This weekend I had the opportunity to attend AASHE 2015. AASHE (The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) has yearly conferences around the country where thousands of undergrad, graduate, and post-graduate students, professors, organization members, and sustainability advocates of all kinds meet to share ideas, attend sessions, and discuss sustainability and how it relates to higher education.
On Saturday afternoon, me, five other Luther students and Sam Pollan, the energy and waste fellow at Luther, drove the three hours north to Minneapolis. I was slightly nervous because I only knew one of the students on the trip, I was the only person who didn’t directly work in the sustainability department at Luther, and I was the only first year. Everyone seemed very friendly, though, and I quickly became more comfortable.
The first night I got to see Sean and Steven, two of my friends from high school who go to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. They showed me a bakery about two blocks from my hotel where we got brownies and then, after walking around downtown for awhile, we headed to Brit’s Pub for dinner (which I highly recommend). Afterwards, we headed to the campus and I got to see Sean and Steven’s dorms and meet some of their friends. The night ended with a joyful visit to DPDough—a restaurant that satisfies the late night calzone needs of the University of Minnesota students.
The next morning, our group awoke bright and early to walk to the conference. The conference was at the Minneapolis Convention center—a building with 87 meeting rooms along with 475,000 square feet of exhibitor space. At first it was quite confusing but after three days of running around the whole place we had the layout pretty much down.
The first day was a student summit. Most of the sessions were geared towards undergrad attendees and there were specific sessions for all students to attend. However, other than those specific ones, we were free to go to any sessions that interested us. At any given time there were usually between 10 and 30 sessions going on and we got to go to around 5 each day. On top of the sessions, there was a main event keynote speaker each evening. The first night’s was David Orr, a world renowned environmental studies professor from Oberlin College in Ohio. I have read some of his work and (I believe) quoted him in my Common App essay for colleges. Unfortunately his flight was canceled and he was unable to speak that night. He did manage to come the next day and delivered a shortened but still powerful speech.
The conference was, all in all, an excellent experience and I really hope that I get to go again in the future. The Luther crew that attended has already had a few brainstorm sessions about what kind of stuff we think we can implement at Luther and I’m really excited to see what we’ll be able to achieve in the next few months and years.
Just to give a glimpse into what kind of stuff we were talking about, I’ve included a list of all the sessions I attended over the weekend:
- Student Summit and Workshops Breakfast
- Student Summit Opening - Students Organising for Sustainability
- Mitakuye oyasin (All My Relations): Manifesting Sustainability through Cultural Understanding
- Impact Advocacy - Fair Trade in Your Life and on Campus
- Student Summit Closing - Leading an Impact Life: Landing a Green Job and Speaking Truth to Power
- Opening Keynote
- "Meatless Monday" Breakfast
- Transformative Partnerships: Replacing Consumerism with Community
- From the Porcupine Caribou to the San Francisco Peaks: Applied Holistic Sustainability in North America
- Utilizing Community Based Social Marketing to Transform Sustainable Behavior
- 'Northern Roots: Growing Food in the Western Lake Superior Region': A Participatory, Public Ethnography in Film Form
- Regional Sustainability as Social Innovation (Led by Luther’s very own Jon Jensen!)
- Urban Farming: A Community Engaged Program
- Monday Keynote: David Orr followed by Brave New Workshop
- Measuring Engagement of Student Population Through Assessment of Sustainability Knowledge: Behavior, Perceptions, and Attitudes
- Awareness and Action: Campus-Wide Conscious Consumerism
- Plenary: Incorporating Indigenous Wisdom into Sustainability Education
- Show me the money: Discovering revenue from reuse
- Global Cities as a Learning Environment for Sustainability: Comparing Field Experiences in Austria, China and India.