation architects to design and build sustainably and in relationship to our local and global ecology.
“Embracing design activism, he pushes higher education and the disciplines of architecture and planning into new spaces of agency for climate resiliency.”
Rajkovich also leads the Sustainability Professional Skills Capstone graduate course that is playing a key role in providing students direct opportunities to work side by side with university administrators, faculty and staff in advancing UB’s Climate Action Plan.
Staff Award for Sustainable Operations Initiative: Sara Goodman, incubation program manager, Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships, in recognition of her stalwart sustainability advocacy and efforts to foster a sustainable work environment with incubation space at Baird Research Park and now the Incubator @CBLS.
Goodman was nominated by colleagues Kate Helfer and Kim Kohl, who praise Goodman’s passion for sustainability and leading by example.
“I cannot think of a more worthy person to recognize with a SLICE award than Sara,” says Kohl, senior finance and operations manager, for UB incubators, Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships. “Since she began working with me in 2011, she has not only advocated for incorporating sustainability into our operations, but has taught us what to do and why it is important. Sara has shown us that reducing, reusing and recycling doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Simple behaviors practiced at home and at work have become regular habits for our staff because of Sara’s passion.”
“Sara leads by example,” notes Christina Orsi, associate vice president for economic development. “Every day she is doing something to contribute to sustainability, whether it’s putting up signs, bringing in reusable silverware or hosting recycling events. She is an example for the rest of us.”