More than 135 faculty, staff, and community members benefited from these interactive programs, and eighteen students received direct support thanks to generous donors to the Library Sustainability Fund. To donate, visit: bit.ly/sustainfund
Learning to Lead
People in my classes frequently referred to Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and I really wanted to read it. Noticing a similar desire among many peers, I created and led a virtual reading group to explore and discuss the book. It seemed like the perfect way to get the most out of the book while staying connected over the long winter break in January 2021. The reading group would also give me a great opportunity to test out skills and knowledge I gained from my Agricultural Leadership and Community Education course taught by Professor Sarah Berquist. Once I put the word out, I received a ton of interest from fellow students and teachers.
The UMass Amherst Libraries supported the endeavor by purchasing 10 copies of the book through the Sustainability Fund and mailing them to student participants. Embracing the uplifting spirit of the registrants, I felt empowered to dive into this new challenge.
In our ten weeks together, a wonderful community emerged around the teachings of plants and the messages of love and reciprocity in the book. One of the greatest strengths of our group was the diversity of ages, which allowed for a wide range of perspectives. This experience taught me a great deal about organizing a group towards a shared goal, and what it means to be a strong, compassionate leader.
Adam Finke ’22
BDIC – Sustainable Food & Farming
Artfully Mitigating Climate Change
As a 2020-2021 Sustainability Fellow with the Physical Plant, I was required to complete a semester-long project. Inspired by my love for art and a commitment to help mitigate climate change, I wanted to activate other students to bridge the gap between science and the arts. While scientists and artists often care about the same issues, they aren’t always good at communicating and cooperating with each other about those issues. I thought an award for work demonstrating how art can be a force for change would be a way to highlight that there are various ways to communicate the urgency of climate change. Working with Ezra Small ’06MS, campus sustainability manager, I started gathering names of undergraduate students interested in submitting their art.
Madeleine Charney, research services librarian specializing in sustainability, noticed my call for participation and connected me with the Libraries’ Development & Communications staff, who saw it as a perfect art-themed fit for the annual Undergraduate Sustainability Award. Even better, five winners of the award would each receive a $700 scholarship through the Library Sustainability Fund.
Twenty-seven students submitted a wide range of media spanning performing, visual, and literary arts as well as engineering and design. I developed a rubric to guide the three reviewers—Madeleine Charney, Lauren Weiss, associate editor, digital content, and me—in making the difficult decision of which five to select, a new experience for me. Our winners showed a variety of artistic forms: choreography, poetry, animated video, mandala, and illustration. All are viewable and downloadable on the Sustainability Student Showcase on Scholarworks. All submissions can be appreciated at a website I created for them: sites.google.com/view/sustainabilitythroughthearts/submissions
Lillian Kurina ’21
Speaking about Food Justice
For my senior thesis project, I planned a speakers panel on food justice in partnership with Western Massachusetts Climate Action Now (CAN). The program, “A Conversation about Racial Equity and Food Access,” featured Anna Gilbert-Muhammad from the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and Ibrahim Ali, co-executive director of Gardening the Community in Springfield, Mass.) The two speakers framed land and resource access, reparations, and comparative justice in the context of the food system. The inspiration for my project came from the call to decenter whiteness when talking about food systems, and to a larger extent, sustainability and climate movements in general.
The UMass Amherst Libraries Sustainability Fund and Western Massachusetts Regenerative Food Systems cosponsored the event. Collaborating with them to find speakers and funding was a new experience for me. Being able to compensate the speakers was the greatest triumph of this project as a crucial way to honor and amplify the voices of people of color. This experience taught me the necessity of being intentional when working in sustainability movements to bring attention to underrepresented voices and decenter the ever-present white voices. I believe the program stimulated attendees to notice and question their access to resources and consider actions to help make food systems more equitable.
Natalie Greenbaum ’21
SBS – Sustainable Community Development