cookout main resize

Beginning of semester cookout welcomes students to the Voinovich School

Bethany N. Bella
October 28, 2015

Great food, great weather, great company -- these three themes captured the essence of the annual Voinovich Environmental Studies cookout, held on the evening of Thursday, September 3, 2015.

“We had a great group of students, staff and faculty get together to talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company (and eat great food),” Scott Miller, director for the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3) at the Voinovich School, said. “That’s what it’s all about – developing a sense of community.”

The start-of-semester cookout, held on the back porch of the Environmental Studies Building 22 at The Ridges, attracted roughly 30 students and faculty members, representing Masters of Environmental Studies (MSES) students inside the larger Environmental Studies program, CE3 and the Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars program.

“Coming together in informal settings is essential to advancing our many dynamic peer to peer learning opportunities,” Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Studies Program, said. “Our people bring diverse experiences and networks to the School and discovering each other’s strengths and interests is both fun and practically helpful as we learn and work together.”

Rachel Gaunce, one of this year’s Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars, reflected on what she considered an overall positive experience attending the cookout.

“I decided to attend the cookout to meet other people working in the Voinovich School and to learn about their projects,” Gaunce said. “I was also hoping to meet some people to collaborate with on my own project. I, unfortunately, couldn't stay for very long, so I didn't talk to people as much as I [wish] I could have. It was nice seeing some new faces!”

In addition to being a relaxing social for the Voinovich’s environmental scholars and faculty, the cookout was also a ‘zero waste’ event. Students and faculty were required to bring their own utensils, cups and plates to eat the food provided at the cookout.

“The Voinovich School strives to ‘live our principles’ as much as possible,” Miller said. “Being exposed to something as drastic as the concept of ‘zero waste’ takes a little getting used to. By offering up zero waste events – both large and small – we demonstrate that this is something that everyone can do and that it just takes a little extra thought and planning, but that it’s not as daunting as you may think.”

According to Miller, one of the lead professional staff members of the Ohio University Zero Waste Initiative, the cookout was a “huge success” in terms of waste diversion.

“We generated less than half of a bag of landfill waste and much more compostable and recyclable material,” Miller said. “That’s exactly what we were looking for. Plus, we found several students who have [since] given up their Saturday mornings to join us for zero waste tailgates at OHIO’s football games.”

The cookout also provided a space for faculty members to connect with new students and learn about their anticipated contributions to the Voinovich School.

“For me, the best part of events like this is talking with the students and learning more about them as individuals,” Cheryl Hanzel, program manager and academic advisor at the Voinovich School, said. “Meeting the undergraduate scholars is also fun for me, as I work more with the graduate students.”

Dabelko echoed this enthusiasm for connecting with students and faculty within the integrated Environmental Studies program.

“I revel in the diversity of interests and experiences that Voinovich School students bring to the classroom and the project teams,” Dabelko said. “As program director, I get to know all of the students and most faculty and staff within the School...I enjoyed playing matchmaker throughout the cookout.”

Photos by Jillyann Burns -- for more: https://flic.kr/s/aHskjZN4P7