My involvement with the Serve-Learn-Sustain community at Georgia Tech led me to reflect about what these words have meant to me at various stages in my life. As a young child growing up in India, I was very fortunate to see my parents’ lived commitment to service. Empathy, respecting others, using our resources and skills to help others in need – it was a way of life. Our neighborhood was a beloved community of families from diverse backgrounds, who shared this way of living– I could not ask for a better place to grow up.
It is Spring of 2015. I sit down at the Liam’s Legacy Symposium, an event designed to celebrate the life and legacy of Liam Rattray. The event features a panel of speakers discussing “What it means to take an asset-based community engagement approach to sustainability." I hear language that revolves around focusing on the strengths of a community rather than its problems. I hear about empowering of individuals rather than over-programming “I’ll do it for you" initiatives. I hear strategies to engage the members of a community rather than tell them what they need. I am being exposed to Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) for the first time, and I am floored. I could not ignore the parallels between ABCD and my “ideal” of a support program for students with intellectual disabilities, who were coming to Georgia Tech through the EXCEL program.
Since Serve-Learn-Sustain officially opened its doors last January, we have been working closely with faculty, staff, students, and partners to define together what it means to “create sustainable communities” and to collaboratively develop programs that will nurture interdisciplinary learning, teaching, and action. One approach we have come up with is to work with different colleges, schools, and programs across campus to develop tailored strategies for SLS engagement that simultaneously promote SLS and the specific unit’s goals and objectives. For this academic year, we have launched this strategies program by partnering with nine units. Next year, we will expand the program to more.
It is truly an honor and a pleasure to return to Georgia Tech this Fall as a CEE alum and a former vice-president of the Georgia Tech African-American Student Union. I have so many fond memories from my days as a student actively involved with student organizations such as AASU, EWB-GT, SGA, ASCE, GTSBE, BGSA, and AABE. I did not realize at the time that my roles in these organizations and external nonprofits would provide much needed training and experience related to working with corporate sponsors, partnership development, planning events, managing diverse teams, and succession planning.
The transition from high school to college is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. For many students, Georgia Tech is their dream school and they are ready to be a Yellow Jacket and all that that entails. For others, Tech is not their first choice and they hesitate to embrace the white and gold. Regardless of whether they fall on one end of that spectrum or somewhere in between, new students are striving to find a community of friends where they feel a sense of belonging and where they can connect in meaningful ways to campus life.
The Just Energy Summit was a wonderful conference focused on a piece of the energy story that I feel is often neglected -- the equity conversation. The attendees brought together people from a diverse set of backgrounds that included community/environmental activists, urban farmers, city decision makers and analysts, nonprofits...and more! In my opinion, there are not many forums that bring together a mix like that to not only discuss issues, but to learn together. Sometimes I think we may get too siloed in our own research and field, and events like this can bring people down to earth, to realize the full impact or implications of their research, actions, or inactions.
I care about Flint not because I can relate to it, and especially not because I empathize with the residents, for it is impossible to do so. I care about Flint because of how bad the situation is. Many of these kids will likely develop intellectual disabilities and behavioral problems, and have a much higher rate of ending up in jail. I can only try to imagine what it might be like to live in such a community.
Hi! My name is Ariella Ventura and this summer I am studying abroad in Eastern Europe on Georgia Tech’s Leadership for Social Good program, specifically in Prague, Krakow, and Budapest. For this blog I would like to highlight the sustainability efforts that have caught my eye throughout my travels here in Eastern Europe.
It has been more than a month since the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) Conference, organized in part by Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) at Georgia Tech, and the topics we discussed still stay with me. As a civil engineer, what has specifically stuck with me, and what I think will continue to color how I think about social sustainability, is the vital role of civil infrastructure in building communities.
A conference hosted recently by Tech’s Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain had participants look at how to blaze new paths in sustainable education and community engagement — and even took them into the field to get their hands (or rather, shoes) dirty.