Sustainability Inspiration Awards

The Sustainability Inspiration Awards honor UMD students, staff, and faculty members who have made significant contributions to sustainability efforts at UMD, including but not limited to: sustainability awareness, education, and leadership efforts, energy savings, greenhouse gas reduction, waste minimization, local agriculture and economy, and other resource-saving activities.

Submit a Nomination

Nominate a student, staff, or faculty member using this Google Form. Further information and eligibility requirements are below.

Student Award Eligibility

Any current undergraduate or graduate student from UMD who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting campus sustainability in education, operations, and/or any aspect of campus life. *Group project teams also considered. 

Staff/Faculty Award Eligibility

Any staff or faculty member (or team/collaboration) at UMD who has led a project or activity that has great promise to increase campus/community sustainability or has the potential to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of a campus unit or population. This effort should be above and beyond the staff/faculty person’s regular duties.

Presentation of Awards: Selected winners will be acknowledged at the annual UMD Student Awards ceremony in April. *The student winner will also receive a $100 gift card. 

Deadline for 2020 submissions: March 31, 2020. 

Ready to nominate? Use this Google Form

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2019 Award Recipients

2019 Student Recipient: Dave Herrera If you know Dave Herrera, you already know that he does A LOT for this campus and his work on sustainability is only a portion of the impact he’s had here. Dave’s work in sustainability will leave a legacy on this campus and paves the way for future student leadership through his work of bridging disciplines, creating relationships with administrators, and developing policies that have made (and will keep) UMD better than he found it. To quote just a few of his seven nominators (yes, SEVEN!), Dave “is the go to guy for anything related to sustainability”, “has gone above and beyond as the Director of Sustainability for Student Association”, and “is razor focused on making Duluth the most sustainable city not only in the Midwest, but in the country”.

That last one might be a little exaggerated, but I wouldn’t put it past Dave. Dave’s nominators also reminded us of the MANY projects that Dave has had a hand in: worked at the UMD farm, created the Sustainability Director position within SA and is the first to hold that office, rebooted the Student Sustainability Coalition, supports the SUN Delegation and solar development on campus, helped UMD sign on to be a pollinator friendly campus, and is helping campus get bee and bat houses to create habitat. Most importantly, Dave never fails to bring in the social and environmental justice aspects of topics we engage in. He is a champion for human beings and their wellbeing in this work, which sadly can be overshadowed sometimes by cute baby animals or picturesque outdoor spaces. In sustainability and on this campus, Dave does it all and embodies positive and inclusive leadership along the way. We are proud to recognize Dave’s never-ending work through this award. Congratulations, Dave.

2019 Staff Recipients: Ed Kruse and Nick Blotti Custodial Services are the front line to reducing waste on campus. The system developed at UMD is now color-coded in signage, the bags used for waste streams, and most importantly, the BINS to encourage proper sorting. BLUE means recycling, and GREEN means composting! Facilities Management has worked to make sure that waste containers all follow the color guide.

Ed Kruse and Nick Blotti found that some of the nicer, metal containers in public areas didn't meet the current color scheme for recycling. So, instead of getting rid of-- or replacing-- these containers, they took it upon themselves to improve the containers by painting the lids blue for recycling. The bins turned out great, look professional, and helped save money from avoiding replacing the containers. Plus, now they are consistent with the recycling color scheme, making it easier for people to properly recycle at UMD. By repurposing what we already had, Ed and Nick avoided buying additional containers - a win-win for saving money and reducing waste. Thank you Ed and Nick, for inspiring sustainable choices, for supporting campus waste reduction goals, and for using campus resources wisely--- we’re grateful for your leadership!

2019 Faculty Recipient: Julie Etterson In Fall of 2018, Dr. Julie Etterson led the establishment of a partnership between the U of MN’s Institute on the Environment and UMD, called “[email protected]”. As part of this effort, she organized several events to bring together members of the campus for retreats, tours, and research presentations. For students, she hosted an "Earth, Sky, Water" tour, which demonstrated the ways UMD research and projects focus on the challenges of climate change. Dr. Etterson also played a key role in planning for the "Our Climate Futures” summit. This conference brought together researchers from across the campus, SeaGrant, and NRRI, along with climate experts, community members, and both undergraduate and graduate UMD students, to learn about the future of the climate in our region.

Beyond Dr. Etterson’s action on campus, she is also a highly respected researcher, focused on how plants are react to a changing climate. Her work addresses critical questions about whether plant species have the adaptive capacity to respond to a rapidly changing climate. She also leads a massive effort to collect seeds from modern populations and preserve them for future research efforts in her “Project Baseline” initiative.

A quote from her colleague sums it up best: “I have personally been inspired by Dr. Etterson through her passionate involvement and compassionate drive. She is very direct with what her goals are, yet very gentle when people ask for explanation. Her diverse background explains why sustainability must be interdisciplinary. She also works on empowering other female peers, and makes sure that many different folks are part of the conversation.”

Dr. Etterson has demonstrated her commitment to sustainability, not only to UMD, but to the community. Her work inspires people on campus and in the community to engage in important conversations about climate change and other environmental challenges, and for that we honor her today.

2018 Award Recipients

2018 Student Recipient: Maddie Sinclair Maddie Sinclair works tirelessly on campus to promote understanding of sustainability and sustainable development action and projects. Maddie has been an active SUN Delegation member, she traveled with faculty on an international sustainability and renewable energy research trip (Europe Energy Transition Tour), and has played a key role in the German Culture Club. Maddie has also served as a valued employee in UMD's Sustainability Office for three years, leading efforts to organize events, connect the campus and community, and recently played a lead role in organizing SELFsustain 2018, a U of MN leadership conference on sustainability.

In academics, she is an outstanding student and helped play a leadership role in the German Culture and Sustainability course with Dr. Dan Nolan in Fall 2017 to help deepen the impact of learning for everyone in the class. Maddie focused her research project on a comparison of a local sustainability-focused community organization with a similar organization in our partner city in the Climate Smart Municipalities Program. By comparing Ecolibrium3 and the Energy Club of Siegen, Germany, Maddie and her research team were able to produce concrete recommendations and derive important real-world lessons from her international comparative analysis of these organizations and the societies in which they function.

With the UMD Solar University Network, she has helped guide UMD investment in solar energy, and presented the group’s work on solar expansion on campus to the Isaak Walton League, University for Seniors (Climate of Hope course), to the UMD Student Association, and at a national Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference.

2018 Staff Recipient: Ann Pellant Ann Pellant helps lead sustainability efforts for UMD Stores, including convening a Stores Sustainability group, made up of engaged and active student employees. This group implements sustainability initiatives, including campus clean-ups, Bag Free events, and represents UMD Stores at sustainability and community events. Ann portrays a true passion for sustainability, and others, especially our student employees, feed off of her enthusiasm.

2018 Faculty Recipient: Geoff Bell Dr. Bell is an ardent supporter of sustainability on the UMD campus. To create awareness among his students to view sustainability issues from an organizational perspective, he created a new Foundations of Sustainable Management course. Dr. Bell has served on the Sustainability Education Committee in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) where he champions not only curricular initiatives on sustainability, but also day-to-day tactical issues such as recycling bins within the building and their placements. Among other things, the committee maintains a Sustainability Advising Guide to help students identify courses from across the UMD campus that have a sustainability emphasis. He played a leadership role in design and implementation of a new, cross-disciplinary minor in Sustainable Business and Organization. Dr. Bell is also an active member of a UMD campus-wide Sustainability Education Committee, which he has chaired since Fall 2017. In the community, he serves on the board of Sustainable Twin Ports and frequently uses his Duluth-area connections to invite guest speakers to his classes to talk about sustainability.

2017 Award Recipients

2017 student recipient: Aidan Fawcett Aidan Fawcett, a mechanical engineering student and leader in the UMD Solar University Network (SUN) Delegation. Over the past year, Aidan dedicated a great deal of time to learning and understanding how solar energy systems work and the obstacles that must be overcome to bring more solar to the UMD campus. The SUN Delegation team gathered resources and worked to overcome both financial and technical barriers to solar development. The SUN Delegation will celebrate the groundbreaking of an 11-kilowatt solar pavilion project in May that will double renewable energy production at UMD.

2017 staff recipient: Tim Bates Tim Bates is involved with campus-wide sustainability committees, serving as co-chair of the Sustainability Education committee and a member of the Sustainability Operations committee. He has been instrumental for many years in managing the Bagley Nature Area in a sustainable manner, especially with his 14 years of holding the annual Buckthorn Pull. Tim has been involved with sustainability management and education at UMD long before sustainability goals were outlined in the campus strategic plan. Tim is an inspiration to UMD students and he helps make the Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program (RSOP) a key player in sustainability efforts on campus. For example. Tim was one of the founders of campus biking efforts, and now runs a bike rental and access program out of the RSOP. Whether working on biking programs, Bagley Nature Area trail management, or any other outdoor experience that he offers students, Tim always makes sure to incorporate sustainability education.

2017 faculty recipient: David Syring Dr. David Syring creates dynamic and interactive sustainability education in his classroom, from the very local (UMD campus sustainability projects) to the global (designing a class to study sustainability in Costa Rica). His most recent sustainability teaching innovation was working with Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) opportunities to connect students in his Anthropology and Environment class to students studying in a university in Mexico. Dr. Syring’s research and teaching focuses on humanistic approaches to resilient food systems, human-environment relationships, globalization. His work uses sustainability as a theoretical framework and practical approach to addressing contemporary issues of social inequality. He encourages students to explore sustainability issues through a culturally diverse, global lens that does not separate environmental concerns from human needs of social and economic equality. Of particular note, Dr. Syring introduces students to non-Western perspectives on sustainability—and not simply through readings and films. Through the COIL experience, UMD students worked alongside students in another country to discuss and develop sustainability projects relevant to their local communities.

2016 Award Recipients

2016 Student Award recipient Carissa Kloncz Carissa Kloncz, Chemical Engineering for her dedicated work as a Solar University Network Delegate. Carissa was instrumental in securing a NREL solar assistance grant for UMD as well as in a successful Student Service Fee request for capital investment dollars to bring more solar to campus.

2016 Staff Award recipient Ryan Hueffmeier Ryan Hueffmeier, Natural Resources Research Institute for his leadership in formalizing a sustainable culture both internally and externally at NRRI; focusing on opportunities with the largest potential environmental, economic, and social returns. He has mentored numerous UMD student interns in projects related to solid waste and recycling, energy and water conservation, sustainable food production, and outreach and education.

2016 Faculty Award recipient Dr. Ken Gilbertson Dr. Ken Gilbertson, Department of Applied Human Sciences Applied Human Sciences, College of Education and Human Service Professions for his advocacy and active involvement with the promotion of sustainability and sustainability education at UMD for over 25 years. He is recognized internationally as an important leader in guiding work in protected nature areas. “Ken engages the students in a way that is inviting and helps them see their strengths and how they can contribute to make the world a better place”.

2015 Award Recipients

2015 Student Award Recipient Olivia Dehler Olivia is an engaged, connected and inspiring student leader of the UMD Student Sustainability Coalition. Her activities include leading sustainability-themed booths and activities, participation in statewide and national conferences, creation of the ‘Journey of a Jar’ and projects to re-purpose glass and expired posters around campus.

2015 Staff Award Recipient Cindy Christian Cindy Christian, Alworth Institute, for her significant efforts to develop and implement the Alworth Institute’s Climate Change events. Cindy has developed many positive and productive partnerships that have led to awareness of issues surrounding climate change and demonstration of how community level sustainability practices address global issues.

2015 Faculty Award Recipients Mary Christiansen & Alison Hoxie Mary Christiansen, Civil Engineering and Alison Hoxie, Mechanical/Industrial Engineering for their collective work bringing students and the community together to change the way we all think about energy and sustainability.

2014 Award Recipients

2014 Student Award Recipients Samuel Knuth and Katie Earling from the Labovitz School of Business represented student winners, for their project addressing access to drinking water in the residence halls.

2014 Staff Award Recipient Steve Johnson from Natural Resources Research Institute won the staff award for his dedicated service and numerous innovative solutions to save time, money, energy, and waste at NRRI.

2014 Faculty Award Recipient Randel Hanson from the UMD Geography Department represented the faculty winner, for his leadership with the Sustainable Agriculture Project and contributions to campus food service operations, the regional good food movement, and sustainability education.

2013 Award Recipients

2013 Student Award Recipient Lanae Smith lead many sustainability initiatives on campus. She has worked with Victus Farm, MPIRG’s environmental initiatives, and has attended and presented at two U of M system-wide student sustainability leadership events.

2013 Staff Award Recipient Edwin Nganji instigated and coordinated the UMD initiative One World, One Environment during the spring 2013 semester. The event brought together UMD students, faculty, staff, and community members to discuss issues and values connected to our shared environment.

2013 Faculty Award Recipient Mike Mageau works on a number exciting community sustainable development projects throughout our region in the past decade including wind resource development analysis along northeast Minnesota’s Northshore, and Victus Farm in Silver Bay, MN. Through this work, he provides real life work experiences to many students each year.