FAMU Sustainability Institute hosts Indaba

Florida A&M University’s Sustainability Institute hosted the campus-wide brainstorming summit “Sustainability Indaba” Thursday in the Grand Ballroom.

According to famu.edu, ‘Indaba’ is a term used by the AmaZulu, Xhosa and Swazi peoples of South Africa that means “gathering for purposeful discussion.”

The Indaba gathered members and students from 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. to creatively discuss ways to make FAMU more environmentally conscious.

The Indaba included faculty members as guest speakers, food and activities. In the spirit of sustainability and environmental conservancy, the event was designed to be as close to zero waste as possible.

Compostable plates, cups and utensils were provided. It was also encouraged that attendees bring their own mug and name tags. Everything used was recyclable and food compost was available so leftovers wouldn't go to waste.

Toward the entry of the Grand Ballroom a poster of a tree with handprints on the leaves covered the wall. Kathryn Ziewitz, sustainability program coordinator who created the tree concept, said it was more than just decoration.

“The tree of handprints shows how collective dreams and actions of everyone at FAMU can help us build a more sustainable future,” Ziewitz said. “Individually, our actions add up to a great deal, so collaboration and cooperation is key to making our sustainable dreams become reality.”

The idea of the event derived from Kwasi Densu, Ph.D., assistant Professor of political science who explained his inspiration and kicked off the Indaba with welcoming remarks.

“FAMU has always been connected to the environment,” Densu said. “We wanted to bring the notion of Indaba to FAMU where everyone has an opportunity to share their thinking around sustainability.”

Densu went on to say that a goal is to make an Indaba similar to an institution, where students should be able to gather and discuss their thoughts on an issue.

The setup of the grand ballroom consisted of nine tables that connected into a circle, leaving a big space in the middle for members to speak. This floor plan help demonstrated Densu’s vision “to connect one another to the Earth and the things that live on it”

Each table represented a focus team with topics such as waste, people, science and food that related to the activities.

Associate professor of environmental science Richard Gragg, Ph.D., provided a brief overview of FAMU’s sustainability journey.

“From the beginning FAMU has been on this journey, we just reconnected back to our roots,” Gragg said. “We’ve always been connected to the environment.”

With three activities set on the agenda, the first one required defining sustainability at FAMU.

Assistant professor of environmental sciences Marcia Allen Owens, Ph.D., facilitated the activities prepared.

“We want to have a substantial definition of sustainability at FAMU,” Owens said. “Sustainability at FAMU may not mean the same thing at a different institution.”

For the second and third activity, the teams were to brainstorm recommendations related to their topics then choose their top three. To conclude the exercises the teams used posters to present their top three. The posters were used to hang around the walls so that everyone could vote.

With everyone's participation, voting in the focus areas would help prioritize what action had to be taken.

Fourth-year political science student Dominique Dantley expressed his experience at the indaba.

“I felt included, it was very cool because I believe in fostering a community around sustainability,” Dantley said. “I hope that FAMU can eventually become an all green university.”

Co-chair of the Indaba and associate professor of behavioral sciences Fran Close, Ph.D., expressed her thoughts.

“We wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a meeting where you were getting a lot of speakers,” Close said. “We really wanted it to be a brainstorming session instead of everybody being talked to all day.”

With all the ideas provided from the event the goal is to now set them in stone.

“With the recommendations we will start to prioritize and put all these things into action,” Close said.