Making Connections

By: Mat Roberts

As a student of the Kanawha project, a grant-funding initiative to advance carbon neutrality through the facilitation of climate literacy, I feel fortunate to be a part of pushing environmental dialogue into the classroom. Most of the Kanawha consists of faculty, some from other branches, seeking to add climate change context into their syllabi. As one of six students, our job is to share what we know to the professors and to be the student perspective in decision-making.

The great part about this community is the opportunity we all have to share distinct perspectives on climate change. I am the editor of College Green Magazine, an independent online publication dedicated to bringing the most provocative and engaging environmental news. I met many professors during the first Kanawha gathering who were interested in the vision I have for College Green Magazine in the future: bringing about greater awareness of climate change and showing how to live a sustainable life. At the time, the main problem was finding enough staff members to produce a viable media product and I expressed this concern deeply. The fact is, understanding climate change language is difficult.

Excited as I was to talk to these professors, I am pleased to say the response to my passion excited me even more. Craig Meyer, professor of rhetorical English, reached out to me beyond the Kanawha project to develop a project of his own in his current writing in environmental sustainability class. The students in his class, as part of a large portion of their grade, will be producing content for College Green Magazine.

The goal is to create an incentive to take this course, not only because students can learn more about climate change through the efforts of Craig’s participation in the Kanawha project, but can also leave with a valuable portfolio piece published in a student-led environmental publication. In return, I have been receiving new ideas each day. Some students will be working on a series of articles to turn in weekly, while others will choose to create a much larger product for the magazine. Because the students feel like they are part of something bigger than their grade point average, I feel like making connections like this is part of the solution towards improving climate change literacy.

My main goal would be to have this partnership in every ENG3100J course at Ohio University. With the partnership, creating content becomes a stress of the past. With all of the saved time, I envision College Green Magazine providing services to further enhance interest in environmental studies such as a comprehensive jobs and internships board, a research resources page connected with the Alden library databases, and a shared student and community eco-events calendar. All of this to say: if you have an idea for the common good, do not ever give up.

 

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What Kind of Manager Will You Be?

By: L Volpe

I was asked the other day about the quote “Silence Is Exhausting” (Robyn Ochs) that closes all of my e-mail communications. As I launched into my explanation — that every person, no matter who they are, deserves to be heard, taken seriously and treated with respect — I found it to be a wonderful representation of what my education and master’s degree from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs means to me.

Through all of my classes I have taken in the MPA program, my professors have stressed the responsibility we are taking on by becoming leaders in the public/nonprofit sector.  The roles that we will be stepping into have the potential to make a difference in a significant number of peoples’ lives.  We are giving a voice to individuals who may not have one.  Keeping in mind that “Silence is Exhausting,” we need to make intelligent and productive decisions that create public value.

I feel that this type of training is going to be an asset for us as we apply for jobs.  Anyone can step into a managerial role, but the MPA program is setting us up to be progressive managers who will push the public/nonprofit sector forward.  Remembering “Silence is Exhausting” is what makes me passionate about the mission of the organizations I am interviewing for and the difference I can make by performing my job to the best of my abilities.

I continue to be surprised by how much I have learned and grown through my experiences at the Voinovich School. The School has pushed me out of my comfort zone in my classes and given me the opportunity to gain practical experience as an intern with a number of organizations in the Athens area.  Taking a step back and seeing the difference that I have the potential to make in the public sector or a nonprofit organization empowers me to be the manager who gives people a voice and helps lessen the burden — the exhaustion — of silence in our communities.

Big Data: The Heroine?

By: Mathew Roberts

The CE3 Brown Bag lunch series is coming to a close for the fall semester. CE3 Director Scott Miller and I have been brainstorming who would lead the talks in the spring and further build dialogue among students, faculty, and researchers. This past Friday, I finally found an open time to stumble into the multidimensional world of big data and how it plays out in environmentally related discourse.

Dr. Ani Ruhil, associate professor and associate director of Research and Graduate Programs, spoke at the CE3 Brown Bag lunch series last fall. He amazed me with his talk about the mass amounts of information the digital world has captured.

What I gained in this short lecture is how this discipline takes form as both risk and opportunity.  This world of cloud computing and storage, analytical predication, and coded language is historically unprecedented. Big data has done what journalism may have intended to do from birth: record man’s deeds and be the keeper of his conscience.

The total amount of information in existence is equal to roughly 1.2 zettabytes (or over 1.3 trillion gigabytes [1] ). Our everyday lives revolve around shuffling megabytes and gigabytes across borders and boundaries. The concept of all digital information as a real measurement is astounding.

MATROBERTS pic

Big data is increasingly important in the economy. Big players such as Google and Facebook make their fortunes by accumulating, analyzing, and selling users’ data, much like an investment broker does with stocks on Wall Street.

Big data is integrated into my own work as well. As a CE3 Undergraduate Research Scholar, I have had the great opportunity to explore data on Ohio’s competitiveness in energy production and restoration of local watersheds from acid mine drainage. Journalists are highly dependent on statistics and figures of national and local governments’ regulations, policies, and procedures. They take big data to convey messages in understanding the environmental impacts and how it can be taken to foster sustainable action. In my previous work in creative advertising, big data offered a way to pinpoint markets, test effectiveness, and share marketing research in an effort to create an advertising campaign for national and international brands. In the end, big data is all about predicting behaviors and translating data through analytical tools.

In today’s culture, data is being used to convey points, connect links and inform in the face of great political debate. The product of this initiative has manifested into “data visualization” and it’s becoming widely popular.

This analysis can be used to create a better tomorrow — for example, by saving thousands of lives by improving healthcare. But it also can create uneven distributions of power when people, corporations, or agencies begin looking in places they should not.

Which brings us back to environmental issues. I bring this up because of the irreversibility and costs of using data the wrong way. If we accidently mine too much coal or drill too many wells and create a bigger cost in cleaning up water, we will need more data and money to clean up what more data and more money created in the first place.

Dr. Ruhil believes the future of analytics lies in the hands of the public and grabbing on to hope for much needed social changes. One such innovation is Kaggle. Founded in April 2010, Kaggle is “a platform for data prediction competitions. Companies, organizations and researchers post their large files of raw data only to have it sifted and molded into the world’s best data-mined models.” Because the big data players will ignore rural governments and their communities, “there is an opportunity to make a change for the better by putting your brains to work,” Ruhil said.

Although these ethical questions need more time, public debate, and consideration, we can always find hope in further data innovation despite the dual pulls of fear and opportunity.

Data innovation is especially exciting for students across the globe. Born into the world of computers, the next generation of learners will face the same ethical and logistical questions that we see today. Are you up for the challenge?

 

Athens StartUp Weekend — a observer’s video blog

By: Zoe Graham

I saw the words “StartUp Weekend” on the Center for Entrepreneurship’s calendar print out in my binder, but honestly couldn’t articulate more than, students create their own StartUp company’s in a weekend. Phyllis Bohning an enthusiastic coordinator with the Center for Entrepreneurship, which sponsors StartUp weekend, convinced me that it would be worth my time to cover this event. And man oh man, I’m glad I did. Here is my experience following participants in a not so typical 54 hour weekend.

To read more about StartUp weekend please visit,
bobcat-entrepreneur.com
athensoh.startupweekend.org
facebook.com/StartupWeekendAthens

The Evolution of Writing

By: Zoe Graham

From elementary school onward, I have been trained to write academic essays, research papers, reports and comparative analysis. However, with the arrival of the Internet and cell phones, people tend to have shorter and shorter attention spans. People tend to read news stories, reports and open links based on attention-grabbing headlines or short excerpts that attract their interest. With so much information available at our fingertips, how do media writers today effectively promote and generate traffic to their story in a world of impatient readers?

As a college student, I get the majority of my news from Twitter. In 140 characters or less, I decide if a story is worth reading based on the headline. That being said, solely writing a well-drafted story is not enough to draw traffic. It’s about effectively developing a concise headline and lead and posting to heavy-reader sources.

I’ve come across this obstacle in the past few months working at the Voinovich School. This is the first time I’ve realized how challenging it is to say everything you need to in a few words. I’ve spoken with many inspiring individuals and organizations such as the Voinovich School’s Robert Gordon, who worked with the village of Pomeroy to create a roadmap for local growth and prosperity called Imagine Pomeroy. There are months of dedication, details and drive behind this initiative—but if I as the writer don’t give an effective introduction and lead, the reader may skim over and forget about the story. It’s a matter of using social media and Internet headlines to generate enough interest to get readers to want to follow up and learn about the details.

To inform successfully today, it isn’t enough to have good ideas, research, plans and programs. Informing and promoting the most interesting, unique and valuable parts requires condensing the most complex ideas into a headline or a tweet. Then, hopefully, those people interested enough will explore deeper and become educated about the programs and research you are trying to promote.

There are great opportunities and great challenges for researchers to promote their programs and research in a sea of information and for media writers to effectively inform their audience of their research in a concise format, as well as ensure their attention-grabbing hooks are not just empty phrases, but introductions to interesting and valuable information and stories.

For me personally, working at the Voinovich School I’ve come to realize the challenge the media faces. When the school does such unique work in the “do tank” attitude, I want to make sure I do my part to generate interest and captivate readers so I can inform the community and the world of all the incredible things happening here.

Working towards a sustainable future

By: Alex Slaymaker

I spent part of my summer working as Georgetown University’s research fellow in the 2013 Ivy Plus Sustainability Research Collaborative.  There were multiple areas of concentration within the Collaborative framework to choose from; however, an exploratory conversation with my supervisor at Georgetown illuminated shared interests. Georgetown is very much interested in exploring organic waste diversion methods utilized in higher education, and I am very passionate about waste minimization and diversion.

Although everyone may not celebrate when they receive news they will be spending the majority of their summer researching organic waste, I was elated. Organic waste intrigues me because it is a comparatively easy problem to solve with known and economically feasible solutions. As with many simple and complex problems, the largest barrier is behavior change.

My first step was to conduct a comprehensive literature review and annotated bibliography on the subject of front-end post-consumer organic source separation. This jargon-dense phrase refers to a type of waste diversion that requires the waste generator to separate organic waste, recyclables and trash into different bins. This research illuminated a gap in the literature, which led to formation of the following research question: What are the most significant enabling factors associated with the successful implementation of front-end post-consumer organics source separation programs on college campuses?

After discussing possible methods of answering this question, my supervisor and I decided an online survey proved the most logical method to gather quantitative and qualitative data from a large number of universities across the nation. I identified the survey population based on specific characteristics such as waste diversion method, length of program, and availability of data. After finalizing the survey based on feedback from a trial, I was confident the content and methods would provide quality data. Unfortunately, my contract ended in August and I had to pass the survey distribution and analysis portion of this research to a group of Georgetown students. At the end of the program, I was able to show my work to my fellow Ivy-Plus researchers through a cyberconference. I was honored to present my work among such talented individuals, but was disappointed I couldn’t see the project to completion.

This summer was very challenging and required me to learn how to do many new tasks without showing my inexperience. My experience allowed me to live with my brother on Andrews Air Force Base and explore Washington, D.C., a city I have grown very fond of. Working in areas related to sustainability can sometimes be disheartening and overwhelming. This summer proved to me that brilliant people are not only identifying problems, but also finding and implementing solutions.  Freshly inspired, I returned to Ohio University excited for my final year and determined to help build a better, cleaner, healthier future.

Saving the Earth one bicycle lane at a time: Active Transportation and the Environment

By: Jeremiah Asaka

Earlier this week I was privileged to attend Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s 2013 Summit on Sustainability and the Environment. The conference was themed “Building resilience for a climate of change. “

The conference was segmented into three tracks: community, business and local government. All the tracks had sessions going on concurrently in the morning, mid morning and afternoon.

In order to get the best out of the conference I attended three sessions — one from each track. At one of the sessions, titled “Pathway to a Resilient, Energy-Efficient Economy,” I was pleased to see the contribution of the Voinovich School in fronting an energy-efficient-economy paradigm recognized by Dr. Fiksel of Ohio State University.  This recognition was done alongside that of Millennium Initiative and Ohio State University.

However, a discussion on active transportation really caught my attention. Active transportation is defined as any means of transport that involves the active involvement of one’s muscles, such as bike riding and walking.  According one of the panelists at the session titled “Active Transportation Is for Everyone,” active transportation has several advantages including, but not limited to, healthy living, reduced risk of obesity and heart disease.  As a panelist described it, “Walking and biking is a significant part of a healthy community.”

While active transportation is not a new phenomenon, its popularity as a central part of transportation has reduced over the years among most communities in the United States who prefer motorized transportation. The discussion at the conference centered on bringing active transportation back to its past glory. A major starting point suggested by one panelist was having every individual reserve short-distance travel for active transportation. For example, it was suggested that going to the neighborhood grocery store should be done either by biking or walking — depending on which one suits the scenario at hand.

Panelists at the discussion also shared experiences from different areas, mainly Chicago, Columbus, and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Compared to Columbus, Chicago was said to be way ahead of the game with the city mayor recently mandating the construction and protection of bike and walkways on nearly all major roads within the city. This, one of the participant said, has attracted major blue chip companies like Motorola to the city because of the convenience such options offer to their employees. The City of Calgary was touted as a better model on which to base future active transportation plans for Columbus..

The session also addressed some of the challenges faced by those already engaging in active transportation. Some the challenges include unprotected walkways, limited walkways and bike lanes, and, as one panelist put it, “motorists who don’t know that cyclists don’t belong to the sidewalks.”

If the discussions that I listened to were anything to go by, there is a lot of opportunity in the realm of active transportation and any community that chooses to make active transportation a big part of its culture stands to gain a lot in this era of living with our means.

Lastly, the conference did not conclude without a stab at the climate change debate. I must say it is a great source of hope for me whenever I see such a huge group of Americans gather to discuss climate change as a real threat to their existence and try to find solutions that can augment their resilience.

One of the speakers at a lunchtime panel discussion on climate change ushered conference attendees into the now highly politicized debate. The speaker, Ben Gelber — an NBC4 metereologist — said, “Climate change debate has been politicized. And that’s unfortunate. We are better than that as a society.” In agreement with Mr. Gelber, I think the politicization of any issue is actually the greatest misdeed that we as individuals can ever proffer upon humanity. The politicization of the cause and threat of climate change is costing humanity and life on earth dearly. The sooner we all realize that the better.

Just to give a glimpse of how much cost we are talking about here, another member of the panel, Kevin Reardon of the American Red Cross, had this to say: “One dollar spent on preparedness equals four dollars spent on response.” Imagine that!

We had all better agree that climate change is costly, real and that we have played a part in propagating it. Planning early enough for any eventuality even as we work on mitigating our impacts on the climate is surely the way to go


Knowing When To Say No

By: L Volpe

I have talked a lot about getting involved and taking advantage of every opportunity that you can in the two years you have at the Voinovich School. That being said, you may have to say no to some opportunities!

I am not the first graduate student to be stretched thin between my graduate assistantship, classes, and extracurricular activities. When it came down to the decision to run for an executive position in another organization, I had to think about what would happen to my work if I committed to another obligation.

In our qualitative methods class, we talked a lot about reflexivity and understanding how you personally react in certain situations.  The understanding of one’s own reaction to stressful situations is essential when dealing with the pressures of graduate school. I am the kind of person who has to try my absolute best in all my obligations, and upon reflection, I knew that adding one more executive board to my schedule would result in a lower quality of work in my existing positions. This lower quality would create even more stress in my life! Look out for yourself, and make sure that you are not setting yourself up for failure.

Additionally, utilize your advisors!  Dr. Millesen has looked over opportunities with me multiple times, and her second opinion helped me organize the advantages and disadvantages of each. No one will be disappointed if you have to say no. In the end, your organization will be more disappointed in you if you take on the project and do not fulfill it to the best of your abilities.

The Importance of Stuffing Envelopes

By: Caroline Boone

Over my two and a half years working as an Undergraduate Research Scholar at the Voinovich School, I have been involved in a number of qualitative research projects.  Most recently, I have been working on an evaluation for a federal grant which funds trainings and programs to support at-risk children.

This week I have been doing data entry and instrument preparation of parent surveys and training evaluations.  What does that mean? It means I’ve been entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet and stuffing envelopes. This is research? Yes. It turns out that, in order to complete an analysis or evaluation, you have to have data to work with.  The glossy final report documents that we love to show off and say, “Look what we did! Look at the impact we’re making!” come from Excel spreadsheets of data that someone, like me, entered.

The neat thing about being a Research Scholar at the Voinovich School is that I have been involved at all stages of the research process.   I don’t always stuff envelopes.  I have been involved in developing survey instruments, doing background research on numerous topics, and writing up best practices – tasks that are integral to the development of an evaluation.  My role is to jump into a project wherever I am needed; each job I complete is equally important to achieving the project goal.  I can honestly say that stuffing envelopes with surveys is just as important as writing the final report.

Next week, I am transcribing interviews.  My supervisor does not seem to understand my excitement, but I think I am looking forward to it just because it is a new skill I can develop.  (As an added bonus, my senior thesis will be primarily interview-based so I need the transcription practice. Ulterior motives, oops.) Tune in next time to see if transcription is my new favorite hobby!

A New Year, A New Opportunity

By: Zoe Graham

Looking back four years ago at my ambitious 18-year-old self, I could have only dreamed where I would be now. Beginning my fifth year of my undergraduate degree, I made a promise to myself that I would leave Athens and Ohio University only after taking advantage of every educational opportunity and resource I could get my hands on. This begins with my Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholar position.

I am three weeks into the school year, and already my mind has been broadened. I’ve learned that the School has a great impact on the regional community in terms of business creation/assistance and sustainability initiatives. Professionals seek the School for consulting and research.

One of my tasks as an Undergraduate Research Scholar is to collaborate with the Entrepreneurship and Regional Development program to create awareness and drive participation through various communication avenues about current events and programming. I am looking forward to attending and learning about these events, such as the Venture Cafés that enhance students’ educational experiences through real-world applications, including Start-Up Weekend this October. Using my perspective as a marketing major, I intend to immerse myself and dive into the “do tank” of programs the Voinovich School offers in hope of sharing others’ experiences as well as my own.

A year ago I completed my Global Leadership Certificate. I loved this program and obtained life skills, such as collaborating as a team with multidisciplinary students in all walks of life to organize and implement ideas into a well-communicated product that I have applied to nearly all my areas of interest. I intend to build on these skills to promote the Voinovich School through the web.

Engaging in programs beyond those required for my degree opened my mind to the many possibilities available through Ohio University. The Voinovich School is one of the few professional opportunities offered where students, businesses and organizations work together, engaging students to “think, lead, and innovate.”

A mantra I live by is, “make it happen.” I strive to work toward something larger than myself through creativity, hard work and passion. I see the Voinovich School as a great place to hone  my marketing and communication skills as a part of a collaborative team. I am excited to see where working at the Voinovich School leads and intend to take advantage of the great knowledge and experience available through this unique school.