CLAS stars as sustainable college of October

GVL / Kaitlyn Bowman 
Students sitting in lecture for Chemistry and Society.

GVL / Kaitlyn Bowman Students sitting in lecture for Chemistry and Society.

Ellie Phillips

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stands in the Sustainability Spotlight for the month of October. With six seminars and 32 classes offered that relate to sustainability, the largest college in Grand Valley State University has truly been decreasing its footprint and ‘going green.’

“CLAS embraces the concept and goals of sustainability and incorporates those throughout its activities, including paperless meetings whenever possible, recycling in our offices and printing on recycled paper,” said Shaily Menon, associate dean of CLAS. “CLAS faculty have been an integral part of storm water projects on the Allendale campus, whose goal is to manage storm water and protect the fragile ecosystem in the ravines. CLAS faculty have worked closely with Facilities Planning to design and implement water diversions, planting, green roofs, rain gardens and sustainable building design. CLAS (also) features sustainability in many of the articles that are published in its newsletter.”

Sustainability will be featured in the activities at the CLAS Mindgating table in the Homecoming Expo, and student groups, including SWCS, the BIO club, the SEC and other volunteers, will work to ensure as close to a zero-waste football game as possible.

CLAS has also chosen one specific area to highlight in their sustainability initiatives: ‘fracking,’ a process used to extract fossil fuels from a rock layer by pumping it with a mixture of sand, chemicals and water until it fractures.

“(Fracking) was chosen because of its relevance to communities in the state and potential environmental and human health concerns related to the process and leaks associated with the process,” Menon said.

The 32 classes offered by CLAS that relate to sustainability include The World After Einstein (PHY 303), Historical Geography of the Amazon (GPY 361) and Global Agricultural Sustainability (BIO 319).

“CLAS departments offer a wide range of classes and research projects on environmental issues including Natural Resources Management and the Annis Water Resources Institute,” said Bart Bartels, campus sustainability manager.

Though the classes are not necessarily new, as sustainability awareness has been increasing over recent years, highlighting the classes is just another way to promote campus sustainability, a goal that is very important to CLAS.

“The Liberal Arts and Sciences enable students to engage in critical inquiry and to understand the relationship of humans with their social, cultural and natural environment,” Menon said. “It helps students to develop as citizens in a democracy and as members of the global community of the 21st century. Since sustainability is one of the defining issues of the 21st century, there is a strong connection between Liberal Arts and Sciences and explorations of what sustainability means and how we can achieve it in local, regional, and global contexts.”

According to the October Spotlight web site, the six seminars offered by CLAS will occur over the course of the month, the first of which is set for Oct. 9 from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. It will feature speaker Kristi Klomp, executive director of the Timberland Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. The event is currently standing room only. Paul Rogers, MDNR Forest Fire Office, will be speaking Oct. 23 from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. in the same location, and space is limited.

The Frauenthal Center’s Beardsley Theatre will host the TEDx Energy event Oct. 11, from 9:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Though there is a $30 registration fee, $5 of the fee will go to benefit the community. To register, visit Also, CLAS faculty from a range of disciplines will make presentations on the theme of sustainability in the CLAS Faculty Research Colloquium on Oct. 19, from 2:30-5:00 p.m., in room 308 of the Padnos building.

For more information on the CLAS and sustainability, visit
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