Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.12
Liaison Amir Nadav
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of St. Thomas
EN-3: Student Life

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Amir Nadav
Assistant Director of Campus Sustainability
Office of Sustainability Initiatives
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an active student group focused on sustainability?:

Name and a brief description of the active student groups focused on sustainability:

The University of St. Thomas has several students groups that focus on sustainability.

Sustainability Club
The Sustainability Club exists to challenge St. Thomas to be a more ecologically sound campus, and to raise environmental awareness within our community, both on and off-campus.

Engineers for a Sustainable World
The mission of the St. Thomas chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World is to engage engineers in reducing waste and poverty by improving environmental, social, and economic sustainability worldwide by engaging in engineering projects which benefit communities which they are based in as well as raising awareness of the importance of engineering and its role in environmental, social, and political sustainability within our community.

BrightSide Ambassadors
BrightSide Ambassadors partners with BrightSide Produce to promote food justice, food security, and healthy eating on campus and in the community. The club aims to bridge University of St. Thomas students, staff, and faculty with youth community members and corner stores in disinvested urban neighborhoods to gain a better understanding of food insecurity in our collective community. The main focus of the club is to hold outreach events to inspire students to engage in changemaking by learning about food security issues both on campus and in the surrounding community and by inspiring students to eat a healthy and culturally-appropriate diet.

Botanical Club
The purpose of this organization is to inform science and non-science majors of the benefits and practical use of plants in everyday life. Our club will focus on the use of plants to endorse personal, physical, and mental health. We will also be investigating plants’ role in medicine and general maintenance for growth of outdoor and indoor plants. In an effort to attract both science and non-science majors, the collaboration and practice of effective communication across disciplines will be an additional element of value of the club. The main focus of the club will be increasing knowledge, experience tending, and creativity in use of the vast powers of plants.

Tommie Outdoors
The club aims to unite University of St. Thomas Students together around a shared love of nature and the common good. The main focus of the club will be to hold events that connect students with each other and nature through outdoor activities.

Students for Justice & Peace
This club is devoted to peace, equality, and recognition of human dignity. The club works to create positive social change both globally and locally. Through weekly meetings, club members gather together as individuals passionate about addressing many of today’s current issues, such as racism, the environment, mental health, women’s rights, homelessness and poverty, immigration, and more.

Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Coalition
This committee is focused on implementing sustainability initiatives, events, and long-term goals for the University, students and Undergraduate Student Government. The Sustainability Coalition is composed of students from across disciplines as well as student leaders involved and interested in sustainability on campus. The sustainability coalition is also responsible for leading in the planning and execution of sustainability week in April, with a focus on various events to incorporate student engagement and awareness of sustainability on campus.

Does the institution have a garden, farm, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, or an urban agriculture project where students are able to gain experience in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems?:

A brief description of the gardens, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery programs, and/or urban agriculture projects:

The St. Thomas Stewardship Garden integrates research, teaching, and community service. Founded in 2011, the garden currently covers 3/4 acre of land on the St. Paul campus. The garden serves as a research site for undergraduate-faculty collaborations, engaging around 10 undergraduate researchers per year. Numerous classes from eight different disciplines have engaged with the Stewardship Garden. Research conducted at the garden has produced 15 presentations at national conferences and four publications with undergraduate co-authors.

The garden is also the basis for a $700,000 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Dr. Chip Small to study the effects of urban agriculture expansion and climate on nutrient cycling and loss in urban ecosystems. In 2020, the National Science Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to Dr. Adam Kay to engage students in socially- and environmentally-connected science through urban agriculture. The grant will use the Stewardship Garden and other resources to develop educational experiences at St. Thomas and partner institutions, while also learning about and incorporating ideas from community farming and food organizations.

The Stewardship Garden hosts multiple community events each year and it is featured on campus tours. In the past, produce has been used by Dining Services, sold at campus farmstands, and donated to local food shelves. The Stewardship Garden received a bronze award in 2013 from St. Paul Parks and Recreation for the design and appearance.

In addition, the University of St. Thomas Biology Department's research project, “Growing Science,” has established community-style gardens at two sites in the city of St. Paul: the West Seventh and Conway community centers. The two half-acre experimental urban agriculture sites have hosted many outreach events, and most produce is donated to the food shelf or non-profits.

Does the institution have a student-run enterprise that includes sustainability as part of its mission statement or stated purpose?:

A brief description of the student-run enterprises:

Tommies Closet is a student-led initiative to bring a "clothing swap" to St. Thomas students by St. Thomas students. The closet launched on 11/10/2020 with a pop-up event introduction and a panel on Fast Fashion and Sustainable choices, which drew over 50 attendees. Student have developed a plan to create an exchange where people who donate clothes can shop for clothing that others have donated.

The Impact Project is a student-led initiative that promotes awareness of the impact that St. Thomas students, faculty, staff members, and friends can have in the world while raising money for a focus area each year. In the 2018-2019 school year, the Impact Project partnered with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives to raise awareness about sustainability and foster engagement in the development of the university's first sustainability strategic plan. The Impact Project also raised funds for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives through the sale of a custom-branded hat sold to students and community members. Last year, the Impact Project focused on mental health, and the project's focus in the 2020-21 school year is on racial justice.

Does the institution have a sustainable investment fund, green revolving fund, or sustainable microfinance initiative through which students can develop socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible investment and financial skills?:

A brief description of the sustainable investment funds, green revolving funds or sustainable microfinance initiatives:

Has the institution hosted a conference, speaker series, symposium, or similar event focused on sustainability during the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the conferences, speaker series, symposia, or similar events focused on sustainability:

The University of St. Thomas has had several events and speaker series that incorporated sustainability. Recent examples include:

Tashiana Osborne, "My Meandering Journey through Science: Humble Beginnings, Rivers in the Sky, and Endless Discovery," October 9, 2020. Department of Earth, Environment, and Society Seminar. Tashiana Osborne, Ph.D. candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, discussed her research in hydrometeorology, her work as a delegate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences, and the challenges she overcame in order to achieve her dream of becoming an atmospheric scientist.

"Sustainability in Action: A St. Thomas Faculty Panel," April 21, 2020. The Student Sustainability Leadership Program hosted a discussion with an interdisciplinary faculty panel on the topic of climate change and actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprints and promote sustainability.

St Thomas hosted the Ashoka U Exchange in April 2020. This exchanged focused on a variety of sustainability topics. Sustainability-focused sessions addressed topics such as urban agriculture, climate change solutions, and university-community partnerships. The sessions remain available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4c_sUqnnlfG8FsenbuECEWgikqHE44Ed.

Dr. Mark Meisner, Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association, "The Role of Communication in Transitioning to a Culture that Supports Sustainability," April 25, 2019. Public lecture.

Dr. Mark Meisner, Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association, "Talking Like a Mountain: Climate, Nature and the Futures We Represent," April 26, 2019. Keynote lecture at the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference hosted at St. Thomas, which brought together students and faculty from educational institutions across the upper Midwest.

"All Creatures Great and Small: Discerning a Protocol for Genetic Modification," February 28, 2019. An event organized by Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy. Science has dramatically increased our ability to intervene in the natural order of creatures and their environment. Genetic modification technology is also often promoted as a solution to the world’s sustainability problems. What are the limits to such technologies, and what might be the virtues necessary for developing a protocol guiding its prudent application? This event brought together leading voices from the theological, philosophical, and scientific communities to discuss these questions.

Has the institution hosted a cultural arts event, installation, or performance focused on sustainability with the previous three years that had students as the intended audience?:

A brief description of the cultural arts events, installations, or performances focused on sustainability:

The St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) and the Department of Art History collaborated to install an SCP Arts exhibition, Symbiosis, in the Department of Art History's OEC gallery throughout Fall 2019. Through SCP Arts, students collaborate with local artists to translate their SCP project findings into original artwork. This interaction of research and art enriches students’ investigation of the project question through critical dialogue with a professional artist. SCP partners share the resulting artwork in their communities and beyond, bringing to life sustainability goals for people of all ages.

Symbiosis invited the St. Thomas community to explore the interactions of species, environments, community, research, and art. It featured two Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) Arts project collaborations, Pollinator Pathways and Mississippi River Experiences, with original artwork by SCP Artists-in-Residence Sarah Nelson and Jessica Turtle and photography by Doreen Schroeder. This exhibition location allowed students in the St. Thomas community to stop in at any time to view the exhibit and learn about the connections of research and art, pollinators, and the Mississippi River and to attend several interactive community events to learn more about the topics and projects. Exhibit website: https://www.stthomas.edu/osi/scparts/installationsandexhibits/symbiosisfall2019/

Pollinator Pathways invited people of all ages to stop and observe pollinators closely, to learn about their relationships to flowers, and to ponder their value to society. This project sought to inspire wonder, joy, and appreciation for the diversity and value of pollinators in the Twin Cities and beyond. This also included student-led tours of the St. Thomas Pollinator Path, using the Pollinator Pathways exhibit materials, as well as an artist talk by Sarah Nelson attended by students. Exhibit website: https://www.stthomas.edu/osi/scparts/installationsandexhibits/pollinatorpathsummer2019/

The Mississippi River Experiences section presented student research about people’s experiences of the Mississippi River and demonstrated the process of translating research into art. Students in ENVR 212 (Society and Sustainability) collected data about people's experiences of the Mississippi River in collaboration with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and worked with our SCP Artist-in-Residence to translate their research findings into artwork. We displayed this artwork in the exhibit as it developed throughout the semester both to share student research about people’s interactions with the Mississippi River and to engage students in considering their own interactions with the river. We also had a community event artist talk, at which an ENVR 212 student also shared her experiences of translating research into artwork. Exhibit website: https://www.stthomas.edu/osi/scparts/installationsandexhibits/mississippiriverexperiencesspring2021/

Does the institution have a wilderness or outdoors program that follow Leave No Trace principles?:

A brief description of the wilderness or outdoors programs that follow Leave No Trace principles:

The University’s Office for Service & Social Justice launched a VISION Outdoor Adventures program in the fall of 2019, which was limited to local events. Since the spring of 2020, the program has been on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pending safety and reopening guidelines, the Office staff and students aim to re-start the VISION Outdoor Adventures program in the fall of 2021 with an intention to practice Leave No Trace principles.

Has the institution had a sustainability-focused theme chosen for a themed semester, year, or first-year experience during the previous three years?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused themes chosen for themed semesters, years, or first-year experiences:

The University recently adopted a new undergraduate core curriculum, which requires first-year students to participate in a Theme-Based Learning Community (TBLC) or a Living Learning Community (LLC). Students enrolled in a TBLC take two theme-based courses from different academic areas in the fall of their first year and are required to participate in out-of-class activities related to the theme throughout the term. The University offers a Sustainability LLC and TBLCs for "Environmental Sustainability & the Common Good," "Social Justice for the Common Good," "Human Well-Being and the Common Good," and "Changemaking for the Common Good," among others. During Fall 2020, the Environmental Sustainability TBLC offered 50 sections of 13 courses ranging from the disciplines of Accounting to Art History.

Does the institution have a program through which students can learn sustainable life skills?:

A brief description of the programs through which students can learn sustainable life skills:

St. Thomas has a Sustainability Living Learning Community (LLC) through which students engage with community partners on projects and volunteer events that promote both environmental and social well-being. The LLC also provides intensive advising from sustainability faculty, social support through dedicated resident assistants with sustainability backgrounds who organize relevant programming, an extended orientation during which students become familiar with local sustainable resources (solar-powered ice cream shop, local foods restaurants, bike transportation for outings) and various sustainability-focused social opportunities. Students in the Sustainability LLC participate in an overnight camping trip and visit a preserve owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. 

The University's Student Sustainability Leadership Program (SSLP) supports peer-educators who engage with fellow students around sustainable life skills related to energy conservation, waste reduction, and multi-modal transportation.

In addition, Off-Campus Student Life (OCSL) hosted a Winterize Your Home seminar, in collaboration with the Citizens Utility Board, for students who live in houses and duplexes off campus. That event took place on December 4, 2019 and had 15 participants.

OCSL also promotes multimodal transportation and habits -- and discourages off-campus students from bringing cars to campus -- in its annual Renter 101 (November 2019) and Student-Tenant Education Program (February and April 2020) programs.

Does the institution offer sustainability-focused student employment opportunities?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused student employment opportunities offered by the institution:

The Office of Sustainability Initiatives has provided students with paid employment opportunities over the past several years. Paid student employees have completed activities such as organizing a sustainability-focused Welcome Days event for first-year students, creating a campus sustainability scavenger hunt for students, organizing a campus EcoChallenge, measuring the energy use of plug load devices in campus buildings, creating a guide to using the local transit system, and maintaining the office's social media accounts.

Does the institution have a graduation pledge through which students pledge to consider social and environmental responsibility in future job and other decisions?:

A brief description of the graduation pledge(s):

A brief description of other co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives that do not fall into one of the above categories:

Undergraduate Student Government's Student Sustainability Coalition organizes Sustainability Week, which first took place in April of 2019. The week offered a variety of sustainability-focused activities, talks and engagement opportunities. Sustainability Week took place virtually in April of 2020, and plans are in place to celebrate Sustainability Week again in the spring of 2020. 2019 Sustainability Week Schedule: https://www.stthomas.edu/sustainability/getinvolved/events/sustainability-week.html

The Center for the Common Good/Changemaking and the Division of Student Affairs have supported a variety of additional co-curricular programs and initiatives that address sustainability. Examples include:

In fall of 2019, Changemaking partnered with the Sustainability Club and interested students to host four Confront the Climate Crisis Conversations in the Changemaking ASC 312 room. This was a student-led initiative with 8-20 student attendees each session.

Changemaking supported students in making posters and taking action for the One Earth One Change Climate Strike in the fall of 2019.

Hosted Big Idea Talks in the fall of 2019. Students submit their talk outline and then present it to their fellow students. At least one talk was about the urgency of climate change and what people can do about it.

Fall 2019-Fall 2020 Changemaking giveaways supported sustainable journeys for St. Thomas students. Giveaway items included reusable straws, reusable utensils, and reusable mugs.

CRS simple meals. Engaging students in the intersectionality of migration/refugee and world hunger at a global capacity. In 2019, we hosted 6 simple meal events with conversation. Participation ranged between 10-14 students per session.

Big Gathering Table is a dialogue event series hosted by Ashoka U Changemaking Fellows that focuses on difficult conversations around a topic of justice around the dinner table. In 2019, we hosted four Big Gathering Tables, two of which featured a sustainability topic. The sustainability topic tables were our largest in attendance. The April 4, 2020 event had attendance of 28 people.

Along with the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, we hosted an Earth Day Innovate-athon in 2018 and 2019. The event involved students, faculty and judges from a range of disciplines. The event focused on building technology to address an Earth Day-themed challenge. We had 20 participants each year.

Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.