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Gatton students to participate in sustainability leadership retreat

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky has teamed up with WKU’s Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability (CEES) to bring Academy students a progressive retreat opportunity focused on sustainability leadership.

Sixteen Gatton Academy students have been selected to participate in the inaugural Sustainable Leadership Retreat, which is slated for Thursday-Saturday (Nov. 4-6) at Loucon Training and Retreat Center in Leitchfield.

The mission of the retreat is to foster the development of students’ ability to be sustainability leaders who choose to engage in the process of creating transformational change with others and aimed toward building a sustainable future. Students will also enjoy outdoor activities like zip lining, hiking, canoeing, and other activities that promote teamwork and leadership.

“We’re ‘taking it up a notch’ and getting the brightest minds engage with the global urgency and opportunity for sustainable development,” said Nancy Givens, Sustainability Programs Development Coordinator with the CEES.

As co-chair of the WKU Education for Sustainability Steering Committee, Givens worked with Tim Gott, director of the Academy and a member of the committee, to begin the process to make this first sustainability leadership retreat happen for the Academy.

Also, on board from the Gatton Academy is Assistant Residential Life Coordinator Melissa Schultz. Schultz served as a graduate intern for the CEES this past summer and helped to bring the idea of a sustainability leadership retreat to life.

“Through various seminars, activities, clubs and programs, we have worked closely with academy students on developing leadership skills and making decisions with both the environment and people in mind,” Schultz said. “The retreat is an outstanding way to seamlessly connect these messages. I think the retreat will be a memorable and educational experience for everyone.”

This retreat is truly a collaborative effort as WKU staff and faculty have donated their time to share a message of leadership and sustainability.

“We hope this retreat will serve not only our students but also inspire more education across campus, state, and nation around the topic of sustainable leadership,” Schultz said.

Throughout the retreat, students will engage in various interactive discussions and activities on topics like environmental law, leadership theory in practice, building a sustainable community, and defining the meaning and practice of sustainability.

Sydney Combs, a Gatton Academy senior from London and Green Club co-president, described sustainable practices as “taking responsibility for our actions and everyday habits with the future in mind.”

Students will work to make that potential future a reality through a variety of featured workshop sessions with experts in leadership and sustainability at WKU:  John Baker, Education Coordinator from the Office of Leadership Excellence; Dr. John All, Department of Geography and Geology; Christian Ryan-Downing, Sustainability Coordinator from the Office of Sustainability; Cristin Lanham, WKU Recycling Coordinator; Terry Shoemaker, Program Coordinator for the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility; and Nadia Denov De Leon, Community Engagement Coordinator of the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships.

Also joining the roster of session leaders are members of CDP Engineering, a Kentucky enterprise committed to sustainable practices in business and industry. Lewis Newton, chief executive officer, and Scott Southall, Vice President of Landscape Architecture and Planning Group Manager, will discuss the physical manifestation of green design and explore holistic approaches to community design and redevelopment.

The Gatton Academy has sought to cultivate students’ interests in sustainability across the program’s living and learning environments. A variety of programmatic opportunities have assisted students in learning more about green initiatives while also putting those ideas into practice. The Gatton Academy Green Club has participated in a local sinkhole clean-up, reduced their waste through a “Bring Your Own Cup” program during academy social events, and piloted building-wide recycling initiatives in Schneider Hall.

Tejas Sangoi, a Gatton Academy senior from Owensboro and Green Club co-president, views the decision to adopt sustainability practices as a choice that affects not only the individual but others as well.  “To me, sustainability is living a balanced life in which you only use the resources that you need so that they will be conserved for future generations,” Sangoi said. “Being a sustainable leader is important because by demonstrating and leading a sustainable lifestyle, you are inspiring others in the community to do the same.”

Contact: Melissa Schultz, (270) 745-4755.

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