Sewanee gains insight and inspiration from the 2019 AASHE conference

By Helena Kilburn
Staff Writer

This year the Sewanee Office of Stewardship and Sustainability sent two team members and three students to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in late October. Held in Spokane WA, the conference was in a beautiful city that, despite the chilly weather, offered much for the conference attendees to explore. The conference covered issues such as the United Nations sustainable development goals, food systems, and environmental justice, just to name a few. 

The range of information was impressive, with topics that served every attendee’s interests. This range was one reason why it was so exciting that five Sewanee representatives were able to attend. Amy Turner and Lauren Newman (C’18), both of the OESS office were in attendance as they have been in years past. With them, they brought Jackson Campbell (C’20), Crystal Ngo (C’20), and me, Helena Kilburn (C’20). 

All three of us seniors were excited heading into the conference and left with a sense of re-energization around the subject of how to bring the sustainable ideas of the conference back to campus and into our lives moving forward. 

Newman spoke of the importance of bringing students to this conference, saying, “AASHE is always such an incredible experience for students to see the breadth of opportunities in the field of sustainability. Whether your interest lies in waste, food, energy, investment and finance, diversity and affordability, or any of the other topic area you can think of–– there is an opportunity to network with professionals and peers at other institutions across the country and sometimes even across the world. I am so thankful for the chance to take student leaders to AASHE because I know it fires them up to come back to campus and really shake things up.” 

Campbell (C’20) deeply appreciated the opportunity to attend, saying, “It was an outstanding opportunity to meet fellow students dedicated to sustainability in higher education. It really proved to me how progressive and advanced our program is.” 

Ngo (C’20) stated, “It was inspiring to witness successful integration of other subject matter such as business into environmental advocacy, and to be around motivated individuals that have the same goal to mitigate climate change like I do. This was such a great networking and educational experience. I appreciate the OESS for this opportunity”

Personally, I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity. Heading into this conference I was trudging through my classes and work around the subject of sustainability, but I was lacking in the energy which I need to create actual results around the topic. Being in a space with not only inspiring Sewanee people, but also inspirational figures in the field from far and wide. Seeing how many other students across the country are taking time out of their schedules to create positive sustainable change reminded me that it can be done, and that I, along with my fellow Sewanee students, should be doing it. 

As we move forward into the rest of the year it will be exciting to bring forward some of the wonderful ideas from this conference to help build a better and more sustainable future for Sewanee.