Helpful Support Increases Impact: Clarkson University Focus the Nation Chapter
By: Susan Powers, Assoc. Director of Sustainability, Clarkson University
In my campus role as the Assoc. Director for Sustainability for Clarkson University (an AASHE & STARS Member Institution), I work with several different student groups every year to help them complete sustainability projects. It is time consuming and too often requires a lot of hand holding to get the students through their projects. This changed when I was contacted by staff at Focus the Nation early in 2012. I was impressed with their materials and recognition that it takes many types of students to affect change on a college campus. Working with two sophomores from our SYNERGY sustainability club, we embarked on the Forums-to-Action (F2A) planning and action in September 2012. The sophomores were passionate about making real changes in our energy efficiency, but they were novices in terms of organization and leadership. They had no ideas about what to do, how to organize their peers or engage professionals in their plan for action.
Over the course of four months, the FTN staff worked closely with these students through a series of webinars and weekly conference calls. We worked together through the F2A Guide, which laid out strategies for planning, engagement and fundraising. Both the document and the support from FTN staff were critical in transforming my student leaders from passionate yet somewhat directionless to passionate and successful leaders. These two sophomores found and led a team through the planning and implementation of an on-campus forum. This forum was a crucial step in raising awareness of the problems, bringing various stakeholders together for a common dialogue and garnering excitement about the project that was proposed in the forum. We are now working towards the implementation of a $CORE program for peer-to-peer energy auditing and upgrades in off campus housing. We look forward to reducing students’ energy bills and carbon footprint next year!
As the Campus Advisor of the Clarkson Focus Chapter I did work closely with our F2A leaders, but did not have to do nearly as much handholding and directing as with many other groups (and my F2A leaders were sophomores, not seniors or graduate students as in many other projects). I attribute this mostly to the support and leadership training that the FTN staff provided. We would have not had the opportunity to make the $CORE program work on our campus without their help.
If you are an AASHE Member Institution apply now to Start a Focus Chapter on your campus for the 2013-14 Academic year! Space is limited to 20 AASHE Member Institutions and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Reserve your spot today to leverage a proven student engagement strategy that produces sustainable energy projects.
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