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Frostburg SGA’s $15 Bet on Green Returns a More Sustainable Future
03/22/2016

Students seldom vote to create new mandatory fees for themselves, but when the purpose is clear and personally important, they do so gladly.

Thanks to the forethought of Frostburg State University Student Government Association leaders, 12 new student-focused sustainability projects have received grant funding from the FSU President’s Advisory Council for Sustainability (PACS). The funds were raised through FSU’s Student Sustainability Fee, a $15-per-semester mandatory fee instituted by SGA in May of 2014.

The 12 funded projects address various sustainability needs, including increasing awareness, performing environmental research, presenting research at academic conferences and making direct environmental impacts on campus. About half of the funded projects were proposed by students.

“It’s cool that they are very diverse,” said Dr. Dan Fiscus, FSU Sustainability Liaison and PACS member. “The projects are covering multiple sectors of what sustainability is all about.”

The initial funding round sought proposals for projects focused on the theme of “Sustainability Awareness.” Many of the funded projects will be noticeable to students on campus.

“One of the issues any time a student gets charged a student fee is, ‘Are you actually using the money for the purpose you said it was going to be used for?’ We’ve been very aware of that,” said Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas, associate professor of sociology and chair of PACS. “We want to make sure that students are able to see their dollars in use. We want to see a visibility of sustainability here on campus.”

Preference was given to projects involving and bringing benefit to students, linked to an academic class offering experiential learning, having long-term benefits for the campus, addressing items in FSU’s Climate Action Plan and encouraging collaboration among multiple campus groups.

PACS members were thrilled with the submissions received from the initial call for proposals, particularly those drafted by students.

“They had these incredible ideas that we don’t really think about. I think students can be much more innovative in their thinking than faculty members who have been around for a while,” said Rogers Thomas.

The committee plans to open another funding cycle before the end of the spring 2016 semester, seeking faculty-designed proposals for student experiential learning activities focused on sustainability. PACS intends to award the grants in time for faculty to design and plan activities over the summer. Projects funded in the next cycle will be carried out during the fall 2016 semester.

Another portion of the Student Sustainability Fee proceeds will fund institution-wide projects recommended to PACS by FSU’s Physical Plant Department, which is responsible for infrastructure maintenance and improvements. One likely proposal would install individual power meters for campus buildings, a highly important step toward carbon neutrality.

For several years, PACS has wanted to start an energy-saving competition among residence halls, an initiative that has significantly reduced energy consumption at other universities.

“Students have really made that competition their own and done some amazing things and proposed some incredible solutions based on this competitive process between residence halls, but without the metering system we can’t do that,” Rogers Thomas explained.

Physical Plant projects will be chosen based on their overall impact on FSU’s carbon footprint and their benefit to students. Those large-scale projects may span multiple funding years. Some, like a proposed solar energy array, should be highly visible.

Funding for Physical Plant initiatives will not reduce the portions reserved for student and faculty project proposals. While institutional projects may have the greatest impact on FSU’s carbon footprint, the experiential learning opportunities created through student and faculty proposals are central to FSU’s educational mission.

The SGA member who proposed the Student Sustainability Fee in 2014, Jacob MacDonald, and two Student Sierra Club members who assisted, Hannah Goodmuth and Benjamin Brown, have graduated, but their foresight will help FSU advance its quest for carbon neutrality, raise awareness of sustainability and create meaningful educational experiences for generations of students to come.

For more information about sustainability at Frostburg State University, visit https://www.facebook.com/frostburglglg/.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

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For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu