May 31, 2018
Derek Martin was drawn to Susquehanna University for several reasons, he said, most compelling among them being the university's commitment to green energy exemplified by the on-campus construction of a 12,000 panel solar array.
"I really believe the solutions to environmental issues will come out of universities because we're educating the leaders of tomorrow," Martin said. "We're in a unique position where we can do projects on a small scale, measure impact and scale those projects larger."
Martin joined Susquehanna in January as the university's first sustainability coordinator. His journey here, however, started in business.
After earning a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in accounting from Eastern Michigan University, Martin worked for the University of Michigan as an accountant overseeing the finances on research projects and grants across the university.
"I came to the realization that accounting did not align with my passions and decided to go back to school to better match my passion for environmental protection with my interest in working in higher education," Martin said.
Martin left EMU to earn a second master's degree from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment. During this time, he traveled to Denmark learn more about organic farming, an opportunity he accessed through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
He also joined Sustainability Without Borders (SWB). In it, teams of students work on sustainable development projects across the globe. Martin spent time working on the Peru team building aquaponics systems in Chakipampa, a small, impoverished community in the Andes Mountains
"They're dealing with climate change as their dry season is becoming longer and more severe," he said. "The aquaponics systems were meant to be a demonstration of how they could produce food using less water."
At Susquehanna, Martin is tasked with ensuring that the university is doing everything it can to reduce its environmental impact on a local, regional, and global scale, while maximizing student engagement and learning.
He's already off and running, tacking one of his top priorities—recycling and waste management.
Martin and several students recently conducted a campus recycling and waste audit that looked at what students are recycling, what they aren't and what they are throwing away. As a result, facilities has begun using blue trash bags to better delineate recycling containers from trash containers.
Martin has also formed student sustainability working groups that meet regularly to discuss and develop action plans around issues surrounding energy, waste, water and food, as well as special events and marketing and communications.
Martin hopes to increase student engagement in campus sustainability efforts by using the campus as a living, learning laboratory, as well as providing guidance to the environmental student organizations and Sustainability House.
"I will also work with faculty to incorporate interdisciplinary sustainability topics into the curriculum so students who graduate from Susquehanna have a strong knowledge of what sustainability is and how it relates to society," Martin said.
He also plans to focus on communications efforts to let the campus and alumni community know the work that is already underway.
"Looking to the future, I envision Susquehanna as a leader in sustainability in campus operations and education," Martin said. "There's an excitement and momentum growing that I am thrilled to help foster."