By Shawna Leader/The AS Review

The organization of the AS Environmental Center will be changing next year. The Environmental Center, which was previously a part of the AS Resource and Outreach Programs, will be converted into the Environmental and Sustainability Programs. This new department will include the Environmental Center, the Outback Garden and the Alternative Transportation Coordinator, said Vice President for Business and Operations Virgilio Cintron.

The office will be managed by an Environmental and Sustainability Programs associate director.  This position will take the place of one of the coordinator positions in the Environmental Center. The associate director will manage the Environmental Center, which will have one coordinator instead of two, Alternative Transportation and the Outback. They will work closely with the Sustainable Food System coordinator, new Associate Director and current Environmental Center Co-Coordinator Kayla Henson said.

“Hopefully it will be able to focus the office and add some cooperation,” Henson said.

Having a director to organize the different offices will prevent issues such as double-booking events and will foster cooperation between the offices, Henson said. Ideally, this will lead to a more comprehensive office, she said.

For example, the new director will facilitate meetings between the offices to improve coordination, she said. The meetings will help the offices verbalize their ideas, work together, support each other and plan better events, Henson said.

Event collaboration is one potential result of the unification of the offices, Henson said. She gave the example of an educational event that would combine a workshop in the Outback with an environmental speaker brought in by another office. Or Alternative Transportation could have participants take a bus to a hike sponsored by another office.

“If there’s more collaboration between events, someone may have the opportunity to learn about something they normally wouldn’t have,” Henson said.
According to Cintron, the Environmental Center didn’t fit in the ROP because its programming is very different from that of the other ROP offices. Because of increased emphasis on and student interest in sustainability, it makes sense to create a center surrounded by environmental  and sustainability positions, he said.

“Everything’s really spread out, so maybe by having this centralized location where you have more of a coordinated effort between these offices…[will] maybe create more cooperation, so hopefully students will get more involved in that area, which it seems like students want to,” Cintron said.

According to Cintron, the discussion about where the Environmental Center belonged had been going on for about three years. Putting the EC in the ROP was a quick fix and it worked, but ultimately the EC has its own unique programming and needed its own associate director, Cintron said.

Even though the EC will no longer be a part of the ROP, Henson emphasized that the connection should not be severed completely. There were some cosponsored events that were a success this year and the new office will continue to do some cosponsored events with the ROP, she said.

“We hope to continue to work with the ROP … This just makes a little bit more sense,” Henson said.

The new office will begin next year with a publicity campaign to let people know how they can get involved and what the office does, Henson said.
Joining these various offices under one title will hopefully make the offices more focused and accessible to students, Henson said.

“It’s really exciting that a new office is being formed,” she said. “It’s a real opportunity for growth.”