Learning about sustainability can take place outside of the classroom, as well as in it. Events that raise awareness of sustainability can occur in the residence halls, Student Union, department meetings, faculty colleges, and many other locations across campus. One of the best ways that UTPA can ensure that students are aware of sustainability issues, and are able to tackle these complex problems when they enter the work force, is to provide them with hands-on experience in sustainability.
Co-curricular programs provide opportunities for students to engage directly with the community through organized volunteer activity and student organizations. These programs facilitate direct application of classroom knowledge into practical settings, and increase a sense of citizenry. In this way co-curricular activities enhance critical thinking skills and cognitive complexity, and encourage student retention by providing a sense of community for the students.
Service-learning includes a multidisciplinary application of coursework within and across fields toward sustainability-related problem-solving. Some of the benefits to service include a deeper understanding of theory learned in class, a developed sense of place and civic duty in students, and an empowered student population with skills as change agents who advance the university’s mission of providing service to the community, state, and nation. Moreover, co-curricular service cultivates interdisciplinary partnerships and allows faculty to simultaneously meet service and teaching goals.
Currently, there are approximately two hundred student organizations registered with the Student Government Association (SGA) at UTPA, including an ad hoc committee called the Environmental Awareness Club (EAC). The EAC student organization sponsors events and activities year-round with the university and community. Additionally, SGA has both ride/share and an environmental awareness survey on their website. The Student Union partners with SGA on the ride/share to save gas. The newly developed Eco-Reps project will provide a mechanism to energize and coordinate these student activities. In summary, the co-curricular education of the students holds tremendous value that can easily be phased in sustainability via staff and programs.
Resident Life, University Center, and Student Union currently practice the following initiatives:
- Require all residence hall community advisors to coordinate one sustainability program each year, providing them with models, contacts, and special funds for these events.
- Include sustainability in the first-year experience and orientation program.
- Integrate competitions focused on sustainability among campus groups and with other institutions.
- Sustainability programs in the residence halls such as reducing solid waste generated during move-in and move-out days.
- Save energy in Student Union by not turning on lights in certain areas on sunny days.
- Use bins from Student Life to collect plastic bags to take to Wal-Mart for recycling.
- Save water by putting plastic bottles filled with water in the bathroom toilet water tanks to displace water.
- Discontinue use of trays in cafeteria to save on water and energy for washing.
- Use air pump on campus for all students, staff, and faculty to use and properly inflate tires to save gas.
- Lend bikes to students.
- Provide recycling bins at student events.
- Have T-shirt giveaways for students to promote sustainability.
- Encourage reusable shopping bags.
- Recommend professors accept double-sided papers.
- Use text messaging system to notify students of events.
UTPA students give back to the community during Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 17
Environmental Awareness Club bike ride for a cause
Living Green Festival, UTPA exhibit sustainability initiatives