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Featured Student: Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason. ENVSMegan Gleason wasn’t sure what to expect when she showed up at her first meeting with the University of Oregon’s Climate Justice League. She was a freshman new to campus, and attended because an old high school friend took her along; she admits that “I was nervous about going because I didn’t really know anyone there.”

A Junior now, she has been involved with Climate Justice League for three years and credits it with providing not only a means of getting active with environmental issues, but also a community of like-minded peers. Almost immediately, she recalls, “I got to be really good friends with a lot of the more active members of CJL.”

Gleason has since served as Campaign Coordinator for projects with the Climate Justice League, including a project that helped make recycling and composting more accessible on campus. This year, she decided to make a further commitment and take on the role of Co-Director—meaning “instead of organizing campaign events, or what I call ‘on the ground’ work, I do a lot of behind the scenes work, meeting with Coordinators one on one and making sure things go smoothly.” The job has helped her develop practical leadership skills, as she must devote herself to understanding “the nuts and bolts of what it takes to keep a group together, happy, and on the right track.”

As Co-Director of the Climate Justice League, Gleason also found herself as a speaker at the Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. She sat on a panel of speakers with others from PSU and OSU who were working on a campaign that the Climate Justice League had also taken on, called Take Back the Tap. It was an apt time to be addressing the issue: the Climate Justice League had recently pushed a campaign through TBTT, with the support of 85% of faculty and 72% of the student body, to go bottled water-free. It looked like UO was about to become the first public university to make the switch, but just weeks before the conference, “UO President Michael Gottfredson  refused not only to pass the policy, but to meet with us to negotiate policy amendments. This decision prompted our campaign to expose the biggest reason the UO said no to going bottled water-free: big money beverage contracts with Pepsi.”

It was a controversial topic, and Gleason was initially nervous to bring it up in front of a public audience. Ultimately, however, she found the presentation to be quite rewarding: “some members of our audience were surprised at our presentation, but I definitely felt a lot of support as I met with people. OHESC is a great place to network and meet people who really want to see institutions of higher education integrate sustainability.”

Moving forward, Gleason expects to graduate in spring of 2015 with a major in environmental studies and a minor in political science. She doesn’t have definite plans after graduation, but law school and graduate school in public policy are on the short list, and she wants to participate next year in the Environmental Leadership Program’s Canopy Connections to get a feel for environmental education. In the meantime she’s taking advantage of interdisciplinary course offerings within the Environmental Studies department, continuing her activism with the Climate Justice League, singing in one of the UO gospel choirs, and reading whenever she gets a spare moment.

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.