Sustainability leaders recognized with the 2020 Excellence in Sustainability Awards
Author: Emily Quinton, Campus Sustainability Office
Posted: May 28, 2020

Michelle Bates Laihha Moss-Novak Clive Knights Jola Ajibade Mary Vance and Travis BellSeven individuals were recognized on May 28th with the 2020 Excellence in Sustainability Awards, presented each year to selected Portland State students, faculty, and employees for their contributions to advancing sustainability on campus and in the world. Announced each year at the PSU Sustainability Celebration, this year’s awards were featured in a video alongside remarks from President Percy, photos highlighting sustainability activities from the past year, and inspiring messages from our community. From urban resilience, to creative reuse, to garden education, this year’s group of award recipients are truly inspiring. 

The 2020 Excellence in Sustainability Awards are:

Excellence in Sustainability Research: Jola Ajibade

Environmental and human geographer, Jola Ajibade, is this year’s Excellence in Sustainability Research Award recipient. As an assistant professor of geography, Jola has made significant research contributions in the fields of urban resilience, climate change, and sustainability. Jola is a transdisciplinary collaborator, working on projects both locally and internationally, including in Japan and the Philippines. Recently, Jola’s work and expertise has been featured in several academic publications and through mainstream news outlets, including on Science Friday and OPB

Excellence in Sustainability Teaching: co-winners Clive Knights and Travis Bell

For several years, Clive Knights and Travis Bell have co-taught a design studio course in which students design, build, and deconstruct the Treeline Stage at Pickathon. For this co-teaching accomplishment, Clive and Travis are this year’s Excellence in Sustainability Teaching Award winners. The “Diversion Design/Build” studio engages students both inside and outside the classroom with the philosophy “use but not use up”. Students have brought to life new uses for common industrial materials, such as shipping pallets, fruit harvesting bins, and more. The Treeline Stage has earned awards including a Design Award from the Portland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Inspiring Student Awards: Michelle Bates and Laihha Moss-Novak

The 2020 Inspiring Student Award winners could not be more deserving. Michelle Bates and Laihha Moss-Novak have been compassionate, supportive student leaders throughout their respective time at PSU. 

As an officer for PSU’s Environmental Club, Michelle has helped lead PSU’s Earth Day events and other special projects, such as gathering support for a divestment campaign, and running service events in the community. Michelle has helped bring many external partners to campus to engage with students and has also brought many students into the community through volunteer activities.

Laihha has been a steward for natural spaces on campus through her work as the garden coordinator with the Student Sustainability Center (SSC). In her role as coordinator, Laihha has helped bring hundreds of volunteers to the PSU community orchard for educational and service events. In addition, Laihha has made significant contributions to the SSC strategic planning process, helping to institutionalize programs and systems. 

Excellence in Promoting Campus Sustainability: Mary Vance

For years, Mary Vance has designed, launched, and supported programs and advising resources to provide students with sustainability learning, networking, and career-advancing opportunities, such as internships, professional mentorship, and more. As this year’s Excellence in Promoting Campus Sustainability Award recipient, Mary is being recognized not just for the programs she has built, but for every individual student she has mentored and guided in their PSU and career journey.

Heather Spalding headshotSustainability Legacy Award: Heather Spalding

It is a bittersweet occasion when a Sustainability Legacy Award is given at Portland State. This award is like an “unsung hero” recognition, as it signifies contributions made over years of hard work and dedication. In addition to the Excellence in Sustainability Awards described above, this year, former Student Sustainability Coordinator, Heather Spalding, has been recognized with the Sustainability Legacy Award. After a decade of launching, growing, and institutionalizing the Student Sustainability Center, Heather departed from PSU this spring to pursue a new career in Washington. 


Congratulations Jola, Clive, Travis, Michelle, Laihha, Mary, and Heather!

The Excellence in Sustainability Award winners are selected through a scoring process led by prior award recipients and other campus representatives, following an open nomination period each spring. Below is a full list of students, faculty, and employees nominated for the 2020 awards.

  • Elliott Gall
  • Melissa Haeffner
  • Andrés Holz
  • Sahan Dissanayake
  • Jola Ajibade (winner, Excellence in Sustainability Research award)
  • Heather Burns
  • Jeff Gerwing
  • Clive Knights (winner, Excellence in Sustainability Teaching co-award)
  • Travis Bell (winner, Excellence in Sustainability Teaching co-award)
  • Amy Minato
  • Evan Kristof
  • Michelle Bates (winner, Inspiring Student Award)
  • Laihha Moss-Novak (winner, Inspiring Student Award)
  • Joshewa Fulton
  • Maoloud Dabab
  • Meisha Whyte
  • Isabel Rummel
  • Evan Embrey
  • Melanie Mejia
  • Giang Nguyen
  • Warren Gunn
  • Danielle Newport
  • Dorothy Horn
  • Liliana Caughman
  • Jennifer Alkezweeny
  • Mike Millard
  • Nevin Halvorsen
  • Liz Hoekstra
  • Mary Vance (winner, Excellence in Promoting Campus Sustainability award)