Going for Green at the U

Students, faculty and staff participated in the annual Hug the Lake celebration, a nod to Earth Day.
By Michael R. Malone

Students, faculty and staff participated in the annual Hug the Lake celebration, a nod to Earth Day.

Going for Green at the U

By Michael R. Malone
The Energy and Conservation Organization was recognized with the 2018 Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize for sparking green awareness and inspiring sustainable initiatives on campus.

A trailblazing team of environmentalists, united in their passion to raise green consciousness and promote green habits and choices, was named the winner of the 2018 Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize, which recognizes meaningful and lasting contributions to the beauty, humanity and future of the University of Miami campus.

“We’re grateful for your environmental stewardship and commitment to maintaining the natural beauty of our campus,” said UM President Julio Frenk, in listing the range of initiatives—improved recycling signage, solar panels for UM buildings and solar umbrellas that can generate power, among others—that the student organization has spearheaded. 

Frenk made the award announcement just after several hundred ‘Canes linked hands to form a symbolic protective circle around Lake Osceola, part of “Hug the Lake,” the annual special UM ceremony that celebrates Earth Day.

“'Hug the Lake' is an important and powerful University of Miami tradition that brings the campus community together once a year to celebrate our commitment to the environment. It's invigorating to see our students so passionate about Earth Day, including the student planning committee who work hard to make this event a reality," said Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Leadership and Service, which hosted the events. 

The Energy and Conservation Organization, or ECO Agency, is composed of 12 students, and is supported by a wider circle, the Green Committee, that together promote green habits and further awareness of environmentally friendly practices. The agency, founded in 2012, is apportioned funding through the student activities fee. 

A major initiative this year was to apply some of their monies to have solar panels installed on the School of Architecture’s new Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building, according to ECO Chair Alec Jimenez, a senior. “The panels had been approved but there wasn’t funding,” he said. “The project is aligned with our vision, and we voted to apply funds saved over past years.”

The panels, which generate 80 kilowatts of power and constitute a big savings on the University’s carbon emissions, will be visible in the shape of a U from the new Housing Village.

Sianna Vacca, a pre-law and political science major who plans on attending law school to generate effective environmental policy, is the incoming chair. Vacca grew up in Ft. Myers, Fla. where she saw firsthand the impact of environmental disaster. “The beaches were a disaster caused by the sewer spillage into Lake Okeechobee—I did a lot of beach clean-ups,” she said.  Vacca said she chose UM because of “the University’s dedication to sustainability.”

Blaire Slavin, a sophomore in her second year with ECO Agency, spent three months last summer following a family tradition started by her father when he was 17: She attended the Juno (Alaska) Ice Field Research Program.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I was so impressed by the dedication and passion of those in the organization with their struggle to do the work with limited resources and funding.” She continues to work with her program mentor and through her studies to explore ground-penetrating radar on the ice field.

Incoming Vice Chair Stefanie Getz, a UM junior, said she’s always been passionate about the environment. “I grew up in St. Louis and spent a lot of time outside, and my family went all the time to the St. Louis Zoo,” she said, adding that she volunteered at the zoo for three years during high school. “That’s what really spurred my passion.”  

Andrea Candalabria, who studies economic sustainability and policy, served on the Green Committee last year as a freshman, helping to publicize and promote ECO’s projects.

What prompted her to join ECO? “I’ve been passionate about the environment for a long time, but after the last election, I wanted to get more involved—people need to be more aware of these issues,” she said. 

The Bosey Fulbright Foote Award honors the legacy of Roberta “Bosey” Foote, who arrived in Miami in 1981, when her husband, Edward T. “Tad” Foote II, was named the fourth president of the University of Miami. While her husband focused on fostering the University’s academic and financial strengths, Bosey dedicated herself to growing its natural beauty. 

“Every time I would visit the UM campus with my parents, which was often, my mother would inevitably add a few detours along the way,” wrote Thad Foote, her youngest son, in a message. “With pure excitement and enthusiasm, she would take us to the latest outdoor seating area, garden, tree planting, breezeway update, planted patio or hedge. She loved the UM campus and she loved how the physical spaces helped bring people together.”

Find out more about ECO by visiting miami.edu/eco.