Stark aims to spike environmental awareness with help from $600,000 grant

Justin Metz

Students at the Kent State Stark campus will soon have the opportunity to work as environmental activists, due to a grant of more than $600,000 from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation.

The Herbert W. Hoover Initiative for Environmental Media Activism, which will be a collaborative work of the Stark campus and the University of Miami (Florida), plans to focus on producing new media that will help raise environmental awareness.

“This area doesn’t really strike me as a hotbed of environmental activism,” said Kim Finer, Stark campus biological sciences professor and acting director of the initiative. “But maybe we can change that with this grassroots initiative.”

When launched, the program will use electronic media such as Web-based reports, blogs and short films to spread awareness of environmental issues to the community. The issues that are addressed will be decided by the students themselves.

“We not only want them to learn about the topic, but we want them to become active in educating the community and their peers,” Finer said.

Students of all majors at the Stark campus will be invited to participate in the program.

Mark Butterworth, executive director of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, said the initiative has the potential to have a great impact on the community.

“We don’t fund problems; we fund solutions,” Butterworth said. “This is an attempt to get students in real-world situations outside of the classroom. Instead of being reactionary, students will be on the front lines raising awareness.”

Butterworth said the idea for the initiative was born from Lacey Hoover, president of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation and the daughter of Herbert W. Hoover Jr.

Her father was a former chairman of the Hoover Company, the vacuum manufacturer his grandfather founded in 1908. Hoover describes her late father as an “industrialist environmentalist.”

“She feels this will bring her father’s legacy full-circle, especially here in Northeast Ohio,” Butterworth said.

Hoover also initiated the partnership between the Stark campus and the University of Miami. She first introduced Betsy Boze, dean of the Stark campus, to University of Miami faculty partners during a screening of the environmental documentary “One Water” in Miami last spring.

“We started collaborating on what they could do to help us and how we could learn from them,” said Boze. “The partnership gives us an opportunity to involve our students in ways that they never would have had before.”

Boze is already planning opportunities for students to become involved with the initiative as early as this semester.

“Over the past few years we’ve really focused on social and environmental responsibility in everything we do,” Boze said. “This really ties together everything that the campus stands for.”

Contact regional campus reporter Justin Metz at [email protected].