The spring 2018 semester theme, Climate For Change, aims to make the UI campus more focused on sustainability.
By Paige Schlichte
The University of Iowa is bringing sustainability and environmental consciousness to the forefront of campus with the theme for the 2018 spring semester, Climate For Change.
The theme, which has been many months in the making, aims to get young people to think about the topic and the environmental problems they may face in the future, such as destruction of natural resources, climate change, food and water insecurity, and much more.
“All these kinds of things are facing the young people who are at the UI right now, and it’s important for us to give them the opportunity to start thinking about these issues and different ways to address them,” UI Office of Outreach and Engagement communications specialist Michelle Sillman said. “This really is the topic of our time.”
Students and faculty from various UI departments have worked together to plan the theme semester and the events it will entail.
“My hope for this theme semester is that it will activate the students, faculty, and community,” said David Gould, the Office of Outreach and Engagement programmer for the theme semester. “If we as a campus focus on the issue of sustainability for 16 weeks and then say, ‘What’s next?’ and move on to the next theme semester in the fall, I think we would’ve missed a really important opportunity.”
Many events will take place across campus in the coming weeks as part of the focus on sustainability.
The first of these is a joint declaration to launch the theme semester between the Iowa City City Council and the University of Iowa, which will take place at council meeting today. This declaration is an initiative to explore opportunities for sustainability along the Iowa River via a UI course.
“We’re turning the city into a classroom so we can face real-world challenges together,” said Linda Snetselaar, the UI associate provost for Outreach and Engagement via a press release.
Gould said another highlight of the theme semester will be a visit from Amanda Gorman, the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, who has crafted a writing prompt for students concerning sustainability.
“It’s a call to action,” Gould said. “The idea will be to collect thoughts and ideas that Amanda creates and then to share those and create a united voice around the concerns and thoughts of the world that these young people are going to inherit.”
Other creative events include a Dancers in Company performance on Feb. 22-24.
“It’s a fascinating concept — how do you incorporate principles of sustainability and the environment into a dance?” UI Office of Sustainability communications specialist George McCrory said. “It’s really great that the arts have a place in sustainability – it’s a good way to tell the story in ways people can relate to.”
The theme semester will also extend to classrooms via the campuswide sustainability teach-in week, beginning Feb. 19, for which UI faculty are being encouraged to include sustainability as a topic in lectures.
“When you look at sustainability from a broader perspective, it’s more than just environmentalism — it’s about economic development, social equity, and community health,” Sillman said. “All these different things will be brought out in events throughout the semester.”