The University Record, February 25, 1998

Faculty 'amazed' at student response to theme semester

William Briggs, LS&A junior, shown here with President Lee C. Bollinger, appeared in the guise of a frog at last week's Regents' meeting during a presentation on the Environmental Theme Semester. He is the theme semester's official mascot. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

Mona Hanna, a senior in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, shows a light switch sticker that has been distributed throughout the residence halls and soon will appear in all other campus buildings. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Jane R. Elgass

"Something extraordinary has been happening" on campus and it has everything to do with student activism and excitement, John Knott told the Board of Regents last week.

He was speaking of the tremendous leadership exhibited by students in contributing to this term's "Environmental Theme Semester: Rethinking the Relationship."

Theme semesters, which first began in LS&A in 1992, typically involved small groups of faculty who were encouraged by the dean, leveraging small budgets to get other units involved, explained Knott, who is the faculty chair of the project and professor of English.

This term's theme semester is co-sponsored by the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), with participation by many other units, but "what is most extraordinary is the involvement of students who really have developed one of their own," Knott said.

"There is a happy synergy," he noted, perhaps because the theme resonated with students, because it was something they could get excited about.

Meanwhile, "the faculty has been delighted and frankly amazed, and learned a lot of lessons, particularly about organization and marketing. Faculty don't think about T-shirts," Knott noted.

The experience speaks loudly about the power of energy, commitment and bold thinking, Knott said. Students think they can do anything. And in thinking they can do anything, even if they can't, they accomplish more. "Activism is not dead. We've learned a lot about student power. In fact, sometimes we think we've grabbed a live wire."

Student leadership for the project has been provided by SNRE senior Mona Hanna, who briefed the Regents on the contents of an information packet and introduced a powerful multi-media presentation that was created by Albert Garcia, an LS&A sophomore.