After two years as the Environmental Center's assistant coordinator, Marty Pool took the helm of the campus' student-driven center this past summer.
Where do you see yourself taking the EC under your leadership?
My vision is to double down on our commitment to environmental and sustainability education through our proven successful model of being a student-driven, applied learning center. We get calls from colleges around the nation that are like, oh, my gosh, you guys have accomplished so much. How's this or that going? What works? What have been the challenges? So in a lot of ways we're a national front runner for a college of our size.
I went to a large research institution for my undergraduate work, and I gained a lot of valuable skills. But I didn't have the experiences that I see Fort Lewis College students having. I think that's because we are a smaller school with smaller class sizes, and have really strong student-support services and extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities.
When an institution is modeled in this way, those connections permeate through all the work that we do. I really value that special blend that the Environmental Center has of leadership development, student engagement, and applied learning actually working to advance environmental and social change on campus and in the community.
What does the EC offer students who get involved?
Students come through our doors all the time wanting to work on a wide variety of environmental and sustainability issues, because every day they are hearing about these issues in their classes and in the news. Our challenge is to focus students’ passion into work that will achieve results. We want them to understand that brainstorming solutions to problems is often the easy part, implementing those solutions is the real challenge.
That's what we're really doing here: We're providing students the opportunity to get that experience of enacting sustainable change. We're not just telling students what we need to be working on. We provide those meaningful, applied, project-based learning opportunities for our students so they can go out into the world and do this work. They're getting real experiences that tie to what they're learning in the classroom, and that ties in very real ways to impacts that they can have in the greater community.
Under this model, students get to decide what matters to them and where they want to put their passion and energy. The EC’s professional staff guide and support them by helping develop key skills, promoting critical thinking, and sharing expertise. It's this balance of leading the charge where we feel strongest as an organization, and when there’s another organization leading an effort, we provide valuable networking and connections to get students and community members involved.
What distinguishes FLC students in terms of their environmental work?
What's unique about our students is that they really care about their communities. Community can mean a lot of things. It can mean their home community. It can be the college community. It can mean the Durango area and southwest Colorado. Or community can be our global community. If you're in a community where you feel supported, you then want, in turn, to support that community.
There are so many organizations in the Durango area working on environmental and sustainability efforts, and they all have something great to contribute. What we provide is that connection between them and these passionate students who want to do good work. On the flip side, we are fortunate to be in a community that has wonderful opportunities for environmental and social sustainability work, so we have a lot of ways to connect our students with work going on right here.
I recognize there is this long and powerful history of the Environmental Center. The people who have been in the Coordinator position before me have been passionate and committed professionals and community members. It's a challenge living up to the expectations of a lot of people on campus and in the greater Durango community. I know I have some big Chacos to fill, but I’m looking forward to the future!