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Sustainability & Social Justice Conference debuts

The Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning is living up to its name today with the debut of the Service-Learning for Sustainability & Social Justice Conference.

Each year, the center holds a conference on service-learning, but this year David Aftandilian, assistant professor of anthropology, said he approached the center about incorporating sustainability into the conference because a number faculty members are interested in the topic, have done research and have taught the subject.

“In order to bring people together around these sustainability efforts, we wanted to have a conference that talked about sustainability and what a bunch of the different faculty were doing in regards to it,” Aftandilian said.

Sustainability is a three-legged stool, and it is about more than just the environment, Aftandilian said. There is environmental, economic and social sustainability, he said, and in order to improve one aspect — like the environment — the others must be affected as well to create true sustainability.

“I’m all for protecting the rainforest, but that’s only one aspect of sustainability,” he said.

Melissa Gruver, the community involvement coordinator for the Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning, said tonight’s keynote speaker, Robert Egger, was invited because he embodies sustainability in each of the three areas: economic, social and environmental.

Egger founded the D.C. Central Kitchen in 1989, a food kitchen that “turns leftover food into millions of meals for thousands of at-risk individuals while offering nationally recognized culinary job training to once homeless and hungry adults” in the Washington, D.C., metro area, according to the kitchen’s website. He was recognized as one of the 2009 NonProfit Times 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders and as one of 2006’s “Real Sexiest Men Alive”in O, The Oprah Magazine, according to Egger’s website.

Rosangela Boyd, director of the Center for Community Involvement and Service-Learning, said Egger’s presentation would speak to students, especially those who look for meaning and for ways to make a difference, keeping in mind the need to be successful in their careers and in making a living.

“He really talks about the intersection between profit and nonprofit in a way that you can continue to make your contribution [and] find meaning in your life without necessarily having to dedicate your entire life to poverty or to change your lifestyle drastically,” she said.

Boyd said partners from all across the community as well as across the campus came together to host the conference. The Tarrant Area Food Bank, the Office of the Provost, AddRan College of Liberal Arts, the Institute for Urban Living and Innovation, the Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology were the sponsors who made the conference possible, according to the conference’s website.

Aftandilian said, “The thing about putting on a conference is the logistics of it, just finding rooms that actually encourage the kind of interaction among the participants that you want.”

Finding appropriate rooms and serving sustainable food were just two issues faced when planning the conference, Aftandilian said.

“To my knowledge, there are no portable recycling units,” he said. “What we’re having to do is bring our own garbage bags and collect recyclables. And I’m going to take them back to my house and recycle.”

Aftandilian defined service-learning as learning by doing and said that many students learn better that way.

“The students learn so much from that process,” he said. “Even better than that, they put the knowledge that we’ve been talking about in the classroom to work in the real world to actually help people and help the environment. To me, that achieves my learning objective for the class in ways that nothing else can.”


Service-Learning for Sustainability & Social Justice Conference

Keynote speaker Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen

“The New Sustainability Revolution: Save the Planet, Change the World and Keep Your Paycheck”

When: 5-6 p.m. today

Where: Smith Hall, Room 104

Reception with Robert Egger, catered by Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Community Kitchen

When: 6-6:45 p.m.

Where: Smith Hall, Room 104

For a complete list of events, visit

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