Hybrid Sustainability showcase features student projects


GVL Archives

Lauren Formosa, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program is hosting its semi-annual Sustainability Showcase this week.

Starting on Sunday, Nov. 14, this showcase highlights over 25 projects done by students in the program that tackle environmental and sustainability issues and explore real-world solutions. In some cases, GVSU students from ENS 201 to ENS 401 chose to do their projects with community partners either on or around campus.

While professors gave their students flexibility when choosing their topics, this year’s projects fall under four main focus areas: food sustainability, water, energy systems and culture in the built environment. 

“Sometimes we have students who have interests in other areas,” said Director and Associate Professor of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program Amy McFarland. “We have four groups that are looking at forestry and the way in which forestry can be utilized to help advance sustainability.”

Topics for this year’s showcase range from facilitating pollinator habitats to using goats to improve soil health and erosion. Through showcasing their work, students will receive feedback from their professors, peers and community partners before making revisions to their final projects. 

The Sustainability Showcase began as a solely in-person event with only one participating class. Once COVID-19 hit in the middle of the winter 2020 semester, the event was forced to move online, much to the dismay of students who had been preparing to present their presentations. GVSU students in the program were asked to build websites to display their sustainability projects for the first time and, while scary for some, proved to be a good skill for environmental and sustainability students to develop.

“It’s something that you could put on your resume as having experience building a website using Google Sites,” McFarland said. “A lot of times students struggle to know ‘what can I put on the skill section that makes me stand out?’ Everybody’s got communication skills, everybody’s got written communication skills. Students don’t feel confident putting those things on their resume, but this is something that’s different.”

Both of last year’s showcases were held virtually, but this year’s showcase will be the first to have both in-person and virtual events. The Environmental and Sustainability Studies program, which is one of the fastest-growing programs at GVSU, is confident that they will be able to continue growing the Sustainability Showcase into the future, with hopefully more in-person events and class participation.

Sustainability is something that is not only important for those in the program, but also for the GVSU community. Many of this year’s projects center around environmental and sustainability issues that can be seen in and around the campus community. In addition, the Sustainability Showcase allows students in other programs that have sustainability components to see their fellow students’ work and get more involved with environmental and sustainability issues.         

“Sustainability is an issue that cuts across many majors,” McFarland said. “Engineers have an interest in sustainability, biologists have an interest in sustainability, geographers have an interest in sustainability, health care professionals have an interest in sustainability. You could potentially find people to start a business with or to start a nonprofit organization with because they have similar interests to you.”

The virtual Sustainability Showcase will stay live until Saturday, Nov. 20 and will include projects for all students involved. The Student Poster Session will be held on Friday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Pere-Marquette Room of Kirkhof Center, and includes work from two sections of Intro to Environmental and Sustainability Studies.

All are invited to attend and there will be plenty of snacks and refreshments, with time to mingle and network following the Student Poster Session,” said academic coordinator Justine Kibet.

To view the virtual Sustainability Showcase, visit gvsu.edu/ens/fall2021showcase.