USG greenlights Environmental Student Assembly for students

Program Board recently introduced their newest cultural organization, the Environmental Student Assembly. This organization will be the ninth cultural organization established under Program Board.

Justin Bogda, the executive director of the Political Student Assembly, said establishing a new assembly will help better support the environmental student organizations already present on campus, including Environmental Affairs Organization, SC Outfitters, Global Environmental Brigades, USC Just Food and Gardening, Sue Chang Trojans and USC Energy Club.

“Since I also work for Program Board, I thought it was the best idea and way to get additional funding and support for student groups to create an assembly where we could get money to actually fund these organizations,” Bogda said. “If you can provide them with resources, you really can get them to come together.”

Bogda said the idea to establish ESA came to fruition when he was organizing last year’s Earth Week.

“The idea started in January and February last year, when I was organizing Earth Week,” Bogda said. “And when I was working with all these student groups I saw that none of them knew about each other and none of them connected to each other … so there’s a clear problem there, and it kind of fixed itself. [The planning] kind of organized itself into an assembly.”

One of the main purposes of ESA is to draw in more environmentally interested students toward specific programs.

“We have a lot of programs through the Office of Sustainability but little capacity to involve students in them … It was the goal of the office to become more accessible to students with its programs, and the main way to do that was through our Earth Week,” Bogda said. “In working with all these student groups it just came to be this perfect model because Program Board is the way that the student government is organized to organize all groups around a specific interest … [and] to come together and collaborate.”

Shawn Rhoads, a sophomore majoring in physics and psychology, and sophomores Caitlin Martin and Alison Pugash, both majoring in environmental studies, were voted by the member organizations to lead ESA as their first executive board. Rhoads will serve as the executive director of ESA, and Martin and Pugash will assume the roles of assistant directors.

“When I decided to run for executive director, I really thought about what are some ways I can bring green programming on campus and develop the green culture at USC,” Rhoads said. “I feel like doing this gives me an opportunity to have a direct affect on what we do and visibly show what we are doing, increase other people’s interest and awareness about the initiatives that are going on.”

Martin said she felt becoming a part of ESA would give her an idea of what she wanted to become involved in the future.

“I want to go into environmental public policy at some point, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn how to work with different people and become involved,” Martin said. “I just really wanted to do something that would actually make a difference.”

Many students said they believe that starting ESA will have a beneficial impact on the university community.

“[The environment] seems like an issue that hasn’t been addressed yet, but [ESA] will fill that void that is left,” said Kelsey Goelz, a senior majoring in art history and public relations. “I think it will be really useful, especially to bring other environmental groups on campus together and be an umbrella for them.”

Several students said they think that ESA will finally cause the university to start focusing on more ecofriendly practices.

“I think starting ESA is a great idea,” said Megan Park, a sophomore majoring in art. “I think there’s a lot of impact that USC students can make on conserving energy by having environmentally concerned debates and informative events that I haven’t seen yet for the two years that I’ve been here.”

Bogda also said he hopes that the new assembly will spread conservation awareness around campus, as well as make a greater impact on the university by advocating for more environmentally friendly legislation.

“For activism to get things passed through administration, you need to show that there is student support for those kinds of things,” Bogda said. “So if it’s a bunch of different groups that aren’t organized for a common goal, you aren’t going to get the thousand signatures that you might need. But if you have a group that is organizing it … then you can get things accomplished.


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