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PSU Sustainability stars honored with awards
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: May 29, 2015

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions and its partners across campus hosted the 8th Annual Sustainability Celebration this week, marking the end of an academic year that saw great strides in both operational and educational sustainability at Portland State. 

The celebration’s Project Showcase featured 44 research programs, student initiatives, and class projects addressing the social, environmental, and economic health of the PSU and Portland community. A highlight of the year was PSU’s Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative that engaged close to 800 students in 49 classes from 16 disciplines with four Portland neighborhoods on a range of sustainability-related projects. 

In addition to remarks from ISS Director Jennifer Allen and PSU President Wim Wiewel, the following Sustainability Excellence Awards were conferred:

Excellence in Sustainability Research: Heejun Chang

In the last 10 years, Heejun Chang, professor of geography, has secured research grants totaling more than $5 million. He’s shared his research in more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings, and he’s collaborated with water providers in major U.S. cities across the West, developing a keen expertise in water and climate adaptation in urban areas.

Excellence in Teaching and Sustainability: Heather Burns

Heather Burns, professor of educational leadership and policy, is the coordinator of the Leadership for Sustainability Education program in the Graduate School of Education. The impact of her teaching was shared in this quote from her nomination: “There are certainly hundreds of students whose lives have been directly impacted by Dr. Burns resulting in positive change in the areas of social, environmental and economic sustainability. She is absolutely cultivating leaders for sustainable change.” 

Excellence in Sustainability Engagement, Undergraduate: Alfredo Gonzalez

Alfredo Gonzalez, an undergraduate student studying environmental science, has engaged students across campus in the Divest Portland State campaign, a product of the Student Sustainability Leadership Council. He’s emerged as a leader, helping other students and other schools take on their own divestment campaigns. Alfredo is highly motivated and deeply committed to seeking out environmental justice for all communities.

Excellence in Sustainability Engagement, Graduate: Bradley Melaugh

Bradley Melaugh, a graduate student in the Leadership for Sustainability Education program, takes his book-learning about education, urban agriculture, and leadership, and applies it time and time again in ways that benefit Portland State and the community. At PSU’s Learning Garden Lab, he has not only taught middle schoolers about sustainability, but he has joined with the neighborhood association to create a Farm Stand to bring fresh, organic produce to a neighborhood considered a food desert. It’s just one example of Brad going above and beyond.

Excellence in Promoting Campus Sustainability: John LaDu

PSU’s Buildings Maintenance and Landscape Supervisor John LaDu has been a tirelessly engaged steward of this university’s sustainable landscape management. He was a key player in the development of PSU’s first comprehensive Tree Care Plan, which was instrumental in the University’s first Tree Campus USA designation awarded this year. He keeps PSU Salmon Safe, has been a key supporter of PSU’s many gardens, and his assistance to the PSU Architecture class that designed and installed PSU’s first parklet this spring was instrumental to the success of that project. 

PSU Sustainability Alumni Awards (tie): Jill Kuehler and Nate Young

Perhaps you’ve seen Jill Kuehler’s Fearless Urban Farmer face as part of PSU’s marketing campaign. For 7 years, Jill has grown the education and outreach programs of Zenger Farms as its director and transformed it into a national model for sustainable urban agriculture. The farm serves more than 40,000 Portland residents annually through its outreach and food programs. Jill is stepping down from her leadership role at Zenger this year. 

Nate Young, sustainability director at Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB), is the guy responsible for HUB’s sustainability efforts from brewery to pub. Under his leadership, tiny HUB has become a national leader in sustainable brewing, which was documented by a recent case study by PSU’s School of Business Administration. Nate also lends his expertise as an instructor for PSU’s Business of Craft Brewing program.

PSU Sustainability Partner Award: Bureau of Environmental Services’ Community Watershed Stewardship Program

Established in 1995, the Community Watershed Stewardship Program awards grants for community-led sustainability projects in areas such as stormwater management and natural area restoration. The program is run by PSU graduates under the guidance of program coordinator Jennifer Devlin, and together they have overhauled the program to make it more accessible to traditionally underrepresented communities. The CWSP is now more equipped to involve all Portlanders in enhancing our environment and is a model for other programs seeking more equitable outcomes. 

The Roy Koch Award for Sustainability Leadership: W. Barry Messer

W. Barry Messer, associate professor of urban studies,  has been a true pioneer of community-university partnerships. He helped start Community Environmental Services, which celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year and has empowered students to help dozens of organizations—including the Port of Portland, the City of Portland and companies like New Seasons—achieve their waste reduction goals. Barry was also instrumental some 20 years ago in setting up the Community Watershed Stewardship Program with the city of Portland, which has involved scores of students in neighborhood projects. Over the years, classes taught by Barry—such as his EcoDistrict capstone class—has motivated students to think of sustainability on a variety of scales and to think of themselves as empowered changemakers who can apply what they’ve learned to improve the communities in which they live.

The following slideshow captured additional highlights from the year that were ripe for celebration: