Allegheny College will host the Fifth World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities from June 16 to 17.
“The event is a series of conferences meant to gather those in higher education from around the world to talk about sustainable development in the future,” said Christine Scott Nelson, ’73, Endowed Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Eric Pallant.
Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Department Chair Beth Choate and Pallant will be co-chairing WSSD-U — as the symposium is known — with Professor Walter Leal of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
“As conference chairs, (Pallant) and I have to mediate the different presentations and talks,” Choate said. “We are also responsible for compiling the participant’s papers in a collaborative book.”
The book will be named after the theme of WSSD-U-2022: “Educating the Sustainability Leaders of the Future.”
“We chose this theme for the conference because that is what we do at Allegheny,” Choate said. “Many other participating institutions are larger than us and focus more on research with graduate students whereas Allegheny prepares its environmental science undergraduates for work in the future.”
Allegheny will be entering six papers into the conference with Choate being one of the entries.
“I’ve been working on a paper with two students over the past four semesters,” Choate said. “The focus of the paper is student knowledge and perceptions of a green campus.”
The two students collaborating with Choate on the paper are Lauren Schrock, ’23, and Lydia Giannini, ’23.
Schrock collected various data and statistics regarding the research topic.
“I had an independent study class with (Choate) in spring 2021 where I gathered different data on how aware students are about the environmental sustainability initiatives and programs on campus,” Schrock said.
Giannini compiled and described the aforementioned data and statistics.
“(Choate) and I worked on an independent study project during fall 2021 where I had access to the data (Schrock) collected,” Giannini said. “(Choate) and I co-authored the findings of the research and the summary of the data.”
Allegheny has frequented WSSD-U in the past and has entered the conference with papers each year.
Choate, Pallant and former Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Ben Haywood — who now teaches at Furman University — were recipients of the best research entry at the Third WSSD-U in Malaysia in 2019.
“I think that our winning entry paper in 2019 was what secured our designation as hosts,” Pallant said. “Allegheny has developed a very good reputation in the conference by continuing to provide high-quality research to the forum.”
Previous hosts of the WSSD-U include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Malaya.
“Allegheny has worked considerably to earn a spot at the table,” Choate said. “We are one of the few carbon-neutral schools in the nation and are considered to have one of the best environmental science programs.”
Pallant believes that hosting the WSSD-U will help Allegheny grow its environmental science program.
“A lot of the institutions attending are massive structures with huge endowments and organized funding,” Pallant said. “Allegheny is now in a great position to showcase its abilities on the international stage and beyond.”
Pallant also mentioned the challenges associated with hosting such an event.
“When it comes to events like this, the bigger and more well-known the venue, the easier it is to organize,” Pallant said. “It is difficult to arrange delegations from around the world and bring them to Meadville, Pennsylvania.”
Transporting participants from Pittsburgh International Airport and organizing food and refreshments were some of the organizational responsibilities that Pallant brought up.
“I do think it is refreshing to host an international conference in rural America, as it is not what many envision when thinking of traveling to America,” Pallant said.
Choate made note that participants will have the option to live on or off-campus for the duration of the conference and that participants opting to stay on-campus will be accommodated at North Village II.
Along with presentations, teams will also be offered field trips around the Crawford County region.
“We are looking to take the teams out to an exploration of French Creek,” Pallant said. “I think we have a strong advantage with our location as we have a lot of interesting landscapes around the area.”
Pallant also confirmed that President Hilary Link will be opening the conference with an address.
“We hope to have two days of in-depth discussion and analysis,” Pallant said. “At the closing, we will be announcing the winners of the conference and summarizing key findings.”
Although there are no present developments to broadcast the event to the Allegheny community, Choate hopes to find a way to get the student body involved in the conference.
“Having student and community involvement and viewership is important to us as that is what we stand for at Allegheny,” Choate said.
More details regarding the WSSD-U-2022 will be released to the campus community soon.