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An interdisciplinary sustainability initiative is taking root at TCNJ

group of people planting in dirt
Students and faculty recently planted native plants outside Green Hall. Photo by Nathaniel Johnson ’25.

A campuswide sustainability initiative that took root last semester is blooming this spring as a number of projects — like the planting of a wildflower meadow — are underway and more are planned as part of Campus as a Living Lab.

The initiative, known colloquially as CaLL, is designed to foster collaboration across disciplines and departments — involving students, professors, administration, grounds crews, and facilities management — to share and buy into the many sustainability efforts at TCNJ.

“It’s a framework that can help people come together,” said Miriam Shakow, professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a co-leader of CaLL. “We’re communicating that sustainability is an institutional priority.”

The interdisciplinary coordination helps students link classwork and faculty research, such as a heat study of campus, to campus policies and practices.

“We’re getting a full view of our campus and how we can use what we are learning,” said Lauren Weikl ’24, a biology major who participated in the plantings and is doing independent research on bird populations and ecosystems.

One project launched this academic year includes the creation of a pilot 1,000-square-foot pollinator meadow of native wildflowers behind the Green Lane fields.

“The basics of any living lab initiative is to use the spaces of the campus as opportunities for student learning,” said Shakow.  

The hands-on efforts are supported by work in other areas: journalism students are creating a “one-stop shop” website for all things related to sustainability on campus, while other students are studying the links between climate change and social justice.

Olivia Gonzalez ’25 planted seedlings as part of a workshop on native plants in Shakow’s course on climate and social justice.

“We’re getting engaged and getting outside. I feel like I’m part of making a change on campus,” she said.

More plantings are scheduled to coincide with Earth Week. Part of the grant enabled the hiring of an organic landscaping expert with the goal of helping the facilities department phase out harmful herbicides, Shakow said. An effort is also afoot to garner backing for campus composting.

The idea for CaLL grew out of TCNJ’s Environmental Sustainability Council with the goal of promoting student involvement in and awareness of sustainability beyond those involved in environmental groups on campus, Shakow said.

There is a cross-pollination of ideas as well as wildflowers. “The initiative has sparked creative conversations among different disciplines. It’s so great to hear what everybody is working on,” said associate professor Kathleen Webber, who chairs the Department of Journalism and Professional Writing and is a member of the Environmental Sustainability Council and a co-leader of CaLL.

“The communication is an amazing benefit of it, with everybody coming together in terms of sustainability and biodiversity,” said Louise Ammentorp, professor of elementary and early childhood education. 

CaLL is working its way into many areas of campus. A graphic design class is developing a CaLL logo. Another class is promoting CaLL through press releases, and another has proposed working on an interactive campus sustainability map.

The ultimate goal is to engage students, who then will promote sustainability efforts on campus and beyond. “I feel like the work we’re doing will help others get involved,” said journalism major Tasmin Oyshi ’27.

“We want to train students to be eco-ambassadors,” Webber said. “Students care about this and want to know that their school also cares about it.”

And CaLL is just getting started.

“It’s been a great experience so far and we’re only one year into it,” Ammentorp said. “It’s been great to see the excitement and support of so many people.”

— Patricia Alex



School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628


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