Sustainability Interns Moving Forward

Posted on May 1st, 2020 by

Campus initiatives and organizing at all levels look very different with the onset of COVID-19. Although we interns have found ourselves distanced by physical space, our commitment to Gustavus sustainability efforts has proven to be a uniting force during these new, strange times. We have continued our weekly meetings, and although our projects and actions may look a little different, sustainability at Gustavus has become no less important. As young people, we represent the last generation that has a chance to make a significant attempt at mitigating the climate crisis. Young people everywhere are stepping up to this vast and burdensome task, but we cannot do it alone. As students, we know that we have a voice and power, yet we recognize these are amplified by guidance and action from our leadership. 

These leaders come in all forms and places. World leaders have a global responsibility while local leaders have a responsibility to their own communities. Gustavus is one of the most important communities I have and I know we have wonderful leadership across our campus. Administration is a part of that. At times it may seem as though students and administration have different goals or priorities, but I believe that the severity of the climate crisis unites us all. In order to take action, the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation is one of the strongest tools Gustavus has. 

Since its inception in 2007, Jim Dontje has directed the Johnson Center, leading and supporting sustainability initiatives across campus. Jim’s job description is vast and each day in the world of sustainability at Gustavus can bring something different. From membership on the President’s Environmental Sustainability Council and the Kitchen Cabinet, interacting with the student body as a professor and supervisor to the Sustainability Interns, to aiding campus energy and waste management, and even climbing in to fix our composter when necessary, Jim has left big shoes to fill. Gustavus needs a director for the Johnson Center. Just from the abbreviated list above, it is clear Jim has been responsible for helping to ensure many areas of campus run effectively. These areas, while sometimes behind the scenes, are vital to a successful Gustavus campus and community. 

Jim first informed the college in early December of his departure plans for June. Students and faculty were contacted for official input into the hiring of a new director on March 5th, when a selected group of students and faculty were invited to join a Johnson Center focus group. These were scheduled for Thursday, March 12th, and Friday, March 13th. Unfortunately, though understandably, the Friday sessions were cancelled as a by-product of redirected attention to Gustavus’s response to COVID-19. With uncertainty in the replacement process ahead, sustainability interns and concerned students have voiced their support of administration continuing the search for a new director. While no concrete solutions have been offered yet, Interns continue to encourage administration to hold the Johnson Center as a priority. 

Gustavus is facing unprecedented challenges, and difficult decisions lie ahead. I and many other students around me care deeply about our home here on the Hill, and we want the best for its future. That is not possible without sustainability. That is not possible without the commitment from students. That is not possible without administration standing firmly and unwavering behind the Johnson Center.

Contact any of us at if you have ideas or questions.

Post by Aviva Meyerhoff, Photo by Kendra Held








Comments are closed.