2017 Student Sustainability Leadership Summit 2016

Students, faculty, staff and community members come together to align goals, social justice, and sustainability in a changing political climate...

Cornell students present their ideas for sustainable improvements on campus at the 2016 Leadership Summit (Photo: Emma Hoarty)

By Cynthia Bensburg '17, Student Sustainability Coordinator, Campus Sustainability Office

ECO’s Leadership Summit is an annual opportunity for student leaders on campus to engage in discussions regarding environmentalism and sustainability on campus with Cornell administration, staff, faculty, and Ithaca community members.

In December of 2016, Cornell’s Environmental Collaborative (ECO) held their annual Leadership Summit titled, "What Now?: Adjusting to Change in an Uncertain Future". The 2016 Summit included a moderated speaker panel, a presentation on COP 22, and facilitated break-out groups. The event explored themes inspired by the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee (PSCC) focus teams and Cornell’s Climate Action Plan.

Moderated by Sarah Brylinsky, Sustainability Communications and Integration Manager at the Cornell Campus Sustainability Office, the panel was given the opportunity to respond to questions from students that had been gathered before the event. Panelist Dr. Anna Kelles, a lecturer at Cornell University in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and Tomkins County Legislator, spoke of inspiring support for the environmental agenda at different organizational levels. As the student representative on the panel, Christina Yin, a junior in Arts & Sciences studying Biology and Society, with minors in Environmental Sciences and China Studies spoke about her time representing Cornell University at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Other speakers included Dr. Bruce Monger, a professor in the Biological Oceanography department and Sam George, Sachem of the Cayuga Nation Bear Clan.

Following the panel was a brief presentation by Cornell attendees of the recent COP 22 in Morocco. They discussed some of the dialogues they had the opportunity to be a part of regarding the advancement of initiatives originating within the Paris Agreement.

Attendees then broke out into 10 themed groups inspired by the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee Focus Teams. In these groups, students, faculty, staff and administration worked together to identify issues and develop solutions. These small groups brainstormed some solutions to the issues currently being worked on within the 10 PSCC focus teams and presented their ideas to the entire Summit. ECO released an Initiatives Summary report which compiled the main ideas generated from the attendees of the Leadership Summit and will be used to create change on campus.

Two years ago, the first Leadership Summit led to the creation of the Environmental Collaborative. Since then, ECO has grown into a byline-funded organization encompassing more than 30 sustainability groups. ECO has continued the tradition of organizing the Leadership Summit because it creates a space for ideas to turn into impactful initiatives and empowers attendees to be agents of change within their communities.

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