Sustainability Newsletter Spring 2021

Growing up in South Dakota, Alexa Kruse (B.S., sustainability and biology, 2018), spent a lot of time outdoors, which instilled in her a passion for the environment and conservation. She’s putting that passion to work. Kruse was hired by the East Dakota Water Development District (EDWDD) in July 2020 as a watershed project specialist on a project focused on the Big Sioux River. The goals of her job are to develop learning experiences, foster partnerships and inspire lifelong environmental and conservation stewardship among community members, agricultural producers and landowners. She develops informational materials, outreach activities and campaigns to educate all stakeholders in the Big Sioux River watershed about the EDWDD’s goals and activities. Her job is highly varied, consisting of field and survey work, creating digital materials and meeting with the media to inform and educate the public. “I really get to do it all,” Kruse said. The job came with unique challenges. “I am largely creating the role. My position has very abstract objectives, and no one has done this kind of work within the Big Sioux River Project before, so I have had to build what I’m doing from the ground up with little direction.” Starting a new job during a pandemic was also challenging. “I would usually be in an office with our different partners, but I began this job working from home which has been hard. I don’t have too many people I can bounce ideas off of, so I have definitely had to become more confident in my decisions.” Kruse noted that her degree in sustainability gave her a much better understanding of equitable problem solving, and seeing the interconnectedness of all the components of an issue. “Perfect solutions almost never exist, but the sustainability program taught me to be resilient when searching for those answers.” Kruse has advice for sustainability majors. “Treat school like it’s your job and your grades are your paycheck. You are paying for the privilege to be taught by your professors, so make sure you attend all of your classes and go to office hours when you can—this is great for letters of recommendation and references, too! That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for fun, but take your studies seriously and try and walk away with an expanded worldview.” In a discipline that figuratively puts the weight of the world’s problems on its shoulders, Kruse said that the sustainability major can sometimes be emotionally taxing. “It’s difficult to be introduced to these seemingly insurmountable problems and feel a bit hopeless. Make sure you take time to see the good that is happening, ‘look for the helpers,’ and know that one person can’t do it all, but one person can do enough,” Kruse said. The Department of Sustainability & Environment, with generous financial support from the First Bank & Trust and the College of Arts & Sciences, renovated the old Earth Science Library in the Akeley-Lawrence Science Center into the new Sustainability Solutions Space. This multi- functional room, which includes computer workstations and comfortable seating, is a place where students and faculty can meet and share ideas about sustainability. ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT – ALEXA KRUSE I ntroducing the S ustainability S olutions S pace Tom Schaak, president of First Bank & Trust, and Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Sustainability & Environment, dedicate the new Sustainability Solutions Space in December 2020.