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Group of students pose for a piture as a sustainability symposium

An initiative from the Sustainable CORE Fellows has been named a finalist for the 2023 Student Sustainability Leadership Award given by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The CORE fellows were recognized for the creation and implementation of the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) within the Eco-Reps program at Tufts. ShaSha Kingston ’24, who is the Sustainable CORE Fellows Coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, led the creation of this group.  

“It was cool to just see different work being recognized by AASHE, especially because they do serve predominantly like white institutions, so it was cool to see environmental justice or justice and equity work being recognized in the finalists as a kind of signal that they thought it was important and an up-and-coming issue in sustainability,” Kingston said. 

Kingston explained that the EJWG developed as she and other Fellows (then called Eco-Reps) began seeing different priorities the program could focus on. While the original Eco-Reps program began with a focus on personal sustainability, Kingston and the other students identified the need for a focus on environmental justice and equity work.  

“The landscape of the environmental field has changed so much in the past 20 years, and so things that were relevant and topical then, like how to recycle, just aren’t as relevant and topical now,” Kingston said. “So I think there was this big kind of internal push from within the Eco-Rep program that we wanted to do more and we wanted to address issues of like equity and justice, how that intersects with the environment, how we figure out how we students can do that work on campus.”  

The group met each month and also spoke with other universities and at various conferences, eventually culminating in the restructuring of the Eco-Reps program into the Sustainable CORE Fellows (Cultivating Our Resilient Environment) program in Fall 2023. This transition came about in part because of the goals of the EJWG, which aim to embed equity and justice into the mission of Office of Sustainability student programming and incorporate that work into everyday practices. 

Kingston said the new Sustainable CORE Fellows program, now in its first semester, has been progressing well so far following an initial summer training period.  

“We definitely intentionally brought in some students who were excited about the new mission and excited about collaboration work,” Kingston said. “A lot of students in our group identify with different identity centers and things like that, so being able to like bring those communities into sustainability has been meaningful. I think overall students have been really receptive to it.”