University of Vermont

University Communications


Environmental Council Celebrates Eight Years, Says Goodbye to One of its Founders

By Kevin Foley Article published October 20, 2004

Stephanie Kaza helped found UVM’s pioneering Environmental Council in 1996, and has served as the group’s faculty co-chair ever since. Today, in a party at Waterman Manor, the associate professor at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and many of her long-time colleagues are celebrating the group’s first eight years and honoring Kaza, who is stepping down from her role as co-chair.

“I’m feeling great. We felt it was important to the viability of the council to have a successful leadership transition,” Kaza says. “There are plenty of good people committed to it, President Fogel is involved and supportive. The council is virtually assured of success.”

Don Ross, research assistant professor of plant and soil science and long-time member, will be the new faculty chair of the group. Ralph Stuart, a manager at the Environmental Safety Facility, remains the staff chair and Gioia Thompson, who helped start the organization as a graduate student, remains the staff coordinator.

The Environmental Council is comprised of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members working to make UVM a greener campus. The group produces reports assessing the campus’s performance against various ecological indicators, runs a small-grants program to seed new environmental initiatives, sponsors an annual “Eco Fair,” and encourages greening efforts at other schools.

“We’ve started a lot of conversations around campus,” says Kaza. “We don’t take an activist, chip-on-the-shoulder approach; generally, we’re about diplomacy and building relationships over time. If an issue was too hot or difficult, we didn’t push it. But if there was real interest and a genuine sense of curiosity we jumped in and provided as much catalyzing energy as possible.”

The group started after Kaza went to a campus environmental summit at Yale by fluke — a colleague was unable to attend. She returned with information about environmental councils at other campus and a desire to start one here. Lawrence Forcier, then the dean of agriculture, extension and natural resources, and Ray Lavigne, another influential administrator, adopted the idea and helped shepherd it through the administration. Bill Ballard, now associate vice president for administrative and facilities services, also has supported the group since it was formed.

The council was announced on May 6, 1996. The official university press release said the group would “focus attention on the campus environment and how the university can be more environmentally responsible, as well as make itself more visible as an environmental university.”

Kaza points out that then, as now, the environmental energy around the campus extends far beyond the group.

“I thought we would have to be cheerleading and urging and nudging everybody at every step along the way, but enough people have learned enough about campus greening and that the momentum is way beyond the council,” Kaza says.

Kaza will remain in the group for at least a year as a regular member. As the council goes forward, she hopes that it will help support a growing green-building trend in campus construction, push the university to reduce carbon emissions, and sustain and expand the council’s grant program for student projects. She also hopes that the group continues helping similar efforts elsewhere.

According to environmental coordinator Gioia Thompson, that’s a given. “We’re considered old-timers. Lots of other institutions have started or want to start councils. It’s amazing how many requests I get from people for advice,” she says.