STEP given new name, new structure

The Sustainability Education Peers (STEP) program was overhauled this summer in an effort to improve its efficiency and oversight.

The Office of Sustainability announced in late August that it was reorganizing STEP — a student-led organization designed to educate Yalies about sustainability — in response to student criticism that the program was disorganized and vague in its goals. This fall, the organization relaunched as the Sustainability Service Corps with new job structure and greater supervision from the Office of Sustainability. The program is also rebuilding its student staff from scratch, as even former STEP coordinators have been asked to reapply for positions.

The STEP program was originally created to help Yale Facilities, which paid STEP coordinators’ salaries, meet green goals on campus. Two coordinators were hired for each residential college to organize study breaks and other events promoting sustainability, and to serve on one of the subcommittees within the larger STEP team for all of Yale College.

But student coordinators complained that their positions required them to wear too many hats, said Amber Garrard, education and outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

“It seemed like motivation was at times an issue,” Garrard said. “The students weren’t sure what they were meant to accomplish.”

So the office decided to restructure its student outreach program, with a larger advisory role for the Office of Sustainability.

In the newly formed Sustainability Service Corps, the number of residential college coordinators was reduced from two to one, with another assigned to Old Campus. The subcommittees previously dedicated to communications and special events, among other topics, were eliminated and replaced with a “compost crew,” an “energy squad,” and a green events consulting team — each consisting of five students who are not sustainability coordinators. Garrard said the consulting team will work with planners of major campus events, potentially including Safety Dance and Spring Fling, to help minimize energy consumption and waste.

In an effort to keep the Office of Sustainability more involved in student outreach, Garrard said one college coordinator and one leader from the compost crew, energy squad, and green events consultants will meet with her regularly to help the groups collaborate. Like STEP positions, student jobs with the Sustainability Service Corps will be paid by Yale Facilities.

The Sustainability Service Corps has already hired a few members, Garrard said, and is working to recruit more employees. STEP coordinators were not automatically offered positions in the reorganized program, and Garrard said they are not being given priority in the hiring process.

“STEP coordinators from last year are wonderful and definitely encouraged to reapply,” she said. “If they present a good argument for why they should be a part of the Service Corps, I will consider that — and if they think their STEP experience is important to their qualifications, I will definitely consider that as well.”

Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14, a former STEP coordinator for Silliman, said all STEP coordinators were notified toward the end of the spring semester that the program would undergo major changes over the summer. But Kreisberg said that, at the time, STEP promised coordinators they would be able to have positions in the new organization.

“They said they’d let us know ­— they said they’d keep us on if we wanted to stay,” he said.

Kreisberg said he does not plan to apply to the Sustainability Service Corps, but that he thinks the new structure will improve the scope and efficiency of the program.

Emily Farr ’14, a former Berkeley STEP coordinator who will not participate in the new program because she is studying abroad this semester, said the new student teams have clearer and more substantive goals than the old STEP subcommittees. The smaller number of student college coordinators will also likely make the program’s work more effective, she said.

A 2011 report on Yale’s sustainability efforts for 2010-’13 found that the University has met its goal to increase recycling by 25 percent, and has approached its goal for reducing waste.

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