Keeping green: GV welcomes new sustainability director

Yumi Kakobcic

Yumi Kakobcic

Olivia Fellows

Grand Valley State University prides itself on being a green university, and for 13 years since its implementation, the Office for Sustainability Practices has worked hard to maintain GVSU’s sustainable name among Michigan’s top universities. 

Under the guidance of outgoing director Norman Christopher, the office has made sustainability one of the university’s core values. With Christopher’s leadership, GVSU was the first Michigan college to achieve gold status from the American Association of Sustainability in Higher Education, which is a comprehensive review of all sustainability practices at universities around the country. Additionally, the Sierra Club recognized GVSU as one of the nation’s greenest colleges for six years running. Christopher was recently inducted into the west Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame for his work at GVSU. 

On Jan. 1, GVSU’s former campus sustainability coordinator for the Sustainability Office Yumiko Jakobcic assumed the role of director following Christopher’s departure. Jakobcic said she was excited to begin the work of improving upon the programs that she aided the organization in creating and maintaining. 

When offered the job, Jakobcic said she jumped at the opportunity due to her love of environmental sustainability and her wish to continue educating students on its importance, especially on university campuses. 

“When I was a student at GVSU, the sustainability office was not well established, so I didn’t know this opportunity existed – but I knew I’d love to work at GVSU and that I would want to do something helping people and the environment,” Jakobcic said. “I’m most looking forward to helping and educating students. So many faculty and staff supported me as a student, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back.”

Jakobcic is well versed in the environmental fields, holding a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management from GVSU, a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University and is pursuing her doctorate in natural resources from the University of Vermont.

Jakobcic’s previous work as sustainability coordinator for the sustainability office helped her lay the groundwork for her new job as director, allowing her to aid GVSU in becoming greener as well as showing her additional sustainability program possibilities for the future.

During her time as director, Jakobcic aims to maintain GVSU’s establishment as a leader in sustainability through preserving GVSU’s gold star rating from the AASHE STARS organization. She is also interested in expanding educational opportunities at the Sustainable Agriculture Project on campus. 

Jakobcic wants to work toward engaging students further in programs that the Sustainability Office has to offer and sees student involvement and education on sustainability practices both in and outside of the classroom as a top priority. Another goal of Jakobcic’s is to educate students on the numerous green initiatives that GVSU already has in place, as students aren’t aware of many of them. 

“Students are often surprised to hear that we have geothermal in the Kelly Family Sports Center, or that we divert over half of our trash from the landfill and that we have an apiary,” Jakobcic said. “If students are learning about sustainability in classes and are surrounded by opportunities to observe and engage with the best sustainable practices, it will help GVSU – and the world – to be greener.” 

Jakobcic hopes that her work as director of the Sustainability Office will help students see the value in preserving the Earth and explained that there are many approaches that students can take to help maintain GVSU’s sustainability. 

Taking a class on sustainability practices and ideas, visiting GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project and apiary, considering a research project on sustainability or volunteering for an organization that helps improve the environment are all great ways to get involved in being green. Educating yourself on and implementing everyday sustainable practices can help create a greener campus and can show others that being environmentally conscious is an admirable thing to do. 

“Things like taking that extra second to grab a reusable water bottle (or) a reusable bag, to turn the lights off, to check the bus schedule instead of jumping in the car, to repair something instead of throwing it away are all good sustainability practices,” Jakobcic said, “If you’re interested in becoming more environmentally conscious, our office is here to help.”