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University of Michigan Students Thirst for Sustainability

Loredana Vuoto, May 05, 2011

The University of Michigan (UM) encourages students to become sustainability leaders.

At the beginning of the year, UM decided to take experiential learning to a whole new level by instituting the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ Water Theme Semester for Winter 2011. Through courses, public lectures, exhibitions, performances and other events, the Water Semester explores water from diverse perspectives, including water in art, literature and history. It examines the origins and physics of water on earth and beyond, and investigates the global water crisis and sustainability issues.

“The University of Michigan is a progressive university,” says Kyle Anderson, Publicity Chairman of the College for Literature, Science, and the Arts’ Water Semester. “Many students are interested in sustainability issues, but they may not know how to go about dealing with them. The Water Semester encourages students to get involved and be part of what is going on campus and around the country.”

Students can participate in a variety of educational and entertaining activities that promote the well-being of the earth through water. Concerts, workshops, seminars and lectures celebrating water are provided throughout the semester. For the past several months, students have worked on a campaign to end the sale of bottled water on campus since many bottles do not get recycled. Students also created a commercial promoting the advantages of drinking tap water that can be viewed on UM’s Water Winter 2011 Theme Semester Website, www.watersemester.com. Their efforts resulted in more than 1,742 students signing an online petition supporting the ban.

“As American ecologist Luna Leopold said, ‘Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land,’” says Mr. Anderson, who is also Co-President of Environmental Action, UM’s oldest environmental group.

The Water Semester is coordinated by the Program in the Environment, the Exhibit Museum of Natural History, the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and the Michigan Society of Fellows. It is funded by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and other co-sponsors.

Students are also encouraged to get involved in the Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI). SSI is a collaborative group of leaders in campus organizations, environmental groups and student governments interested in making the University of Michigan a more sustainable place. The initiative provides a forum for all students and individuals to share ideas and create collaborative projects that benefit the UM community.

“Students are aware that doing what is right and taking care of the environment may not always make you popular on and off campus,” concludes Mr. Anderson, a senior member of SSI. “But at the end of the day, we want to make a difference and offer an example for others to follow both in and outside the classroom.”

Tags: Campus Buzz

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