This semester, Serve-Learn-Sustain gave me the opportunity to attend the AASHE conference, which took place the first week of October, as one of the members of the RCE Greater Atlanta Youth Network. On Monday night, I flew out from the Atlanta airport to Pittsburgh. Upon arriving, I met my roommate for the conference, Iesha, another college student who is active in the RCE Greater Atlanta Youth Network. Although our schools, Georgia Tech and Spelman, are only a few miles away, we met each other for the first time the night in Pittsburgh. Iesha, a fourth year from Spelman, has acted as the school’s campus ambassador for the RCE Youth Network for years, and she had a lot to teach me about its development and how she hoped it would grow.
On Tuesday, Iesha and I attended the Student Summit along with hundreds of other college and university students from across the country. The opening speaker, Garrett Blad, shared his experience attending the UN Climate Conference in Paris and gave us inspiration to follow his tracks and fight for the Green New Deal. Starting the conference off with a speech like Garrett’s gave us the ability to start connecting us with many other like-minded people of our generation, and Garrett himself encouraged the students in attendance to reach out to him to discuss how to become involved in the Sunrise Movement.
The conference was focused on sustainability in higher education, but the workshops themselves covered a variety of topics. I attended a workshop where I was led through a step-by-step process on how to get my campus involved in the 100% renewable energy project, followed by a workshop where the founder of Campus Kitchen Project shared her challenges and successes. This encouraged me to look into whether there was a Campus Kitchen at Georgia Tech, and I was surprised to find that the Campus Kitchen is not only active but has regular volunteer opportunities that take place in a building across the street from my apartment.
My two favorite workshops were both, seemingly, the least related to sustainability – that is, environmental sustainability. The second morning of the conference, I attended a session that discussed diversity, equity, and social justice for a changing world. Heather Hackman, the founder of Hackman Consulting Group, taught us how to help our groups and organizations shift away from traditional diversity changing to apply to a broader span of social justice platforms. Dr. Hackman is well-spoken, funny, and powerful; I would suggest checking out her information and listening to her presentations on her website. I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to meet her in person and ask her directly about her approach to sustainability, which has permanently changed my understanding of long term sustainability.
My other absolute favorite workshop was taught by a young Russian engineer on the subject of female empowerment. Walking into the room was refreshing – there have been very few times since I’ve started school at Georgia Tech that I’ve walked into a room of 50 or more women. The workshop began with the presenter playing a video of her shaving her head, which caused everyone in the room to give her their full attention. She then gave us questions to discuss with the people at our tables, and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with women of different ages and skill sets who were all so passionate about sustainability. The woman sitting beside me, who has her PhD in Biology, brought up that she felt the more educated she became, the less qualified she was to be in her field. Surprisingly, many women at my table echoed the sentiment, including an elderly woman who had been teaching biology for longer than many of the people at our table had been alive. The discussions continued in this fashion; women from many different points of life were able to connect over issues they believed that they were alone in feeling. I was amazed by the impact the discussions left on me as I continue to mull over questions about feminism and its role in a sustainable world.
I left the AASHE conference very inspired. I not only wanted to share everything I had learned about what so many different groups are doing for sustainability across the country, but also wanted to find groups of like-minded people on my campus willing to discuss these issues and what their solutions at Georgia Tech would look like. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to apply many of the leadership skills taught in the student summit to the MCN Fellowship, but I will continue to seek out more groups that are working toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on our campus so that we can all work together to create a truly sustainable world.
Get Connected with Georgia Tech’s Initiatives for the SDGs:
Gender Equality: https://www.facebook.com/gtfeministclub/
No Poverty: https://www.facebook.com/CDGaTech/
Partnerships for the Goals: https://www.facebook.com/movegt/?ref=br_rs
Quality Education: firstname.lastname@example.org
Life on Land: https://www.facebook.com/gtveggiejackets/
Clean and Affordable Energy: https://www.facebook.com/EnergyClubGT/