For Students, by Students

Justin McCarty '14 swaps ideas with student leaders from colleges across Pennsylvania during the 2014 PERC Student Sustainability Symposium. The event was the first statewide, student-led symposium in Pennsylvania.

Justin McCarty '15 swaps ideas with student leaders from colleges across Pennsylvania during the 2014 PERC Student Sustainability Symposium. The event was the first statewide, student-led sustainability symposium in Pennsylvania.

Dickinson hosts first PERC student sustainability symposium

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Student leaders like Justin McCarty ’15 and Anna McGinn '14 are not content to sit on the sidelines when it comes to causes they believe in. So when they attended last year's Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC) symposium as observers, they couldn't help but feel that something was amiss.

“There’s a lot of value in meeting with faculty and administrators in the field, because they have a wealth of experience, but people our age have a lot of modern, innovative ideas,” said McCarty, a double major in economics and environmental studies. “We knew that the more students we got together in a room, the more ideas there would be.”

One year later, McCarty, McGinn and like-minded Dickinsonians joined forces to present the PERC 2014 Student Sustainability Symposium, the first Pennsylvania-wide, student-led event of its kind. Held March 21 in Dickinson's Allison Hall, the symposium created a platform for students from across the state to learn about and present sustainability research and projects and share information about related initiatives and programming at their home colleges and universities. One of many ways Dickinson empowers students to tackle sustainability challenges in and out of the classroom, the event was attended by approximately 100 students from 25 institutions.

Nicole DeLuca of York College was one 30 students who delivered formal presentations about their reserach. “It’s always good to meet other people who share the same interests and values, and to get a fresh perspective on your work,” said DeLuca, a chemistry major who presented her observations as an American Chemical Society observer at last year's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She hoped to recruit fellow delegates for the upcoming convention in Peru.

Participants also gathered for poster sessions and round-table discussions that allowed them to gather in small groups and brainstorm possible solutions to common problems. “We’ve been talking about a wide range of issues relating to social, economic and environmental sustainability, such as how to get the word out about your program and how to keep momentum going in a student organization so that it continues to grow after the organizers have graduated,” said Carley Zarzeka ’15, an art & art-history major who co-leads Dickinson’s Dog House, which has grown significantly since its launch last year.

Plans are in the works to hold a second symposium at another Pennsylvania campus next year, said Lindsey Lyons, assistant director of Dickinson's Center for Sustainability Education. Based on the responses he's received, McCarty believes it will be even bigger than the first.

“The student movement in this field is still in its infancy,” he said with a smile. “As we’re speaking, new Facebook groups and e-mail lists are already being formed, and new collaborations are in the works. So there's a lot more to come.”

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Published Mar. 26, 2014