Speed Dating for Climate Solutions
I recently had coffee with my newly single friend who filled me in on her speed dating and on-line matchmaking adventures. As it turns out, speed dating is not just about meeting new romantic partners these days. San Diego Students for Sustainability, based at San Diego State University, used the speed dating technique to help college students explore professional opportunities in the green workforce and connect them with employers. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) honored the group as the winner of the 2014 Student Sustainability Leadership Award at its October conference in Portland, OR.
The group hosted the Green Speed-Networking event to provide a venue for student to learn about career options and network with the region’s employers. Participants from utility companies, non-profit organizations, green businesses, city planning firms, and engineering companies were there from throughout the San Diego area. The professionals had 5-10 minutes to meet with students and discuss jobs and career paths, then they rotated to other groups of students.
With their shared passion and determination to create a sustainable community, the San Diego Students for Sustainability work in four areas: Energy Savings, Workforce Development, Community Outreach, and Academic Infusion. For example, the team develops and implements energy efficiency projects on campus. They reach out to the community by hosting educational events and conferences. The students incorporate sustainability into a range of academic curriculum through presentations, trainings, and for-credit internships.
Empowering students to be energy efficiency leaders
The group is part of PowerSave Campus, a student-driven energy-efficiency education program of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), which is supported by grants from California utilities. The PowerSave Campus program’s overall goal is to educate students about the connections between energy and the environment. Since 2003, the program has grown to sixteen campuses and now includes eight University of California and eight California State University campuses. It employs more than 100 interns each year.
Their notion is to engage students deeply. The magic comes from a powerful combination: getting students involved with projects that enable both rigorous academic engagement and measurable energy savings. ASE recruits, selects, and supervises between three and six interns per campus. The interns are responsible for the day-to-day implementation at their schools. ASE supports interns through remote consultation, on-campus visits, and biannual meetings in collaboration with campus staff. Participating campuses have funding for a team of 3-6 interns to share a full time (40 hours/week) equivalent position.
Building and strengthening stakeholder relationships
PowerSave Campus works closely with stakeholder groups, which may be different at each campus but often include the energy manager, faculty, housing, dining, and facility staff. ASE convenes stakeholder meetings twice a year to discuss their accomplishments, plans, and receive feedback from the full group. On an on-going basis, students meet with applicable stakeholders for their projects.
ASE stays in touch with its intern alumni by sending out an annual survey to learn about their employment and career paths. The Fall 2013 survey showed that 83% of alumni are employed in green jobs, which are defined as work that contributes substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality.
By organizing speed dating and their other initiatives, these students are creating a brighter and healthier future for all of us. Solution Generation was pleased to be a Platinum sponsor of the AASHE conference. We congratulate the San Diego Students for Sustainability for its terrific accomplishments and the AASHE award!
Learn about Solution Generation and join us on the Path to Positive at solutiongeneration.org.
Photo credit: “Blind Date 3” by Big Al, used under CC