Story by Sarah Grossman
Between the free blue water bottles each student received, the filtration machines and the lack of disposable plastic water bottles, it’s clear that the water bottle ban is in effect. But has the LEAD capstones’ efforts made an impact? The Times-Delphic sat down with Thomas Westbrook, the chair of the interdisciplinary undergraduate concentration in leadership, education and development.
TD: What was your role in the class, and the students’?
TW: I facilitated the capstone course last fall that the students initiated that as the class product. The class project in the capstone LEAD program is one that requires students to bring some value to an organization through some change initiative to create positive social improvement.
TD: What was the first step in reducing bottled water’s presence on the Drake University campus?
TW: Sodexo was the start in many respects. The students met with Sodexo General Manager Danny Cronzier, and he was absolutely encouraging, indicating that Sodexo had worked with other campuses in this initiative. He had some alternatives. He made some suggestions, and he suggested how the students could move forward. They have been absolutely a strong strong advocate of this initiative, the best, the best advocate you’d want.
TD: Do you feel the program is a success?
TW: Yeah, three things happened. We restricted sale of the plastic water bottles, so you don’t see those on campus. A lot more hydration stations, that was the second success. Every new student was to get a refillable plastic water bottle, which I understand they have. Even prospective students in admissions get plastic water bottles. So, absolutely it’s having a real good initial success.
TD: What are students using as an alternative to the Drake water bottles?
TW: All catered events no longer include plastic water bottles. That’s a huge success, and a major credit to Sodexo. Some of the meetings I’ve been in I have seen plastic cups. All students, not just LEAD students, an initiaitive might be to encourage Sodexo to use paper cups that are recyclable instead of plastic. That would be a nice next step, but again, that would be a student initiative because the class is over.
TD: In tangible terms, what has changed on campus as a result of the ban?
TW: Yeah, some people are bringing their own, I see people carrying them around. But three things happened. We restricted sale of the plastic water bottles so you don’t see those on campus. A lot more hydration stations, that was the second success. There were a lot more installed over the summer. Three, every new student was to get a refillable plastic water bottle, which I understand they have. Even prospective students in admissions get plastic water bottles. So, absolutely it’s having a real good initial success.
TD: Obviously there is still Smart Water, do you feel that it has effected the success of the program?
TW: The restricted ban on the sale of plastic water and plastic bottles was not to include two things. First, right now the sale of water bottles at athletic events. That has to be, as the president indicated, phased out over a certain period of time. And the second one, which the class wrestled with, is enhanced bottled water where there are vitamins added. In essence, it’s more valuable or more nutritional water than you would get out of the tap. So the restriction was just simply on the sale of water, regular water in plastic bottles. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be extended, but that was what it was.
TD: How do you see this program developing?
TW: I think it’s going to be up to the students. I think the students themselves will need to make some decisions around the future of that. When I say students, I don’t just mean LEAD students, I mean Drake students. So hopefully the students will get behind efforts to expand it, on campus and off campus, that would be my hope. But as the first capstone class project, it did achieve what it set out to do. Leadership is measured by results, and I think we had some excellent results.