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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Going green at UMass Boston: An interview with UMass Boston’s Sustainability & Resiliency Planner Janna Cohen-Rosenthal

With April being Earth Month, and April 22 being Earth Day, eco-consciousness is on the rise. For UMass Boston students, being sustainable has become a bit more accessible through the Sustainable UMass Boston program. 

Sustainable UMass Boston is a collaborative university effort integrating sustainability across academics, research, operations and community engagement through the active participation of students, staff, faculty and community partners. 

One of the leaders of this effort is Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, UMass Boston’s new Sustainability & Resiliency Planner in the Office of Campus Planning & Sustainability. Cohen-Rosenthal began her work at UMass Boston last semester, and has since looked towards making the campus community more eco-conscious. 

“Sustainability and climate change affects everyone and needs involvement and action from across campus,” she said. “To become a sustainable campus is not possible just through facilities; we want to be open and transparent about the energy and climate change actions. For us, creating engagement opportunities in sustainability for students is a key priority.” 

According to Cohen-Rosenthal, Sustainable UMass Boston functions as a chance for students to engage and get involved on campus in more ways. It is a way to connect academics to operations and possibly future careers in this growing field. Students can take sustainability courses to learn and apply outside of the classroom and earn hands-on experience.

Last fall the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee launched five task forces: Operations, Community, Engagement, Curriculum and Living Lab.

“The academic task forces will work to integrate sustainability in the curriculum,” said Cohen-Rosenthal. “Climate change is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. We along with Sustainable UMass Boston partners aim to do this by incorporating fun activities for the students to get involved in like the Earth Month in April, with events in the Quad April 16 through April 26. This makes getting involved fun as well as educational.” 

Cohen-Rosenthal is trying to create more paid positions or offer extra credit to increase participation and provide more volunteer opportunities not only to people who are majoring or minoring in sustainability but to students in general

She further added that, “sustainability and climate change is a team effort. So many offices—the entire campus, the student clubs, the student government—will be working together under a campaign called Sustainable UMass Boston.” It is a result of a group effort between all the student clubs and departments, which helps UMass Boston address the question of sustainability and climate change much more effectively. 

Cohen-Rosenthal stated that, “Earlier sustainability in UMass Boston was academically focused and little to none was done in the extra-curricular niche, so as of now they are trying to open up volunteer positions to get students involved.”

The Sustainability Program partners with the other UMass campuses like Lowell, Amherst, Dartmouth and the Chan Medical School. 

“It really helps that UMass Boston is a state university,” Cohen-Rosenthal said. “We are part of the Leading By Example program, where all state institutions must stop burning fossil fuels. Being a state university helps majorly with funding and support.” 

The main goal of this campaign is to make UMass Boston much more sustainable and do their part in slowing down the process of climate change. Though the program is still in its developing stages, Cohen-Rosenthal and her team are working each day in order to prepare for the program to be the best it can be. 

Cohen-Rosenthal tries to make the creation of new student-programs as student-centric as possible in their latest collaboration with OSCLE via their GROW Peer Facilitators. They had a student facilitation group which designed a brainstorming workshop. At this workshop, students came up with their own engagement program and operational ideas to deal with climate change and how to make the campus more sustainable. 

“That’s what sustainability is,” said Cohen-Rosenthal. “It’s brainstorming all these solutions and figuring out what makes the most sense.” 

Cohen-Rosenthal, along with her team, is dedicated to make changes not only for the current campus environment, but for future impact as well.