2016 Award Recipients

Student Leadership - Abigail Clem, Junior, Architectural Engineering

Abigail's global goal is to be able to use recycled materials to improve the lives of people in developing countries. Since fall of 2015, Abigail has conducted research on rammed earth with a specific focus on reusing common materials, such as tires, along with natural elements like clay and dirt to create walls. Abigail has spent various school breaks traveling with Engineers Without Borders to help communities in places like New Orleans, Bolivia, and Uganda by engineering environmentally sustainable building materials and appliances using locally recycled materials. Abigail is also a Venture Scout, through which she founded Scouting KU Engineering. Students in this program have been able to do experiments and see state of the art research facilities along with completing badges in Water, Programming, Architecture and Engineering. 

Student Leadership - Christopher Carey, Political Science

Christopher is a Political Science major. He works for an environmental non-profit in Topeka where he researches environmental legislation. He helped write HB 2649, an energy efficiency bill currently being debated in the House Committee on Appropriations. Earlier this spring, he testified in support of the bill in front of the House Committee on Insurance and Financial Institutions. Christopher is also planning a Clean Energy Day at the Capitol, with the Climate+Energy Project. Christopher is a member of KU’s debate team, where he regularly produces arguments concerning global warming and energy use. This year, he has heavily researched and won debates regarding the Paris Agreement, lowering dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf and US-China climate cooperation.  

Faculty Leadership - Ward Lyles, Assistant Professor, Urban Planning

Ward Lyles is a professor in the Urban Planning department. He has examined how to preserve environmental and social sustainability in the face of environmental challenges that are expected to increase as a result of climate change. Professor Lyles worked with faculty in the Schools of Law and Public Affairs to organize a Symposium, “Justice in the Low-Carbon Transition,” which will be held in the Commons on April 28. In addition, through his active involvement at the Center for Teaching Excellence, where he has been a presenter and/or facilitator at numerous events, he is expanding the reach of his sustainability-focused teaching approaches across campus units. Being an avid cyclist and walker, Professor Lyles helped to organize bike-to-school day for his local public elementary and worked with KU students to put up signs around the university and downtown providing estimated walking times between notable locations of interest. 

Faculty Scholarship - Rachel McDonald, Assistant Professor, Psychology

Through her research, Rachel McDonald applies social psychological theories to better understand individuals’ environmental behaviors. She has published seven high-impact papers that investigate how to encourage more sustainable practices by individuals. These papers have been published in leading environmental and psychological journals such as the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Environment and Behavior, Journal of Nature Conservation, and European Journal of Social Psychology as well as media outlets, such as the Chicago Tribune. She is a member of the research team that was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Grant to study environmental sustainability issues. She redesigned the social psychology undergraduate class, “Social Attitudes”, to focus student projects on issues related to an aspect of sustainability. She also developed and taught a new Environmental Psychology seminar for PhD students in fall 2015 and is currently developing a new undergraduate class “Psychology of Sustainability” for fall 2016.

Staff Leadership - Landscape Architecture Department, Design and Construction Management

The KU Landscape Architecture team has been instrumental in many initiatives to document, maintain, and increase the tree community on campus. They have also authored plans, prepared planting designs, inventoried campus trees, and participated in volunteer planting events. DCM’s landscape architects put together the Marvin Grove Management Plan, which outlines the means to maintain a healthy Grove for the foreseeable future, to protect the dynamic ecosystem and high-value trees in the grove, and to establish a tree replacement program. With the emerald ash borer (EAB) infesting trees in Douglas County, the landscape team also created the Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan, which proposes a proactive, measured approach to manage and slow the spread of EAB. Both plans have been approved by the Campus Tree Advisory Board and are currently being forwarded to the administration. Recently, the LA group has started to look beyond the state recognized champion trees and are starting a list of other outstanding trees on campus, documenting the details and locations, and creating management plans for those included to be incorporated into the Campus Tree Plan and Campus Master Plan. 

Leadership by a Student Organization - Engineers Without Borders, advised by Matt O'Reilly

The KU chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), under the leadership of advisor Matt O’Reilly, travels annually to other states in the U.S. or to countries abroad to volunteer with rebuilding efforts at sites of natural catastrophe. These projects have included trips to Joplin, Missouri, and Moore, Oklahoma in the wake of their tornado disasters. They also annually travel to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, to help restore homes after they were destroyed or abandoned during Hurricane Katrina. This year, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) completed their first implementation trip to Kaliro, Uganda, where they built a rainwater collection system on the rooftop of a college dormitory. Thanks to these efforts, the people of Kaliro now have an additional source of water, when they previously could only rely on bore holes to supply water for their every need. After its founding in the fall of 2008, the members of EWB KU decided to help fill a need for sustainable sanitation in the rural Bolivian community of Azacilo. Now in our fifth year, the KU chapter of the Engineers Without Borders USA has expanded its service around the nation and in Bolivia. 

Leadership in Social Justice - Cindy Nguyen, Operation Flint 

Cindy Nguyen answered the call to explore the intersections of sustainability and social justice by organizing to help victims of the environmental racism, corruption, and sustainability failures that led to a poisoned water supply for hundreds of thousands of people in Flint, Michigan. This semester, Cindy Nguyen organized an event called Operation Flint, a multifaceted service project the main goal of which is to gather water donations for the people of Flint. She collaborated with three other organizations on campus to bring her idea to fruition, organizing meetings, donation tables, and advertisement. Included in the water drive were public forums to educate the KU community about the water crisis, and its explicit connections to sustainability efforts and marginalized groups. Throughout the water drive, Cindy and her team were sure to connect the Flint Water Crisis to many different lenses of social justice, including efforts of environmental sustainability. The water drive was so successful that it had to be extended throughout the month of March to accommodate those who still wanted to make donations.

Leadership in Energy Conservation - Ann Smith, Facility Manager, MRB

Ann Smith is the Facilities Manager for MRB. She played an integral role in starting the new MRB Green Team and established herself as its unspoken leader. Through the Green Team she helped identify opportunities for energy conservation in the building, including the current focus of their efforts: closing fume hoods. She helped develop a strategy for the “Shut the Sash” campaign and has made the campaign of high importance for her and the occupants. She has helped contact lab groups regarding the campaign, visited lab meetings, and helped give presentations about the campaign. She has shown an openness to sustainability and energy conservation. She sees the importance of it and wants to help make her building and the occupants in the building better. 

Leadership in Greek Life - Sigma Kappa

One of Sigma Kappa’s five philanthropies is “Inherit the Earth”. Their commitment to this mission includes: providing convenient options for recycling in the house and facilitating their own recycling drop off; organizing a donation of various home and school supplies at the end of the school year; purchasing reusable bottles for their new members for easy use of their in-house bottle filling station; and buying energy saving appliances as well as items made from recycled material. They encourage involvement from other Greek houses in events, such as their West Campus Clean-up in the spring and fall, where members pick up trash in the neighborhood around their house, in addition to a “house black-out”, where they encourage other Greek houses to be aware of their energy use and try to get them to conserve more. Sigma Kappa also makes a donation to Replant Mt. Oread so that they can help with the financial needs of maintaining the trees and bushes on campus. Last fall they planted a garden on the south side of their house, which is maintained by their member and supplies vegetables and herbs for their kitchen staff to use in meals.

Alumni Leadership - Andrea Salazar Bryant, MS, Environmental Assessment

Andrea was the first graduate of the KU Professional Science Masters in Environmental Assessment program in summer 2015. In addition to excellent in the classroom, she sought out an internship opportunity with Sprint which she based her Capstone project around and delivered an outstanding final project. Andrea accepted the challenge of determining the water footprint of Sprint and all of its manufacturers. Sprint took the research that Andrea completed and worked with her to turn it into a manual that is provided to all Sprint locations as a resource for water conservation. Andrea went above and beyond on this project by not only assessing the water footprint, but also providing solutions to the existing problems in order to conserve water and reduce their footprint. This resource will not only be utilized by Sprint, but is also in the process of being shared with other large corporations. Andrea is now an Environmental, Health & Safety Specialist with Sprint. 



Coronavirus Update

KU Recycling and KU Surplus have resumed services. As part of our efforts to reduce an on-campus presence and promote social distancing, we will continue to limit special collections that are not mission critical. For updated information on KU's response to COVID-19, visit protect.ku.edu

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