Adventures in Environmental Advocacy and Activism: 8th Annual Muddy River Symposium


8th Annual Muddy River SymposiumThe Colleges of the Fenway’s 8th Annual Muddy River Symposium, “Adventures in Environmental Advocacy and Activism” was held on April 17th, 2014 at Wheelock College’s Brookline campus. This year’s theme provided opportunities to learn about the history and successful organization of social movements and how these link to current environmental issues. This year’s inclusion of regional organizations provided information on the numerous ways for participants to engage in environmental activism and advocacy. The presentation of student projects and initiatives combined with the work of local community organizations allowed for many networking opportunities.

Sandy McEvoy, Wheelock College Associate Professor of Political Science, gave the keynote address titled “Creating Social Change: A Practical Toolkit for Activists”. In her presentation, Sandy discussed activism vs. advocacy and provided listeners with key steps or “tools” needed in creating positive change, whether that change is for the environment or for social issues. She commented, “The Muddy River Symposium was such a wonderful opportunity to see the ways in which political change and social justice are so closely linked to the protection of the environment. The experience enhanced my own thinking, teaching and research and I look forward to attending the event again next year.”

8th Annual Muddy River SymposiumA student panel consisting of Colleges of the Fenway Student Environmental Leaders was also an integral component of this year’s symposium. Sarah Helen Faulkner (Emmanuel College), Alexandra Goyette (Wheelock College), Seth Jalbert (Mass Art), and Ethan Sprague (WIT) discussed current campus initiatives of the student organizations on each of their campuses ranging from sustainable architecture projects, an Earth Day Carnival, and community service projects such as the Muddy River Clean-up. One student participant commented that this year’s symposium was “a true COF event with representation from multiple COF institutions”.

Approximately, 20 student projects were presented, including five COF institutions as well as high school students from Artward Bound, a college access program at MassArt. Achievement awards were given out to recognize excellence in student projects. This year’s awards were presented to:

  • Sustainable Project Initiative
    Seth Jalbert and Sam Robertson
    Massachusetts College of Art
  • Developing a Student Lab to Investigate Biodiesel and Bioethanol Production: Integrating Key Concepts from Plant Biology, Biochemistry, and Organic Chemistry
    Paul Brand, Meagan Cherry, Corinne Decicco, Katelyn Guill, Matthew McCarthy, Shayna Miller, Mariah Ramdial, Andrew Vitolo, Jenna Whalen, Shannon Hogan
    Emmanuel College, Department of Biology
  • Food Waste into Energy Project
    John Devlin, Freddie Falcone, Nathan Goldman, and Kristen Houatchanthara
    With Dr. Leonard Anderson, WIT
  • Can one policy change smoking habits in Boston’s public parks?
  • Julie Grome, Wheelock College

Posters from the Environmental Forum: Urban Ecology course highlighted service learning conducted in partnership with organizations such as Bootstrap Compost, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), the Mattahunt Community Center and Franklin Park Coalition. One student commented that: “My service learning experience at Bootstrap Compost can be described as refreshing……. their facility is filled with the food scraps of people that care about the impact of their actions. Over 700 businesses and residents decided, Yes, I don’t want my organic wastes to go to a landfill. Yes, I care about methane emissions and climate change. Yes, I want the nutrients of my wastes to be returned to the soil and reused. It was enlightening and inspiring to witness members of the Boston community actively seek an alternative to the trash can.”

This year’s symposium also had representation from a variety of local community organizations including: Brookline Green Space Alliance, Franklin Park Coalition, Juniperks, Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center, Friends of Jamaica Pond and Toxics Action Center. “The 2014 Muddy River Symposium was an excellent opportunity for me to share with students, parents, and faculty some of the deep, meaningful work the Boston Nature Center is engaged with in the community. I was also very impressed with the sustainability initiatives that are underway throughout the Colleges of the Fenway.” Andrew MacBlane, Teacher Naturalist and Public Programs Coordinator, Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center.

In summary, the annual Muddy River Symposium is a great opportunity for the COF institutions to share their research, service learning and build partnerships within the community.

8th Annual Muddy River Symposium

Visit The Colleges of the Fenway Center for Sustainability and the Environment website to learn about the collaboration of faculty, staff and students from the six member colleges working together to enhance understanding of the complex issues of sustainability as they relate to natural resources and the environment. Presentations from the symposium will soon be available on their web site.