Sophia Siegel, a recent graduate of Drake University’s Environmental Sustainability & Resilience program, has returned to campus this fall in a new role–Drake’s first sustainability coordinator.
As the sustainability coordinator, Siegel works as a member of the Facilities Planning and Management team to promote social, economic and environmental sustainability across the Drake campus and to assist in reducing the university’s impact on the environment.
“I like it a lot, but there are challenges when you are taking a position that is new to the entire university,” Siegel said.
Siegel said the job of a sustainability coordinator looks different at every university, and that some larger universities even have entire sustainability offices.
“The benefits of having a person in this role is that they can serve as a liaison between faculty, staff and students to develop and coordinate sustainability goals that align with Drake’s Climate Action Plan,” said Kevin Moran, the executive director of Facilities Planning and Management.
To monitor and compare Drake’s sustainability practices with other universities, Siegel works to generate reports with Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, a standardized self-assessment program for the universities.
Siegel said that she is working to create a strategic sustainability plan that includes specific subplans with short term and long term quantitative goals for cost and energy-saving opportunities. This entails monitoring and reporting utility data, including energy, water, gas and waste. Some of her specific goals for this include reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emissions and identifying zero waste opportunities.
Siegel said one of the first orders of business for her is to increase the involvement with sustainability across campus and community. She has begun meeting with a variety of faculty and staff on campus to gain a better understanding of the sustainability interests and needs and to spread awareness about sustainability opportunities.
Siegel said she is looking forward to “identifying more opportunities to see campus as a learning laboratory.”
Utilizing the campus as a learning laboratory would give students opportunities to engage with their interests across different schools and majors and provide students with real world professional and academic experience through opportunities to make real changes that benefit the entire campus and community. Siegel said she knows students already have the ideas and passion, they just aren’t aware of how to follow through and she hopes to help them do that.
Siegel said she sees student interns as an untapped resource for finding and working toward creative and innovative sustainability goals on campus. She also said that she hopes to expand student opportunities for engagement past just traditional roles.
For example, Siegel said she sees many opportunities for students of different majors and backgrounds, such as entrepreneurship students. Her team is currently in the process of hiring a communications intern.
Siegel said she wants to develop a stronger centralized sustainability communications platform to help spread useful sustainability information and boost engagement, such as public transportation guides and Sprout Garden opportunities.
Siegel graduated from Drake last spring with a degree in environmental sustainability and resilience. While at Drake, she was involved in many sustainability leadership roles, such as the Drake Environmental Action League and working as a sustainability intern for the university.
Moran said that these examples of leadership in sustainability are what made Siegel’s application for the position stand out.
“Sophia has a passion for sustainability and the environment that when you meet her, that passion shines through everything she does,” Moran said.