Goodbye, Grads! Graduating Seniors Reflect on their Experiences with the Office of Sustainability and Energy

May 5, 2015

Meet Kendra Wrightson, a graduating senior studying Environmental Economics and Policy here at UC Berkeley. Kendra has been a project associate at the Office of Sustainability and Energy for approximately two and half years. Kendra has had the opportunity to work on many initiatives and projects throughout her time here, and says that some of the most rewarding projects she has worked on are the campus sustainability tour and green event cerification pilot program. During her first year at the Office, she was given the task of redoing the outdated campus sustainability tour, which granted her free range to design the tour, the content, and the layout. Kendra explains, “While I was originally nervous about doing the project, because as a sophomore, I was unfamiliar with both the campus and sustainability, I was able to walk around the campus and learn about how truly amazing our sustainability practices are. Without this project, I would not be able to fully appreciate all of the little yet sustainable things on campus like the strawberry creek restoration”. In addition, Kendra is working on redesigning the green event certification program. The Office offers student groups and staff the opportunity to certify their events as green in order to spread sustainability awareness. Her current updates include transferring the certification checklist to a Google Form so that student groups and staff can submit their credentials in an easy and sustainable way as well as offering such groups the opportunity to earn the privilege of automatic recertification for events that are held biweekly or monthly. Keep an eye out for these updates on our website! Kendra’s hopes are that these changes will encourage more student groups and staff to hold green events consequently spreading awareness.

When asking Kendra about the most pressing environmental issue facing our campus today, she believes it to be water consumption. She explains, “roughly 50% of the campus’ water consumption is due to domestic use. Water consumption should be at the forefront of environmental issues for students, faculty and staff alike. Because of the severity of the drought and the size of our campus, we have potential to make in positive impact on drought conservation efforts and if more students and faculty were aware of this potential, I think we could make a serious difference in California.”

After graduation Kendra will be working in sales and business development for Oracle. And while it doesn’t fully relate to sustainability, she hopes to make my way back to a sustainable department over the upcoming years.  Reflecting on her time here at Cal, she believes the most valuable lesson is that anything is possible with a little perseverance. “While it sounds cheesy and cliché, I think we can all relate to the challenges that coming to Berkeley presents. I’ve experienced multiple challenges in my past four years here but instead of giving up on these challenges, I’ve been forced to presevere. It’s been a valuable lesson because I now realize that I am capable of much more than I believe.”

If you are thinking about becoming involved in sustainability here at Berkeley take Kendra’s advice and check out the Student Environmental Resource Center, go to a club meeting, or even visit the College of Natural Resources. She advises that you can even be a leader in your current club by getting your event green certified through the Office of Sustainability! There are hundreds of resources in and around campus for those interested in sustainability. She recommends visiting the Student Environmental Resource Center or Office of Sustainability and Energy website, picking a club or organization to join and then giving your all to that organization. “In the end, being involved in the sustainability community on campus is nothing but rewarding.”

"It has been so great to have Kendra with us every week in the office helping to advance our programs, research critical issues, and keep our communications fresh.  We are going to miss Kendra but know she is off to do strategic and creative work with a sustainable touch," said Sustainability Manager Kira Stoll.

It goes without saying that we are going to miss Kendra’s contribution and passion here at the Office of Sustainability and Energy. And don’t forget to check out her legacy by taking the campus sustainability walking tour

Interview by Amy Craik

Pascal Polonik is a graduating senior double majoring in Environmental Sciences and Atmospheric Science, and minoring in Energy and Resources. During the two and a half years Pascal has worked at the Office of Sustainability and Energy, he has been instrumental in a variety of important reports and presentations. One of Pascal’s first projects was compiling a list of sustainability-related courses and programs on campus, which required extensive research through the course catalogue and campus websites. Be sure to check out this list when deciding what classes to take next semester! In addition, Pascal has also helped compile data for the campus’ annual sustainability report.

Pascal used his scientific background to write a report on climate change effects and adaptations in Berkeley. The report, sponsored through a TGIF grant, details the changes that Berkeley can expect in terms of heatwaves, fire conditions, sea level rise, water and energy supply, biodiversity, and food production. Pascal has expanded his findings from the report to create a presentation on climate science and the effects of climate change, which will be used in outreach projects as a part of the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative.  

Through his time working with the Office of Sustainability and Energy, Pascal learned that although it can sometimes require a lot of work, it is definitely possible to move towards a more sustainable future. “My favorite part of working at the office is that Lisa McNeilly and Kira Stoll are always looking for ways for students to learn during their projects. I constantly learned about sustainable practices, the reality of implementing campus projects, and a variety of sustainability efforts throughout the city, state, and country,” said Pascal.

Pascal believes that engaging the whole body in sustainability efforts is an important next step towards making the campus more sustainable. “There is a very strong community of students and staff who are working hard towards changing infrastructure, which is incredibly important and effective. However, I think there are many students who are not regularly engaged in conversations about sustainability that need to be engaged in order to achieve zero waste and other campus goals,” said Pascal.

After graduation, Pascal will continue to address questions related to climate, energy, and carbon cycling through his work with Ameriflux, a Lawrence Berkeley Lab program studying land-atmosphere carbon exchanges. He hopes to continue similar work in Germany next year as part of a Masters program. “Berkeley has taught me that you are always capable of more than you think. It has pushed me to do more than I ever thought I would when I first came here,” said Pascal.

For anyone interested in getting more involved in sustainability at Berkeley, Pascal recommends looking through the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) website and seeing what catches your eye, as well as talking to a variety of people. “The environmental community is very welcoming and enthusiastic so just talking to a few people will probably get you excited enough to get involved. There are tons of resources, you just need to go find them.”

"We will certainly miss Pascal but hope that he will stay in touch to let us know about his successes after Berkeley.  Pascal brought his own touch to every project he worked on and stayed enthusiastic about projects no matter what -- even if that meant spending 40 over winter break going over the course catalog and tracking down details and syllabi.  We can't thank you enough, Pascal, for all your contributions!" said Lisa McNeilly, Director of Sustainability and Energy.

Pascal has been an incredible contribution to the Office of Sustainability and Energy team, and he will be missed. Be sure to check out the sustainability course list, sustainability reports, and climate change report that Pascal has contributed to! 

Interview by Lindsey Agnew