I began my day Friday by having a discussion with Kathy on the reflection I posted about my FEMA training test. I received my certification, and we were discussing the ways I applied it both to my life and to working with Athens’ Own. We talked about how you can look at the incident response guide not only as a way to handle chaos, but also how things should be universally managed. For example, if a larger business was set up this way, there wouldn’t be information lost between a CFO and CEO, and there would simply be one direct command that moved down from Incident Commander to the Section Chiefs. This would also make it easier for corporations to communicate amongst each other.
Con entered our conversation and mentioned to Kathy that I had been given the Sustainability RA job for the coming year, and so we talked a bit about the kind of work I would be able to do with that. We drifted to the topic of how history is important when you start any new project. For example, as a sustainability RA, it would be beneficial to think about the past actions the university has taken to achieve sustainability, and the ways I can use these programs to my advantage. I also can look for weak links in the programs and try to find ways to make these better.
The Eco House, a great program started by the university, has a weak link of having low visibility. For example, if marketed well, this house could gain popularity and possibly lead to a second one being built, something that over time could provide a really great off campus sustainable living area that could have a positive long term influence on the students who participate. Now seeing this weak link, I know that if I am able to market my attempts as a sustainability RA well, I could enhance the program and potentially grow it.
This idea, of looking for the weakest links, especially in the history of a program, is applicable to the project I proposed in February. The idea is creating a food source that is provided by the University to both prevent food waste, and to help families in need. First looking at the history, I was able to asses that a past weak link was that people were attempting for the food to be donated, which can cause issues of freshness. The school wouldn’t want to do this because they could be liable for food poisoning or other occurrences with donating already cooked perishable food.
That’s why I tried to think a way around it; to try to create a program that kept the university from being held liable, but also wouldn’t cost them a great deal extra to put in place. So trying to kill two birds with one stone, I thought about all of the left over meal swipes there must be at the end of the week, and also needing to keep the food in the dining hall. I decided that providing a swipe system where community members could use these swipes would be the most effective.
Now Kathy brought up an interesting point. How would these community members reach the campus? Some people can live as far as 40 minutes away from campus, and there isn’t public transit from that far. Is the cost of gas really worth it for these family members? She also brought up a term I hadn’t heard before. The “Town-Gown” Gap is a gap that represents the lack of understanding between campus members and with the community they live in. This is something I know I have talked with Con about as well, about how students are either oblivious of the problems in the community they live in, or even that if they do know, they attempt to “fix” it, which just alienates them from their community even more.
An example of this is that if we were to set up a type of “soup kitchen” form of food service, community members may be unlikely to attend because they see it as us handing down food scraps. For my proposal to work, I need to close this town-gown gap and find a way these two groups can work together as one community. This is why I think using Kathy’s mantra of “Inform; Empower; Mobilize” will be the most effective way to get progress in this areas.
In the few weeks I have worked with Con and Kathy, I feel like I have learned a great deal. We have talked on so many different levels, about Athens’ Own, about the Athens community, and about the big picture of how to start teaching out so that everyone has an opportunity to learn in this hands-on and passionate way. I am so grateful that they have been so kind and generous to me, making my first summer away from home a learning opportunity and not just another summer consumed by part time employment.
I am excited to start using some of the knowledge that has been passed down to me to start working on this program to my best ability. In situations like this, I turn to my favorite wisdom quote. “There is no try. There is simply do or do not.” And yes, it’s quoted from Yoda.