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Sustainability Teaching, Application, and Research Grant Recipients 


2024 Faculty Recipients

Vincent Bates & Sara Gailey (Education), “Stories of the Land”

This project focuses on storytelling, live and in-person, as a culturally, socially, and materially sustainable “counter-environment”—a way for young people to find meaning and fulfillment in a way that involves modest (if any) material consumption. The 2025 WSU Storytelling Festival will include a focus on environmental sustainability through (1) a new festival theme, Stories of the Land; (2) a one to two-hour Storytelling Symposium for WSU faculty and staff led by Darren Parry, former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, whose work centers on environmental sustainability; (3) adding in-service training for elementary teachers to our standard festival services, which will be aimed at teaching storytelling as counter environment; and (4) providing sustainability-themed storytelling outreach concerts to local schools (in addition to current outreach). vincent Bates and Sara Gailey plan to increase attendance at the main festival on the WSU Ogden campus by funding transportation to the festival for some of the elementary schools, particularly Title I (low-income) schools.

James I. Cohen (Botany & Plant Ecology), “The flora of northern Utah: Let’s explore it together!”

The composition of plants continues to change throughout northern Utah.  It is important to understand the ways in which our flora shifts over time so that we know when new plants enter an area, plant abundance decreases (or increases), plants shift their seasonal processes, etc. One of the best ways to understand flora is to get outside, collect plants, and deposit these specimens in an herbarium (a repository for preserved plants).  During the course of the summer, James Cohen and collaborators will visit various places around northern Utah to collect plants, and they will enter the data in WSU's Mary Carver Hall Herbarium's database to make the information about the specimens widely available.  During the fall, the community will be invited to an event to help prepare the plants to be stored in WSU's herbarium creating archival plant specimens.  This will ensure that the plant specimens serve as a moment-in-time capturing the botanical diversity and processes during the summer of 2024.

Jessica Greenberg (Theatre), “Luminous Waters: Illuminating the Great Salt Lake Ecological Crisis”

The Great Salt Lake is facing an unprecedented ecological crisis due to declining water levels and increasing salinity. To raise awareness about this critical issue and inspire action for conservation efforts, Jessica Greenberg proposed the creation of a light art installation titled "Luminous Waters." This installation will aim to draw attention to the ecological significance of the Great Salt Lake while engaging and educating the public about the urgent need for preservation.

"Luminous Waters" will be a large-scale temporary light art installation on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Through a combination of dynamic lighting effects and shapes, viewers will be invited to contemplate the interconnectedness of water, wildlife, and human impact on the environment. The lasting impact of this installation will be through the resulting photography. The installation will be captured by a professional photographer, and the images will be presented in a gallery display. 

Sarah Grunnah (Theatre), “MELT: Ice-based Performance in the Climate Crisis”

This multidisciplinary project addresses the climate crisis through a movement-based theatre performance on a block of sculpted ice. It aims to highlight the urgency of climate change, specifically glacial melt and its impact on North American desert landscapes, by adopting an arts-centric approach. The performance seeks to make the abstract threat of climate change tangible and emotionally resonant, addressing the challenge of mobilizing collective action. As George Marshall notes, climate change divides are social rather than scientific, necessitating cultural and creative solutions. By presenting the issue as a physical, material concern, the melting ice sculpture symbolizes the urgent need for action. Over the next year, the project will involve collaboration with artists, scholars, musicians, skaters, and scientists, aiming to engage the community and raise awareness about the pressing issue of ice melt in a changing climate. 

Sarah Herrmann (Psychological Science), “Examining the Effect of Plants in the Classroom on College Student Mental Health and Academic Experiences”

Indoor plants benefit mental health, stress, and performance. Additionally, past research demonstrates the connection between increased mental health and well-being, and academic performance. However, no research has investigated whether indoor plants can increase academic performance for college students as a function of improving mental health and well-being. This project addresses this gap and investigates the impact of indoor plants on college students’ mental health, perceptions of college (i.e., growth mindset, academic self-efficacy), perceptions of their courses, and academic performance. Sarah Herrmann and Taylor Evans, a student collaborator, will utilize a between-subjects field experiment to test the effect of two indoor plants in half of the classrooms of Lindquist Hall on student mental health, growth mindset, academic self-efficacy, nature relatedness, demographic variables, course evaluations, and course grades. They hypothesize that students in classrooms that have plants will have higher satisfaction with the course and better performance compared to those in classrooms without plants. Additionally, we analyze moderation by demographic variables (i.e., ethnicity, college generation status) to investigate differential benefits to historically minoritized students. Implications include a benefit to students and a better understanding of the effect of exposure to indoor plants on student academic performance, which may contribute to more widespread use of plants in classrooms.

Demetrios Pagonis (Chemistry & Biochemistry), “Updating Chemical Waste Management for Sustainability and Safety”

This project will overhaul the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry stockroom's approach to the classification, characterization, and disposal of chemical waste. By more systematically sorting hazardous from non-hazardous waste Demetrios Pagonis and collaborators expect to reduce the amount of hazardous chemical waste generated by the chemistry teaching laboratories.