Josh Stoffel, sustainability coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a graduate student in higher education administration, recently won the Richard F. Stevens Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Massachusetts given by NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
The award recognizes Stoffel for making a significant contribution to the campus, his academic achievement, taking a leadership role and demonstrating an interest in student affairs. NASPA gives one award in each state. Gary Malaney, coordinator of UMass Amherst’s higher education master’s program and one of Stoffel’s advisors, says Stoffel is the most accomplished student he has ever nominated for the top state honor.
The list of Stoffel’s accomplishments may appear unbelievable, Malaney adds, except for those who know him and his passion. As a senior in 2007-08, Stoffel established UMass Amherst’s Eco-Rep program, which is now a nationally recognized model for student involvement in sustainability activities and peer education. He recruited freshmen and sophomores to learn the basics of energy conservation, recycling, water conservation and related issues.
By the following year, his 70 Eco-Reps were organizing monthly sustainability-themed events in most of the campus’s 45 residence halls. The next phase has been to recruit 24 committed and engaged students into sustainability internships this year. Stoffel worked to create an ongoing internship program that will offer these undergraduates appropriate guidance and academic credit for their participation.
Now supported by a half-time graduate assistantship, Stoffel works at least full time while juggling classes and assignments for his master’s degree, his colleagues report. Among other accomplishments, he has helped to create a green building design guideline for the campus, led the development of the campus Climate Action Plan with its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, is developing a green office program, and orchestrated the sustainable move-out campaign each spring at residence halls.
These efforts culminated in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs recently choosing the UMass Amherst campus to receive its 2010 \”Leading by Example\” award for excellence in sustainability efforts in the higher education category. Stoffel accepted the award in Boston with Chancellor Robert Holub.
Stoffel also recently spoke at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Denver, where he talked about his commitment to student involvement and how fostering student leadership can help sustain green campus programs over the long term. He says, \”Student involvement is the crux of everything we do here and the underpinning of sustainability efforts here on campus. Much of my work is to foster that involvement, to find ways that student ideas and energy can be channeled into peer education and action projects.\”
Patrick Daly, director of the UMass Amherst physical plant who works closely with Stoffel on sustainability issues, wholeheartedly endorses Stoffel’s recognition, noting that the grad student has made a significant contribution to campus not only through the Eco-Rep and internship programs, but by taking a leading role on several sustainability coordinating committees.
Guy Lanza, professor of environmental conservation and one of Stoffel’s mentors, says, \”Josh is one of those rare students who arrives on the scene with the ability to both identify environmental challenges and quickly provide practical solutions. Although many students can do a good job with one or the other aspects of meeting and solving an environmental challenge, few can do both with the consistent success that is clearly part of Josh’s record at UMass Amherst. We are lucky to have him here!\”
Stoffel is a native of Franklin, Mass.