Lessons in leadership and sustainability bring students and faculty together

On Jan. 18, more than 70 students from across the state exchanged their weekend for three days of workshops, planning and an education about their roles as the up-and-coming leaders in environmental justice.
The Florida Youth for Environmental Sustainability Summit was held for the fi rst time at Florida Gulf Coast University and lasted for three days. Each day provided something new for the students and allowed them to attend different sessions based upon their particular areas of interest within environmental justice and sustainability.
The president of Students for Environmental Justice (SEJ), Uzair Iqbal, was pleased with the turnout of the summit considering the registration limit of 80. “This was the biggest Florida YES Summit ever with over 70 people registered, coming from all over the state,” Iqbal said. Iqbal said the summit allowed students to learn leadership development skills, effective use of social media, campus sustainability planning and other valuable lessons that they could take back to their own communities.
Student Government director of sustainability Carleen Hunt said her favorite part of the summit was the tour of Algenol on the last day. The local biofuel headquarters opened their doors and educated students on the process of making ethanol from algae.
“The entire process both from the scientifi c side and the engineering side was just amazing. They are able to produce signifi cantly more energy using exponentially less resources. The process uses salt water rather than fresh water, takes up a limited amount of land and uses the natural sunlight and CO2 to produce ethanol and other biofuels.”
During the summit, FGCU faculty also participated in a panel themed “Positive News in the Environmental Movement.” The panel was comprised of FGCU Professor Sim Komisar, chair for Renewable Energy, Joseph Simmons-Backe and president of Preserve Our Paradise in Naples, Joe Mule. They highlighted a number of FGCU’s initiatives and others in the Southwest Florida community. Iqbal and Hunt both expressed gratitude from the donors to the summit and generous help from Dean of Undergraduate Studies Jim Wohlpart. Iqbal views this summit as a small step toward the bigger picture.
“SEJ hopes to continue to headline FGCU on bigger stages as one of the leaders in sustainability, educating students on environmental justice issues and giving its students the support to continue it further.”