UAF answers $5 million question, hires sustainability coordinator

Michele Hebert. Jesse Hoff/Sun Star

By Heather Bryant

Sun Star Reporter

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a school with a lot of fees: ones for technology, transportation, labs, student life, health, parking; the list goes on. Most of these fees are instituted by the administration and paid by the students because it’s just part of going to a university.  It’s very rare for students to self-impose a fee, but the sustainability fee is just that.

According to Mike Sfraga, the Vice Chancellor for Students, the fee is estimated to raise $2.5 million over the next ten years, a dollar amount Chancellor Brian Rogers has pledged to match.

“Those are two pretty substantial commitments to this thing called sustainability,” said Sfraga.

The ASUAF/ Review of Infrastructure, Sustainability, and Energy (RISE) board is the group created to utilize the funding in campus sustainability efforts. With an estimated $5 million to put into use over the next ten years, it became clear to Sfraga that an administrator was needed.

The Sustainability Coordinator for UAF position is a full-time position for someone who would work with the RISE board, help them set up a structure for accepting proposals, instituting its own proposals, and setting up a transparent process for the funding of proposals.

On August 16, Sfraga’s office officially announced Michele Hebert as the Sustainability Coordinator for UAF.

“Hebert’s extensive background with the Cooperative Extension Service and sustainability, along with her dynamic and engaging leadership style are a winning combination,” said the announcement issued by Sfraga.

Sfraga’s announcement went on to say, “Hebert will facilitate dialogue and campus-wide programs that build upon UAF’s commitment to sustainability.  Her experience in extension services, organizing conferences and leading outreach programs, grant and philanthropic activities, and publication record will assure success while building partnerships throughout the Fairbanks community.”

Hebert has worked with the Alaska Cooperative Extension Services since 1990, most recently as a horticulture and agriculture agent.

In the past, she has done regular radio spots on quality of life issues and sustainability. The last 17 years, she was the sustainable agriculture agent for the state of Alaska. Hebert is also involved in programs to help Alaskan communities with sustainability efforts.

One of the main things she sees as a necessary change is a more cohesive program with better communication not only internally, but with the community as well.

“The efforts aren’t organized in a clear way, we aren’t publicizing what we do, we don’t have a clear message on our efforts,” said Hebert. She says that is part of the reason that UAF received low marks on the College Sustainability Report Card.

Hebert wants to take stock of the situation and get a clear idea of what has been done, what needs to be done and then defining the way to accomplish goals.

“My expertise is communication and pulling people together. I work on pulling people together to develop strategic plans,” said Hebert. Her strategy is to get the Office of Sustainability organized, developing a marketing program, outreach and getting students started on projects.

RISE Board President Michael Golub is eager to get started. “With her varied experiences at UAF, I think she will be very valuable to our efforts and she is eager to get started,” said Golub.

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