Saint Leo University is hosting for the first time this summer a sustainability conference for teachers, professors, student advisors, graduate students, and school facilities directors who work, study, or teach at small campuses and want to share ideas for improvement.
The program is set for Thursday and Friday, June 25 and 26, at Saint Leo's University Campus in central Florida, just north of Tampa, which is convenient to travelers from across the state. While the formal title of the conference is Sustainability in Higher Education: A 2020 Vision for Teaching, Research, and Best Practices, admission will also be granted to those involved in K-12 education, including homeschooling parents.
Conference organizer Karen Hannel, PhD, said the trait she expects to be most common among those attending will be the desire to find new ways to advance sustainability efforts both inside and outside of the classroom. But they face the particular challenges of working in smaller-sized settings that may have limited budgets, small teaching staffs, aging infrastructure, and deferred-maintenance items.
"This can and will cut across multiple occupations," Hannel predicted. In fact, she hopes the audience will include those who are looking for new academic approaches to teach sustainability topics to young people; plant and facilities directors coping with landscaping costs, aging infrastructure and recycling; student activities personnel who want to know how they can help with activities beyond the classroom; and graduate students or student leaders who want to learn how to advocate for ecological changes in their realms. Interested members of the general public, especially citizen-scientists, are also welcome to attend.
"One primary goal of the conference is to provide a safe space for people to come and meet others like them, who may feel they need new ideas or energy to help make their institutions more sustainable for the future," she said. The conference allows for sharing of curriculum plans, research projects and ideas, and best practices in operations, as well as space for discussions.
Meetings will be concentrated in Kirk Hall, a modern academic building designed for both modern classroom teaching and quiet, small-group collaboration.
The idea for the conference grew out of Saint Leo University's own ambitions to preserve the beauty of its 130-year-old lakeside campus and contend with the ecological pressures of the 21st century, including those that its students will face. "We are hosting this conference to bring together educators who wish to incorporate ideas related to sustainability in the classroom as well as people from all walks of life who are committed to exploring this topic," said Heather Parker, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "In addition to traditional conference activities, we will offer tours designed to introduce participants to sustainable practices in place at the university as well as to the many academic and community projects in which Saint Leo University students, faculty, and staff are engaged."
Saint Leo has hosted numerous statewide educational group meetings before, Parker noted. Conference organizers are ready now to read proposals from those who would like to make an oral presentation, host an interactive session, or display an academic poster with research results.
The cost of registration varies by the participant's category, but costs have been kept low. Full-time faculty at universities would pay $150 to attend to the two-day conference. Graduate students would pay $50. Adjunct instructors at colleges and universities, student activities professionals, physical plant directors at campuses, and members of the general public would also pay $50. Elementary and secondary school teachers pay only $25. Further details are available on the conference website.