Student organization wins state-level award from SWCS

Courtesy Photo / Jessica Schwartz
GVSUs Soil and Water Conservation Society pictured during last Falls Adopt-A-Highway clean up.

Courtesy Photo / Jessica Schwartz GVSU’s Soil and Water Conservation Society pictured during last Fall’s Adopt-A-Highway clean up.

Molly Waite

Student organizations can find it difficult to compete with professional, private and nonprofit organizations, but that did not stop Grand Valley State University’s student chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society from being the first student chapter to receive an award from the Michigan chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Jessica Schwartz, president of the student chapter of the SWCS, said she was surprised but ecstatic to find out the student chapter was chosen.

“I’m really proud of the GVSU student chapter of Soil and Water Conservation Society that we won the Education Award,” said Schwartz, a senior. “The Education Award is an important award for us especially since we are a student organization competing against all organizations around the state, and to be recognized for all the hard work we have done in the past year is really astounding.”

Schwartz will accept the Education Award on behalf of the GVSU SWCS student chapter during the SWCS award ceremony at Michigan State University in March.

The Chapter Education Award is given to an individual or group for educating people about conservation, said Kelly Goward, the regional director for Ottawa and Allegan Conservation Districts for the Michigan chapter of SWCS.

“This is a prestigious award,” Goward said. “I’m not aware of any other organization that provides awards to groups or individuals making significant contributions to conservation. The awards that we give are recognized at the state level, but there are also opportunities to be recognized by SWCS at the national level as well.”

Goward said, to the best of her knowledge, this is the first time that a student chapter was nominated for one of the Michigan SWCS awards.

The purpose of GVSU’s Student Chapter of the SWCS is to foster the science and art of soil, water and related natural resources management to achieve sustainability and promote ethical practices that recognize the interdependence of people and environment, said Todd Aschenbach, assistant professor of Natural Resources Management and the student chapter adviser.

The student chapter is one of the 75 local SWCS chapters, of which there are over 5,000 members in the United States and Canada, Aschenbach said. Members come from almost every academic discipline and many different public, private and nonprofit institutions.

“The student chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society at GVSU has contributed greatly to conservation education in West Michigan,” Aschenbach said. “We contribute both through a service learning or ‘hands-on’ approach and more formal presentations.”

The SWCS student chapter has held a variety of events throughout West Michigan and works closely with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan organization, Schwartz said.

Last year, the students participated in seven field outings including Scotch pine eradication in the Kuker-Van Til Nature Preserve, sand dune restoration at Castle Park Preserve, bittersweet eradication at Dune Pines Nature Preserve and garlic mustard removal at Aman Park.

The chapter also participates in the Adopt-a-Highway program by cleaning up their adopted highway twice a year, and the students took part in the Adopt-a-Beach program for the first time this fall.

Schwartz said the student chapter’s next event will take place Feb. 26 in the Saugatuck Natural Harbor Area, where they will remove European Paper Birch trees to protect a threatened species. Those interested in helping with this project or interested in more information about the SWCS, email the GVSU student chapter at [email protected].

[email protected]