In September 2020, Miami University President Greg Crawford signed the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment (PCLC), kickstarting a new era of carbon neutrality and climate resilience at Miami. Now, the university has put together the Climate Action Task Force (CATF) to bring its plans to fruition, with a student representative on board.
After beginning its applicant search in October, Denali Selent, a sophomore bioengineering major, was chosen to be the student representative on the CATF.
Selent, whose position is a one-year term with possible renewal, is one of 15 individuals on the executive steering committee of the CATF. These committee members come from various backgrounds including diversity and inclusion, academics and curriculum and the city of Oxford.
“The task force really takes into mind all of the different areas that sustainability and climate resilience [impact],” Selent said.
Associated Student Government (ASG) Secretary for Infrastructure and Sustainability Allison South, a senior political science and environmental science double major, notes that Selent’s position is unique, as not many schools have a student represented at the same level.
With a student on the CATF, South believes the student body at Miami will be better equipped to transition into a more sustainable campus.
“To make a lot of these changes, it’s going to have to be a culture shift,” she said.
While not all universities offer this same position, Jonathan Levy and Adam Sizemore — director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability and director of Sustainability, respectively, as well as co-chairs of the CATF— agreed that it was always part of the plan.
“[Having a student representative] was never a question,” Sizemore said. “It was really, ‘How is the student going to be integrated into it?’”
The CATF first met as a whole in December of last year, where it began to discuss its three-year plan to meet carbon neutrality and Selent got her first glimpse into her new role.
While Selent holds many of the same duties as the other members of the CATF, she is also tasked with the responsibility of communicating the progress of its efforts to the student body and creating new programs and initiatives to get them involved with the work of the task force and sustainability on campus in general.
Levy says one of the main goals of Selent’s position is transparency.
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“The idea is … that students know what’s going on, know what we’re doing [and] will help spread the word on that,” he said.
But Selent acknowledges that the conversation is a two-way street. She wants to be able to provide the perspective of the student body and voice their opinions to facilitate communication.
Though her major is not directly related to environmental studies, she’s always been interested in the topic.
“I think that every single major on campus has a connection to climate resilience and environmental sustainability,” Selent said.
By increasing student contribution to efforts like the CATF, task force members are hopeful that they will not only make current students more conscious of the world around them, but also attract new students who are interested in these same issues.
“While students are here, [we want them to learn] how to be engaged with these important issues that they [can] then take outside into their own professional or personal life post graduation,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore hopes Selent can help students understand the importance of moving toward a greener Miami.
“It’s really more of an empowerment thing, I think, than it is making students change their ways,” he said.
In the coming months, Selent will most likely be putting together her own subcommittee to increase student involvement, and the CATF will be looking to add students to other areas of the task force as well.