Live and Learn
On special evenings, instead of running over to the dining hall with the rest of campus at dinnertime, Denison’s Sustainability Fellows are coordinating “Soup and Sustainability” gatherings in first-year residence hall student lounges.
Students gather to enjoy homemade soup from the Soup Loft (a downtown Granville hot spot), while student members of the Sustainability Fellows present information and offer stimulating discussion on just about any issue associated with sustainable living.
The Sustainability Fellows have coordinated more than a dozen Soup and Sustainability evenings each semester. This year, they’ve created opportunities for discussion on varied topics, like hydraulic fracturing, women’s health, and even sustainable politics.
Molly McGravey, an assistant director for residential housing and education, coordinates the initiative, which educates students about the sustainable triple bottom line, addressing environmental, economic and social goals. The Fellows liaise with other student groups, the residence hall education staff, and even local businesses to create the programs for their student colleagues.
“These students have raised the visibility of Denison’s commitment to sustainable issues. We’ve made significant strides toward local shopping, recycling, composting, and have created a heightened awareness of how to practice sustainability in our daily lives,” says McGravey. “And along the way, the students are learning so many skills: organization, teamwork, communication, and leadership to name just a few.”
Ludwig Icevski, a junior who is double-majoring in economics and cinema, started working with the group last year. One of his projects has been with the Terracycle Program, which collects difficult-to-recycle materials and repurposes them into new products. A percentage of the sales of those products is then donated to charity.
Working with Sustainability Coordinator Jeremy King, Icevski built and painted a brightly colored box to collect Terracycle items. He’s also working to integrate the program into all social gatherings on campus.
Icevski’s commitment to sustainability began as a young boy growing up in Sweden. He says, “I know it sounds a little cheesy, but my father would say to me ‘If you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you.’ It’s always been easy for me to move that one step further and apply that to the environment.”
One of his economics classes opened his eyes further to sustainability questions and answers. Associate Professor Quentin Duroy’s “Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability” class focused on daunting global economic and environmental issues, but it also provided solid, real-world answers that could be implemented.
Says Icevski, “Sometimes I left the class thinking, ‘Where do we go from here?’ But it also gave me the impetus and the ideas to move forward with things I care about.”
Sustainability is just one of the topics addressed in the residence halls and elsewhere across the residential campus. There’s Preston House, a residence hall with language and culture programs at its nucleus. Morrow House is service-learning oriented; all of its residents work with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in nearby Newark.
Then there are the intangible learning experiences of an all-residential campus—what President Adam Weinberg calls, “perhaps one of the greatest experiments in democratic society.” Residence hall living is like a design studio, living and working with people from different cultures, political points of view, even languages. Students learn how to adapt and work things out.
“Living on a residential campus is like have a deep, very challenging, 24-hour conversation,” says McGravey. “You carry those lessons into the classroom and then back out again.” She adds, “When you see your peers learning, growing, and doing some of that hard thinking, it’s not only inspirational, it’s a call to experience the same thing yourself.”