Mike Krings/University Relations

Students from the Potter Lake Project and staff from the Kansas Biological Survey and Design and Construction Management place an aerator in Potter Lake. The project recently was chosen for a Sustainability Leadership Award. Pictured, from left, are Russell Benke, electrical engingeer, Design and Construction Management; Jason Hering, student; Matt Nahrstedt, student leader of the Potter Lake Project; Scott Campbell, research associate, Kansas Biological Survey; and Jerry DeNoyelles, professor ecology and evolutionary biology.

Sustainability awards recognize individuals, groups for green efforts

Faculty, staff, joint projects among honorees

The Center for Sustainability recently presented its annual Sustainability Leadership Awards, recognizing faculty, staff and students who have exhibited outstanding leadership and creativity in addressing issues of environmental, economic and social responsibility on the KU campus and beyond. Awards were presented in five categories, honoring individuals and campus projects.

Chris Depcik

Easan Selvan, systems specialist with Student Success Technology Services, was presented with the Staff Award. Selvan played a key role in creating and implementing the SSTS conservation policy, which makes duplexing, or using both sides of a sheet of paper, the default for printers and sets computers to hibernate after a period of inactivity. If fully implemented, the project could save more $29,000 in energy costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions, an amount equivalent to removing more than 51 cars from the road.

Simran Sethi, associate professor of journalism, received the faculty award. Sethi was recognized for her efforts to raise awareness and inspire action both in the classroom and the broader community. Her commitment to sustainability and service learning help students make real world connections to environmental issues and support the local community. Outside of the classroom, Sethi is a member of Lawrence's Sustainability Advisory Board, is writing a book on contemporary environmentalism and blogs for the Huffington Post and Alternet, stimulating a national dialogue about sustainability.

Simran Sethi

The Student Initiative Award was presented to students involved with the Potter Lake Project. The project started as a report outlining the conditions of Potter Lake and providing a list of the most cost-effective, sustainable and historically compatible restorative solutions to improve the campus icon. With funding support from KU alumni, volunteers have installed aerators to improve oxygen levels and removed several tons of vegetation. A surface skimmer has also been purchased to aid the process. The Potter Lake Project is a strong example of a student-initiated project that has garnered support from multiple departments throughout campus, including Design and Construction Management, Facilities Operations and the Kansas Biological Survey, as well as volunteer assistance from faculty, staff and students.

The award recognizing an academic project was presented to KU EcoHawks. The KU EcoHawks are applying engineering principles to solve real-world problems, focusing on the interconnectedness of the environment, energy, economy, education and ethics. Last year, the senior design project converted a 1974 Volkswagen into a series hybrid vehicle that can run on 100 percent biodiesel. Theoretical computations indicate the vehicle should achieve more than 50 miles per gallon, which is an 80 percent increase over the original design. The car has also been designed to accept other power generation units so it could operate using different fuels, such as ethanol or compressed natural gas. This year, the class is implementing small-scale radio control car testing into the program. Teams of EcoHawks will design and build 1/8th scale vehicles in order to explore battery, motor and material technology. This will allow students to test the limits of advanced battery and even superconductor technology to explore new possibilities.

EcoHawks is led by Chris Depcik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Since coming to KU in 2008, Depcik has maintained successful research on reducing vehicle emissions and has been involved in a number collaborative projects with faculty from chemical engineering, business and environmental engineering. He also participated in a Center for Sustainability working group that focused on developing concepts for a multi-disciplinary course in sustainability.

Margaret Tran, senior in environmental studies and economics, received the Student Award. In addition to her involvement in student organizations and efforts to raise awareness about issues of sustainability, Tran is a coordinator for EARTH, a program of the Center for Community Outreach that oversees the campus garden. Over the past few years, she has coordinated a volunteer effort to tend a vegetable garden on campus and donate produce to feed those in need.

Award winners were surprised with award presentations throughout the week and recognized along with all the nominees during a Campus Sustainability Day event Oct. 23. The event was co-sponsored by the Commons, Center for Sustainability and KU Environs and featured presentations from some of the nominees, an overview of the campus greenhouse gas inventory developing climate action plan and a round-table discussion about advancing sustainability at KU.

Campus closeup
Bill Steele, program assistant, Office of Professional Military and Graduate Education
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