Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference


A couple MES students were able to attend the Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. The conference "...is a platform for empowering and inspiring change making, facilitating action, and for sharing, networking, and collaboration related to sustainability within the region's higher education institutions. Through facilitated conversation, workshops, presentations and networking opportunities, participants will play a role in advancing environmental performance at Washington and Oregon State institutions of higher education, support regional policy goals and initiatives, and drive the development of a generation of professionals for whom sustainability is a core tenant of their work and life philosophy."  (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/washington-oregon-higher-education-sustainability-conference-wohesc-2018-tickets-34285581096)

First year MES student, Alex James, wrote about her experience at WOHESC:

February 6-8 marked the first annual Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference, meaning that it was the first time that Washington State higher education institutions partnered with Oregon higher education institutions to tackle and collaborate on sustainability initiatives. Institutions were supported by various organizations, businesses, and community groups, who generously shared perspectives, experience, and opportunity with conference participants. This year’s theme reflected the importance of equity and diversity in planning for climate resilience through equitable actions - representing an important social aspect of sustainability. I was extremely excited to participate in this year’s event and represent The Evergreen State College and the Sustainability in Prison’s Project.

It is common for most people to think about environmental aspects when considering the concept of sustainability. However, environmental aspects only account for a portion of the challenges faced when grappling with sustainability initiatives and how sustainability, as an idea and discipline, affects our planet. Desiree Williams, the welcome keynote speaker, addressed this idea and shared thoughts on effective tools that we, as individuals and community members, can use to understand and evolve the concept of equity in sustainable action. Desiree shared that language can act as the primary medium to effectively progress equity issues. Equitable action can then translate into ecological justice and help communities to create sustainable visions. A pretty cool idea!

Following Desiree’s speech, a planery of Chief Diversity Officers shared actionables that their respective institutions were undertaking to address sustainability through an equity lens. Each officer shared details on current projects that their institutions are implementing in hopes to inspire sustainable action among their students, staff, and faculty. Collaboration, education, engagement, and alignment of knowledge and experience seem to take precedence when designing and implementing sustainability projects. Each officer hopes to expand their institutions ability to address poverty, develop partnerships, and promote social and environmental health through transforming institutional paradigms by incorporating aspects of sustainability. What a cool time to be in education!

These are just a few highlights from a wonderful week learning about sustainability! I am excited to share my experience with the fellow Evergreen community and to anyone who may be interested. 


Second year MES student, Eden Thorkildsen, also had a few highlights from her experience at WOHESC:

The main takeaways I had from the conference were;

1. The paths people take to work in sustainability are incredibly unique, there is a wide variety of backgrounds working in it currently. Presumably this is because there wasn't a formal training or sustainability discipline until more recently. This currently appears to lend strength to the perspectives included within formal sustainability work, hopefully this diversity in educational and professional backgrounds can remain to a certain extent while the field develops.

2. It is interesting to hear how people balance the trade offs inherent in sustainability work, and the challenges of meeting the needs of unique campuses. Each campus had different issues, with regard to culture, infrastructure, funding, location, etc. Attempting to meet needs for issues such as infrastructure development on each campus required a significantly different approach. Many campuses were in different stages of developing sustainability offices or groups, all with unique challenges. While developing and maintaining some sort of uniformity to sustainability work is critical, the applications to unique places will always be different and require careful balancing. 

Aside from that, I enjoyed getting to know other Evergreen students better and eating at Portland restaurants!