By Joy S. Jones
Deborah Green served for 21 years as an adjunct and four years full time as a professor of environmental science. As nominative determinism would have it, for the past two years and four months, she has flourished as a change maker as Valencia’s founding director of sustainability.
Nominative determinism is the theory that a person’s name somehow influences what they ultimately do for a living. These days at Valencia, Deborah Green, yes that’s her real name, is nearly synonymous with outdoor community service projects, recycling and Arbor Day plantings. Yet, she says the most rewarding project has been promoting the “Get Outside” movement with nature walks.
“The window to interest in sustainability most often starts with recycling, but I found that getting outside is an even better way to foster long-term interest by students and employees,” she says, “especially when we have such beautiful preserved areas on the campuses.”
Five to ten West Campus staff members and a few students seeking Skillshop credit joined her and colleague Larry Rosen for monthly walks. “When the student wellness ambassadors on West Campus set up a series of weekly nature walks this spring for students, I knew the effort was succeeding.”
East Campus already had a strong observance of Arbor Day, thanks to Deborah’s sustainability committee colleagues Clarence Canada, grounds maintenance supervisor, and Patti Smith, East Campus Biology professor, but the other campuses had not. This year, the West, Osceola, East and Lake Nona Campuses are planting new trees for Arbor Day.
“It was gratifying seeing more than 100 students, faculty and staff come out on West Campus in March 2012 to plant 100 trees funded by Toyota and the Arbor Day Foundation and having some 40 people working on our West Campus butterfly garden on Green Apple Day of Service in both 2012 and 2013. It was also a lot of fun to bring the Culinary Arts Student Association (CASA) out to serve vegan food to 600 students and employees on our first West Campus Sustainability Day this year,” she says. Achieving buy-in from campus presidents for numerous outdoor projects has also been a boon.
Presentations at conferences and case studies on the work have brought the College national attention and awards. Valencia achieved the STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in October 2012, and has received awards for green cleaning and waste minimization as well as energy efficiency.
What’s more, the nationally recognized, Sustainability Across the Curriculum course, among one of the most ambitious undertakings, will, on Deborah’s last day, February 28, 2014, have 58 professors as graduates. The course teaches that sustainability can be a part of any discipline.
Ultimately, what Deborah set out to do is to bring sustainability to the forefront as an ethical issue that is relevant to each of our lives from the standpoint of people, our planet and profit. Slowly but surely, she’s inched us all along, contributing to making the campuses, both in the natural and built environment, a living laboratory.
There’s little coincidence that the many initiatives are thriving.
Deborah shares that her nine years working as a water conservation coordinator, answering to a board of mayors in Volusia County and as an instructor both prepared her for the job.
“As an instructor, it isn’t easy to change from being a ’sage on a stage’ to ’guide on the side’ when you love your subject matter, but there’s evidence that real learning involves the instructor taking diverse, active learning approaches, including collaborative learning,” which is what she set out to achieve.
While Deborah says there still remains much work to do so that sustainability is recognized as a core value of the College, she hopes that her successor will continue the efforts.
A retirement celebration in Deborah’s honor will be held February 26, 2014, from 1 – 3 p.m. on the West Campus, in Building 14, Conference Room 100-A.