SHINE program provides sustainability progress, opportunities

SHINE PROJECTS — Students gather to strategize and connect with NMU sustainability and all that plays a role in it. Photo courtesy of Jes Thompson
SHINE PROJECTS — Students gather to strategize and connect with NMU sustainability and all that plays a role in it. Photo courtesy of Jes Thompson

Working to better the environment and get students involved, Northern Michigan University’s SHINE program was developed. SHINE is the Sustainability Hub for Innovation & Environment, and its mission statement mirrors that: “Our purpose is to improve planning and coordination for sustainability on campus, increase the implementation of sustainable initiatives and practices on campuses, and support education on sustainability inside and out of the classroom.”

A sustainability advisory council created SHINE in search of a hub for both communication and coordination, after realizing there was a lot happening on campus but no “one-stop shop” for what people should know about, said Jes Thompson, SHINE director and professor in the College of Business.

SHINE was officially started around January of 2023 and is composed of a variety of roles and students that hopes to continue to grow with time and funding. Thompson thinks it will especially take off more next semester, and there is a good possibility there will be jobs available that she does not even know they need yet, as a lot of the jobs cater to the students and their interests.

A chunk of these aforementioned roles is in ways tied to the university’s strategic plan, said Thompson.

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“There [are] just so many little pieces in a big system,” Thompson said. “The university really is equivalent to a small city.”

Third-year social media design management major Mackenzie Geary is one student involved in SHINE who has participated in a number of clubs around campus like EcoReps, DivestNMU and NMU’s Hip Hop Dance Club. She is interning at SHINE and in the university’s Marketing and Communications Department.

“I have always been interested and involved with sustainability and our environment,” Geary said. “My dream job would be working with sustainable brands or the National Parks.”

She became aware that SHINE was taking applications for a social media intern through her professor at the time, who was Thompson.

SHINE currently has seven interns who, according to Geary, work with topics like carbon neutrality, sustainable fashion, sustainability and climate education, landscaping and grounds, community partnerships and social media communications. Geary explained that her main focus this semester is working to create a consistent presence on their Instagram.

“This can be making sure we’re regularly updating our page as events and sustainable-centered information about our campus comes up, as well as helping to make graphics for events. That’s one of the most important things, letting people know what is going on,” Geary said. “I am hoping that next semester I become more creative as well with our social media.”

Geary emphasized the importance of a team, having people to rely on in a peer-to-peer education program, and all being able to work together towards the same thing. She expressed her gratitude for the great community SHINE offers her and talked about organizations they have had the ability to work with, including Northern Climate Network. SHINE helped the organization hold a sustainability table for questions before their Climate @ Noon event took place.

SHINE gives more opportunities to spread awareness to students, faculty, staff and administration on the importance of helping our environment. According to Geary, while SHINE is still new, their goal is to uplift the voices on campus that are talking about sustainable initiatives. They are not only a support system for those fighting for the environment, but also a place to network and work together.

Geary recommends following SHINE and reaching out over Instagram (@shine.nmu) or email [email protected] for questions or potential collaborations and also signing up for their newsletter to stay informed about campus sustainability updates.

“What I see for the future of SHINE is that each year we continue to grow,” Geary said. “That we continue to offer more internship opportunities to students, that we continue to work towards creating an impact on NMU’s community through educational opportunities and that we continue to advocate and lift voices up.”

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