Each year, Denison’s graduating seniors are invited by their environmental studies classmates and the Office of Sustainability to sign the college’s Sustainability Graduation Pledge. This year’s invitation yielded some surprising results. Jeremy King '97, the college’s sustainability coordinator, shares some thoughts about this.
During their four years at Denison, students grapple with sustainability issues on a regular basis — both in the classroom and in their residence halls. And in the weeks leading up to graduation, seniors are invited to sign the Sustainability Pledge, which is an indication of their desire to continue forward with their commitment to sustainability after their college years.
The pledge reads:
I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of the decisions I make in my personal life and actions I take in my professional career. I will strive to continually better my community and the global society in which I live.
What has caught me by surprise this year as our students make their pledge, is that more students have signed on than ever before. I’d like to think that has something to do with our efforts over the last four years to connect these students directly to issues relating to both campus and global sustainability.
This happens to be the first graduating class that came to campus in conjunction with the Sustainability Fellows Program — a program focused on peer-to-peer outreach regarding environmental and social aspects of sustainability. It would appear that these efforts are paying off as more and more of our students view sustainability as a critical part of their own identity.
Thus the graduation pledge isn’t just a symbolic gesture by our students. It represents true commitment and reinforces the central mission of the college: “to inspire and educate our students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society.”
Our students, regardless of major, background, GPA, or future career goals, have been through four incredible years of intellectual and personal growth. Their commitment to the pledge represents a personal belief that they are and will be agents of change wherever they end up after Denison. As an institution we cannot be any prouder of them.
I look forward to seeing our graduates don green ribbons – the symbol of their sustainability commitment – on their graduation gowns during commencement.