RCE Shenandoah Valley - 2022

1st annual Student Sustainability Summit
Basic Information
Title of project : 
1st annual Student Sustainability Summit
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Sustainable Shenandoah Valley
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Steve Grande
Organizational Affiliation: 
James Madison University
Heather Korzun
Organizational Affiliation: 
Mary Baldwin University
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Shenandoah Valley, VA, USA

Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Primarily an agricultural region, the Shenandoah Valley features many farms (poultry, dairy, beef cattle, and crops/vegetables), and is surrounded by National Forest and National Park mountainous regions. The scenic beauty of the region is renowned. The region has only three major cities, which account for about 25% of the total RCE regional population of approximately 320,000. Key industries include light manufacturing, agribusiness, transportation, and information technology.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
Students enrolled in higher education in the Shenandoah Valley have limited opportunities to investigate how their applied work in and out of the classroom addresses the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, students rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to speak to student peers at neighboring higher education institutions about this applied work and how they can more effectively contribute to the SDGs.
January, 2022 to April, 2022
Using an academic conference format challenged students to develop rigorous presentations with thoughtful connections to the SDGs. This structure would also be taken seriously by both faculty members and local NGO's who would be more willing to participate.
Register more than 50 local post-secondary students in the 1st annual Student Sustainability Summit.
Offer at least 8 robust and academically reviewed student presentations that describe projects that clearly address the SDGs.
Introduce students from at least 4 area higher education institutions.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
In December 2021 student presentation teams proposed conference presentations.
In January 2022 conference proposals were reviewed by the RCE Steering Committee and provided critical feedback.
Participants registered for the conference in March of 2022.
The conference was held on April 9, 2022.
Size of academic audience: 
Organized entirely by students, conference participation and program content exceeded the organizers goal. Over 50 students from four local higher education attended with 13 presentations and panels addressing a wide range of topics and SDGs. Student presentations arrested a wide variety of topics including: University climate action plans; University composting initiatives; Local carbon sequestration efforts; Mapping local "heat islands"; Innovative approaches to remediating microplastics; and Students effectively supporting people that are homeless.
Local community partners provided feedback and connections. Following the conference a community partner wrote to say that the event provided “incredible connections for us.”
Lessons learned: 
Thoughtfully student led efforts have the potential to be even more meaningful to other students. Students can be more open to learning and offer additional respect to peers.
Opportunities for students to build relationships, pose questions about each others' projects, wrestle over vexing issues, and be inspired are critical to bolster efforts to address the SDGs.
Connecting student efforts to NGOs within the context of the SDGs laid the groundwork for partnership development.
Key messages: 
Thoughtful presentations and great exchanges between students from various institutions as well as community members anchored in the SDGs led to powerful dialogues and discoveries:
students from Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, and Mary Baldwin University strategized about enhancing campus composting;
students from JMU proposed a functioning biomimicry device to remove microplastics connected with a Shenandoah River organization to test their device;
After Bridgewater students presented their heat mapping project city of Staunton residents invited them to use the strategy to address tree canopy concerns in lower income neighborhoods.
Support from the Mary Baldwin University student activities fund and the James Madison University Community Service-Learning department.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon IMG_7231.JPG (2.39 MB) Community Partner panel Student Sustainability Summit S. Grande
Image icon IMG_7223.JPG (2.3 MB) Gathering at the Student Sustainability Summit S. Grande
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
I acknowledge the above: