Campus Sustainability Awards Given

Sun shining on the Sturges Quad

The Sturges Quad (SUNY Geneseo/Keith Walters '11)

The President's Commission on Sustainability recently honored members of the campus community for their efforts to advance sustainability at Geneseo. 

"Amidst all the emotional challenges, obstacles, and barriers that were thrown at the Geneseo community this past year, we have made some amazing gains in sustainability," says Meg Reitz, commission co-chair and associate director of residence life for educational initiatives. "It's valuable to stop, recognize those gains, and celebrate the tireless work of the people in all parts of our campus." 

Sustainability highlights include: a renewed focus on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and social justice; completion of updating air handlers in all campus buildings; College Senate endorsement of an on-campus food pantry; and Geneseo's decision to become a signatory to the University Global Coalition. Geneseo is working with three schools from around the world to advance the SDG Quality Education, in the coalition's Decade of Action campaign. Most significantly, Reitz says, the College Senate passed a revision to the general education curriculum that includes a sustainability requirement, ensuring that all students learn and think critically about this college value.

The 2020–21 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award winners are:

Student Winner: Fleurian Filkins '21
Members recognize Filkins' tremendous impact on campus during their two years at Geneseo. As an eco rep, they wrote a campus gardens proposal to reduce mowing and create native garden habitats, create outdoor spaces for studying, and advocate for gardens run by residence halls. They wrote a vertical garden proposal, including a prototype design, for the Eco House Living-Learning Community and secured a $1,000 grant for the project. Filkins also worked with the Food Security Advocates to write the proposal for the on-campus food pantry, which was approved by the College Senate this spring. Members say Filkins is "an incredible advocate for student voices and social justice, and they have truly changed sustainability on Geneseo's campus forever."

Student Honorable Mention: Molly Mattison '21
Mattison has held several campus leadership positions. She worked as a Hall Council sustainability representative, an eco rep and resident assistant in Onondaga Hall, and a sustainability intern overseeing the Hall Sustainability representatives. As assistant residence director in Monroe Hall, she worked as a peer leader for the Tesla House and Eco House Living-Learning Communities. She worked closely with Fleurian Filkins '21 to gain support for and begin construction of the vertical garden for Monroe Hall, and she led the communication for the composting initiative in the residence halls. Members recognized her leadership for the student-led effort to start an on-campus thrift store, working on the collections, pop-up thrift shops, and behind-the-scenes work involved in such an effort. Members say one of Mattison's strengths is welcoming and including students in sustainability work. "She's enthusiastic and warm and recognizes that sustainability work should come from passions, which are unique to each person," says Reitz. "We all have a role to play in building a sustainable future, and Molly actively brings more people into that work."

Student Organization Winner: Food Security Advocates
The Food Security Advocates have been a loud and constant voice on campus this year," says Reitz. "They successfully researched, wrote, and defended a proposal for an on-campus food pantry and had many productive conversations with Campus Auxiliary Services to brainstorm and start projects that will increase student food security. "

Faculty Winner: Suann Yang, associate professor of biology
Yang has developed multidisciplinary curricula focused on sustainability, including the IBIS Project (Integrating Biology and Inquiry Skills) and the DOMES Project (Designing Open Modules on Environmental Sustainability). She has served on the Campus Auxiliary Services board to advance sustainability in food systems on campus. She has also been recognized by her students for her enthusiasm for sustainability, advancing awareness through coursework and sharing her sustainable lifestyle. The focus of Yang's research and teaching is ecology, specifically interactions among species and the ecology of constructed habitats. Members said that Yang, on a daily basis, "supports students in gaining knowledge and skills for understanding what is necessary for sustainable practices and positive relationships with the natural world." Yang brings this focus to her classroom teaching, extensive research with undergraduates, and interactions with members of campus who are not scientists by training. She’s also highly engaged with integrative learning.

Faculty Honorable Mention: Stephen Padalino, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Physics
Padalino was recognized as a driving force and leader for sustainability issues on campus for more than six years. He was one of the co-creators of the college's eGarden and has dedicated much effort in planning the eGarden facility and outfitting it with scientific instrumentation. This instrumentation includes a wind turbine, a photo-voltaic solar collector air heater, arduino data collection, a telemetry system, and a micro-algae pond farming system to create biofuels. "What is most impressive about his work is how he has been able to involve a large number of students in these projects, giving them valuable hands-on high-impact research experiences that are the hallmark of a Geneseo education," Reitz says. "He has also been involved a multidisciplinary team of students on his projects, involving students not only from physics but also from biology, chemistry, and other non-science fields." Recently, members said, Padalino developed Sustainable Energy, a natural science core class that will offered this fall. Members say he has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to advancing awareness of sustainability on campus.

Faculty nominees: Ahmad Almomani, assistant professor of math, and Paul Schacht, professor of English

Staff Winner: Jon Heininger, senior financial aid counselor
Members say Heininger is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainability in many ways on campus, encouraging everyone in his division to recycle and participate in the college's composting program. Co-workers say he is knowledgeable on worldwide issues and practices what he preaches. He was also recognized as an advocate for green parking spaces, carpooling, charging stations, and a hybrid work schedule. He has extensively researched programs, cost-savings, and proposals to decrease campus scope three emissions, especially through travel.  

Staff Honorable Mention: Bill Meyers, Campus Information Technology project engineer
Members recognized Meyers for always applying environmentally sustainable practices to classroom technology. This includes recycling used LCD projector lamps and installing the first laser-light projectors on campus. Laser light projectors do not use a lamp, therefore minimizing Geneseo's carbon footprint and reducing the build-up of waste that’s bad for the environment. He plans to further sustainability goals by recycling more out-of-date equipment and installing only lamp-free projectors.


Kris Dreessen
Manager of Editorial Services
(585) 245-5516