I know it has been a while since I posted, but that’s because this was an important and busy week. Tuesday was the day that Grace Bender (my fellow researcher) and I presented a list of recommendations to the administration.
Have you ever sat in a meeting that felt like nothing was really getting done?
The meeting with the administration included a lot of opinions being shared, but it did not necessarily feel like progress was being made. Still, I left the meeting feeling fairly positive and I am trying to work out why I have been feeling that way. Let me start by detailing the agenda of the meeting:
1) Introduction of summer research
2) Grace and I introduce ourselves
3) Everyone else introduces themselves (VP of Finance, head of Facilities, and three professors including my summer research advisor.)
4) Lila and Grace make a 25 minute presentation of how the school can be more sustainable in the areas of water, transportation and administration. 3-5 recommendations were made for each of those topics.
5) Discussion of recommendations
Although I was invigorated by the presentation, the discussion (#5 above) was the most fascinating aspect of the meeting. First of all, everyone was passionately contributing feedback. The enthusiasm was impressive, but I also was confused by the fact that Grace and I were not invited into the discussion to share our opinions. We were technically the experts on the subject, but that was not acknowledged in the discussion. At the end of the discussion, I managed to push my way in and make two final points. Speaking up felt like quite a victory.
Much of the disappointment about the overall meeting comes more from the recommendation that the VP of Finance (President Veitch’s right hand man) picked up on. He was invested in the water and landscape plan. Now you may say to yourself, “that doesn’t sound so bad!” And it’s not. Except that it’s not great either.
There are 2 reasons why this was a semi – disappointing response: (1) The VP of Finance informed us in the meeting that the president was already invested in a water and landscaping plan. This means that advocating for the plan was advocating for something that was already going to happen. (2) The college has made a lot of plans. They don’t always result in action. We want to see the college making real change this year! Particularly on the water front, because the college has declared this year the water themed year.
The VP of finance also picked up on the recommendations to institutionalize a committee and develop a sustainability manager position. The professors that were present really helped to push these recommendations forward. Although I felt that their importance was acknowledged, the VP of finance also mentioned that he wasn’t sure he could get the president of the college to feel the same way.
So back to the original question…why did I leave the meeting feeling positive??
I believe that it is because I felt empowered in the situation. I am very proud of the set of recommendations that Grace and I presented. They were well thought out and clear. The meeting also signified an end to research and a start to taking real actions. I’m excited to work in the coming year to make these recommendations a reality, with or without full administrative support. Mostly, when I reflect on the meeting, I feel lucky. I feel lucky that I go to a school where the advisor to the president takes the time to listen to my recommendations. I feel lucky to have an advisor and professors who passionately support my work. And I feel lucky to have the opportunity to spend this entire summer delved into challenges of pushing forward a sustainable agenda for Oxy. It’s been quite a summer!