My Experience with the Center for Sustainable Communities

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

As I reflect back on my four years at Luther, one of the best decisions I made during my first year was to seek an opportunity to work in sustainability on this campus. I have explored many areas in this topic both in terms of classes and work study positions throughout my years. To me, it has been a time of learning what a liberal arts education truly means. I have enjoyed discovering more about the world and myself through all of these different experiences.

That said, never once have I ever wanted to switch my work study role of being a sustainability educator within the Center for Sustainable Communities to something else. I have grown, learned, organized many events, and found a warm and inspiring community.

The Center for Sustainable Communities is where I’ve found the most hope. It is through the effortful work of engaging more Luther students to adapt sustainable living practices while we are here and beyond that inspires me the most. It is in this work that I tell friends all around the world that what I love most about this college is its openness to positive change.

More specifically, it is the people who have supervised me and worked alongside me at this center that I know are open to listen to my ideas about changes that will broaden inclusivity toward more students on campus. They have invited me to their homes for Thanksgiving dinner and even brought me to a local store to find what I needed when I had trouble sleeping and was dealing with anxiety for the first time, thousands of miles away from home in Cambodia. They consistently encourage me and my peers to live as conscious global citizens by realizing that we are part of this much bigger picture of the human and ecological communities. These individuals ground us by teaching us that we are a small part in the grand picture, but we are an important one, just as any other members because we are all interconnected. Thus, it is our duty to use our agency to create a more inclusive, equitable, just, and sustainable world house for all.

As I reflect back on my “sustainability” path, I recall learning about this term for the first time in my high school in Singapore. It was there that I decided I want to dedicate much of my life to creating a sustainable present and future for as many people as possible. Having this seedling in my mind, I came to Luther after a gap year dreaming to grow and do more for sustainability. And Luther has been just that place for me to work on my dreams.

At the Center for Sustainable Communities, when we see a gap, we work to address it. I was able to see this first-hand and be part of making the change in our Endeavor Together program (previously called Immersion Program). The leaders of the program and the center saw that there was a gap in inclusion of international students in this program and they took action by involving students’ voices to reform it. I know that this change did not just happen overnight and the plan to address it started before my time here. Nevertheless, we made the change happen, which helped tremendously in building a more inclusive campus.

The further along I am on this sustainability path, with all I have learned from Luther and prior, the more crucial I believe addressing the intersectionality of environmental and social sustainability. After high school, I took a year to work with youth on peacebuilding, which entails addressing social inequity and building a strong, resilient, and welcoming community. I can never be convinced that sustainability is possible without peacebuilding here at Luther, in Decorah, and around the world.

Thus, I am grateful that the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther has been making a strong effort to address both social and environmental sustainability on campus. I’m thankful to have been part of this community of curious learners, empathic members, and change makers at this center. I am grateful for all whom I have met and worked with for the past four years at this center and in the wider Luther community.

My sustainability path does not end here. If anything, Luther and the Center for Sustainable Communities have lit a bigger fire in me to keep addressing sustainability issues in any work I will do in the future, and wherever I will be.

Kim Chham '21 (second from right) along with her fellow sustainability educators (Abbie Jo Madson '20, Sean McKenzie '20, Samantha Clements '19) facilitating Coffee & Conversation Event. (Photo taken Fall 2018)

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  • May 20 2021 at 12:50 pm
    Erik Berg

    Thank you Kim. This was a well written, heartfelt, and inspiring article. I wish you the very best in all that you do!


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