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Sustainability Ambassadors

Creating change through course credit

This experiential learning opportunity combines a place-based sustainability project with a monthly class taught by the sustainability director for 1-3 ENSP 490 credits. Some projects are capstone eligible.

Sustainability Ambassadors is a course requiring approximately 3 hours/week/credit spent creating and implementing a sustainability project/research, in collaboration with a supervising staff, faculty, community member, or team.  Class will be held monthly with the sustainability director.  This opportunity allows students to apply existing skills, gain professional experience and knowledge, create and problem solve, all to the benefit of both the students and the department or organization's sustainability progress.  

Applications Are OPEN until Sept 3!

If you have questions about the program or any of the projects, contact Calandra Waters Lake at [[waterslake]].

Fall 2021 Projects
Campus Composting Program Expansion | 1 position | fall semester | 2 ENSP credits 

Advisors: Steve Moyer 

The continued move away from single-use plastic foodware at W&M has also increased the amount of compostable foodware used on the campus. The implementation of Governor Northam’s Executive Order 77 will help finalize the shift away from these types of plastics in the coming year. Composting is contracted through the W&M Dining Services provider, Sodexo, and is integrated into the back-of-house operations in all dining halls, as well as having publicly available bins in Marketplace and a set of outdoor locations added last year.  

To help ensure compostable items are making it to an appropriate facility and not the landfill, this student will work with Dining Services to create a multi-faceted proposal for potential ways to expand composting availability to the campus community. 

Project Goals and Outcomes: 

  • Map the current system, stakeholders, set-up, cost, and availability of the W&M composting program 
  • Map future and increasing stakeholder groups 
  • Research composting programs and expansions at other institutions, including interviews 
  • Outline 2-3 potential scenarios that could improve composting availability to the W&M campus community, including, but not limited to structures, costs, processes and timelines 
  • Write a proposal and present an overview 


Waste and Recycling Bin Liner Reduction | 1 position | fall semester | 2 ENSP credits 

Advisor: Bob Morman 

W&M is exploring ways to reduce the number of single-use waste and recycling bin liners used on campus, in both small deskside bins and larger bins. This student will work closely with Building Services to research and recommend ways that the campus can reduce and potentially eliminate non-medical bin liner use by 2025.  

Project Goals & Outcomes 

  • Survey of the current waste and recycling bin system and service on campus 
  • Research of and interviews with, other institutions with experience in this area 
  • Campus stakeholder interviews and/or surveys  
  • Recommendations for the W&M campus with potential scenarios, costs, and implementations 
  • A proposal and overview presentation 


Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics | 1 position | fall semester | 1-2 ENSP credits 

Advisor: Dave Zoll 

To ensure alternatives to single-use plastics are easily identifiable and accessible to the W&M community, this student will work with W&M Procurement to research and recommend alternatives along with ways to make this information more widely known and used.  

Project Goals & Outcomes:

  • Curate a list of alternatives to single-use plastics ensuring that if the alternative is to be recycled or composted that they are accepted by the university’s providers  
  • Map purchasing options and identify scenarios not easily regulated by current procurement tools 
  • Create potential marketing and resource materials to support the purchase and use of alternatives 
  • Document the work and present an overview of the findings and recommendations  


Waste Reduction of Single-Use Plastic Gloves | 1 position | fall semester | 2 ENSP credits 

Advisor: Madison Saul, Sustainability GA 

Used widely across the campus, W&M is exploring potential pathways to reduce the amount of single-use plastic gloves becoming waste. This student will be advised by the sustainability office graduate assistant and work closely with the Committee on Sustainability’s Diversion Working Group to research and propose potential options. This will include, but not be limited to, alternatives to single-use plastic gloves and glove recycling programs. Gloves have varying uses and users across campus, this will require a multi-faceted approach with the potential for stakeholder specific scenarios.  

Project Goals & Outcomes:

  • Map glove stakeholder groups and the type of glove use across campus 
  • Research and interview other institutions and programs for best practices 
  • Research alternatives to single-use plastic gloves, recycling programs, and more 
  • Write a proposal with the findings, potential steps, timelines, and costs 
  • Present an overview 

VIMS Discovery Lab Assistant | 2 positions | year-long, with a focus in Spring semester | 2-3 ENSP credits

The student(s) selected for this project will work with Sarah Nuss, Education Coordinator, and education staff for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at VIMS, to create informal education activities and demonstrations for the Discovery Lab program.  The Discovery Lab program is a monthly, family-friendly outreach event on the VIMS campus designed to allow families to learn about marine science together, with each month focusing on a specific marine science theme. 

The students will assist with the planning and creation of a “Climate Corner” at each of the spring labs, focusing on how climate change will impact the highlighted habitat or species. In April, the students will be the main contributor, planning and implementing a Discovery Lab on a topic of their choice related to the Bay, including a “Climate Corner”.  The students for this project should be well organized, creative, and enthusiastic about working with the public and environmental education. 

This is a full-year project, with planning taking place in the Fall semester, and more hands-on work in the Spring semester.  Ability to travel to VIMS required, although work will likely begin virtually.

Project Goals:

  • Work with Education staff to develop topic for April Discovery Lab.
  • Develop a “Climate Corner” for the Discovery Labs taking place in January-April.
  • Volunteer at the Discovery Labs in January-March.
  • Develop hands-on activities, demonstrations, and display information for Discovery Lab in April.
  • Assist with evaluation of the program.

Cohen Career Center: Establishing a Path Forward with Collaboration and Service | 1 position | year-long | 3 ENSP 490 credits

The Ambassador will be working with members of the Cohen Career Center’s team supervised by Andrew Martin, Assistant Director, Industry Advising, Education & Public Service Careers. The Ambassador will be asked to review the needs of the Cohen Career Center and conduct outreach to students, alumni and campus partners. The collected information will inform and define the future of the Ambassador role. In addition, the Ambassador will identify, working collaboratively with Cohen Career Center staff members, best practices in referring relevant internships and job announcements.

The Ambassador will coordinate the following initiatives:

  1. Program Overview: Evaluate, analyze, and synthesize the following: 1). Environmental and
    sustainable resources for students pursuing careers in Environmental Science and Policy; 2).
    Usage of the Cohen Career Center’s services and programs; 3). Evaluate marketing and
    communication channels; 4). Identify other relevant academic and social spaces on campus
    (such as Student Organizations or Clubs, relevant campus environmental initiatives, etc.); 5).
    Identify gaps for consideration in reaching and serving students pursuing careers in Environment
    Science and Policy.
  2. Report Recommendations: Based on the above discoveries, the student will present
    recommendations to the Cohen Career Center team based on their findings by the end of the
    fall 2021 semester. The Ambassador will have full support to implement the approved changes
    during the spring 2022 semester.
  3. Outreach: 1) The Ambassador will develop a presentation for students interested in
    Environmental Science and Policy careers. The presentation will build awareness and educate
    students about the resources, services, and programs both in and out of the Cohen Career
    Center; 2) The Ambassador will schedule and facilitate (or co-facilitate) presentations (using the
    presentation created) for outreach to the classroom, student organizations, faculty, and others
    as they are identified; 3) Connect and build relationships with faculty and staff in various
    departments on campus such as the Environmental Science and Policy Program, Institute of
    Integrative Conservation, Washington DC Center, Global Research Institute, and the Office of
    Sustainability, to name a few; 4) Conduct outreach to alumni by researching, contacting, and
    interviewing alums for information on their background, career pathway, day in the life, and
    industry trends, etc. in a variety of Green Career fields and write up a summary of their
    conversation that will be posted to the Green Career Insights website. Click Here to see
  4. Opportunities in Environmental/Policy/Green: The Ambassador will assist the Cohen Career Center’s Employer Engagement and Programming Team in increasing discoverable environmental career opportunities by connecting with employing organizations and educating them on W&M and how to post their internship and full time positions in TribeCareers. The Ambassador will identify and share best practices with the team in working with this sector of employers.

  5. Public Service Careers Newsletter: A bi-monthly publication that supports a section on Green
    Careers. The Ambassador will contribute to the Newsletter by researching, gathering, and
    submitting content for subscribed readers.

Required Qualifications:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • The ability to research trusted sources and synthesize large amounts of information
  • Working knowledge of LinkedIn & Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook)
  • Take Initiative, display professionalism, and resourcefulness
  • A passion for the Environment
  • A service mindset: Service to others while working with students, alumni, faculty, and staff
Preferred Qualifications:
  • Strong public speaking skills

The Ambassador will be trained on Cohen Career Center platforms and programs. The Ambassador will
be exposed to and trained on the usage of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*Net, and CareerOneStop, and other resources. The Ambassador will be provided training on assessment and methods to report their findings.

Enhancing Diversity in the Coastal and Marine Sciences; an Engagement Opportunity Database | 1 position | year-long | 2-3 credit

Georgia, Oregon, and Virginia Sea Grant Programs are collaborating with the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) to lead a new project entitled, “Coastal, Ocean, and Marine Enterprise Inclusion and Network-building (COME IN).” Through an NSF INCLUDES planning grant, COME IN will bring together scientists, stakeholders, and partners across disciplines for a series of facilitated meetings in late 2021 and throughout 2022. The network aims to develop a national ecosystem that nurtures the growth, persistence, and success of students from historically marginalized or excluded groups. The Sustainability Ambassador will build upon a database and past analysis of existing student engagement opportunities like Sea Grant’s Community-Engaged Internship and CERF’s Rising TIDES. With support from the advisors and collaborators, the Ambassador will analyze survey results to create a of database of student demographics who have applied for and/or have been successful in obtaining various internship, fellowship, or REU opportunities in coastal, ocean, and marine (COM) sciences. The outcomes for this project, including a two-page infographic and presentation to the collaborators, which will help capture a snapshot of current student-focused COM programs and identify opportunities to build upon recent efforts to support diverse students in the COM science workforce.

Project Goals & Outcomes

  • Participate in two to three COME IN project team meetings, including a presentation at the end
    of the semester
  • Review existing student-focused programs (e.g., internships, fellowships, broadening
    participation professional development opportunities, conference trainings), focusing on
    opportunities open to undergraduates in the broader coastal, ocean, and marine sectors.
  • Compile and analyze a database of existing opportunities (including but not limited to:
    eligibility, number of applications received annually, number of students supported annually,
    alumni university affiliation, funding level, website links, program lead and contact
  • Coordinate with the advisor to request related information from external program leaders.
  • Based on trends and analysis, make recommendations on opportunity gaps for expansion of
    future programs.

If you have questions about the program or any of the projects, contact Calandra Waters Lake at [[waterslake]].