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Sustainability stars honored at annual excellence awards
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: May 25, 2017

Portland State’s 10th Annual Sustainability Celebration drew more than 250 attendees to the Smith Ballroom yesterday, marking another year of accomplishments in sustainability research, teaching, and operations at PSU.

Over 45 student, faculty, and staff initiatives were on display as part of the Project Showcase—highlighting topics like carbon taxation, backyard homes, all-gender restrooms, and microplastics in our food.

PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions Director Robert Liberty kicked off the program by announcing the creation of a new scholarship fund in honor of retiring PSU President Wim Wiewel. 

The Wim and Alice Wiewel Urban Sustainability Undergraduate Scholarship will support students in the PSU Honors College who are committed to addressing climate change or other urban environmental problems. The Institute will fund two $5,000 need-based scholarships a year for the first two years and will seek philanthropic support for subsequent years.

President Wiewel then took the stage to recap some of PSU’s top sustainability achievements during his nine years as president—from national rankings to new academic programs and internationally renowned research.

The following Excellence in Sustainability Awards were conferred:

Sustainability Legacy Award: Molly Bressers

For more than eight years, Molly Bressers has been a linchpin of PSU’s Campus Sustainability Office, transforming university policies and implementing programs that make PSU a healthier and more sustainable place to live, work, and learn. She’s led outreach efforts to help PSU staff lessen their daily environmental impact, developed sustainable purchasing guidelines, increased healthy food options in campus dining, and improved energy efficiency on campus. When she moves on from PSU at the end of June, she will be leaving a legacy of stewardship and a culture of sustainability at PSU.

Excellence in Promoting Campus Sustainability Award: Leslie Walters

As landscaping supervisor for PSU’s Facilities & Property Management, Leslie Walters oversees grounds maintenance on campus and is an enthusiastic partner and champion for sustainable practices, advancing efforts to reduce pesticides, promote native plants, maintain thriving ecoroofs, and create a place where students are empowered to learn from their natural environment.

Inspiring Student Award: Tara Brown

Master of Business Administration student Tara Brown brings a rare and invaluable perspective to her part-time MBA cohort, with experience in the nonprofit sector as wilderness coordinator for Oregon Wild. In and out of the classroom, Tara looks for opportunities to challenge people’s assumptions and promote environmental sustainability and social equity. She actively encourages other women in her cohort to make their voices heard, taking care to communicate her encouragement in a respectful and inclusive way. 

Outstanding Student Volunteer Award: Stefanie Steele

Stefanie Steele has committed countless hours to bring beehives to PSU and make the campus more pollinator friendly. A senior biology student, she coordinates the Student Sustainability Center’s Beekeeping Task Force, openly sharing her vast knowledge of bees with dozens of students and collaborating with faculty members to enhance PSU’s garden based education programs. When PSU’s apiary opened last spring, she was interviewed by nearly every local media outlet, and represented PSU with both skill and grace. Stefanie is dependable, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a positive role model for her peers, colleagues, and supervisors.

Outstanding Student Employee Award: Jennifer Stefanick

Senior environmental studies student Jennifer Stefanick works with PSU Community Environmental Services to lead the Portland Event Recycling program, a free waste reduction service for outdoor public events offered by the City of Portland in partnership with PSU. Jennifer has been instrumental in streamlining the recycling program over the past year, finding ways to motivate event planners, increase participation, and help students and community partners to think about what “throwing it away” really means.

Excellence in Sustainability Teaching Award: Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate

A teacher in both Black Studies and University Studies, Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate uses imaginative methods to engage his students in experiential learning that encourages students to explore race, culture, history, food systems, and civic engagement. In his Food Justice course, he guides his students through the hands-on preparation of cassava, a major food staple in developing countries throughout South America, Asia, and Africa. Pedro takes students step-by-step through the process of turning the nutrient-rich root vegetable into flour and then making pancakes, learning how much work goes into daily food preparation in developing countries

Excellence in Sustainability Research Award: Jenny Liu 

Jenny Liu, assistant professor of Urban Studies and Planning, is a leading scholar of applied economics, conducting sustainability-related research on public policies at the local, state, and regional levels. She has helped the Oregon State Legislature and Oregon Global Warming Commission understand the economic implications of greenhouse gas reduction policies like a state-level carbon tax. Collaborating with the Oregon Environmental Council and the Coalition of Communities of Color, she has examined equity issues associated with a cap-and-trade carbon-reduction system, and is currently working to understand the economic and business impacts of bike and pedestrian infrastructure—work that has garnered national interest and is informing urban planning in Portland.

Roy W. Koch Award for Sustainability Leadership: Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen, associate professor of Public Administration and former director of PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, is an accomplished scholar, educator, and leader in the field of sustainability, with a focus on collaborative governance, sustainable economic development, and natural resource management. Under her leadership, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions became a hub for partnerships that match the resources of the University with the needs of the community to advance environmental stewardship, economic development, and social justice. Jennifer’s contributions have helped Portland State earn local and national prestige for sustainability leadership. When Jennifer stepped down as director of ISS in 2015, the Portland Business Journal called the Institute “one of the city’s most influential and respected academic organizations.” She is an inspiration and mentor for countless students, staff, and colleagues.

Highlights from the year

Check out highlights from the 2016-17 academic year in this slideshow: