SRU’s “best-kept secret” pushes to keep students aware, involved

Published by , Author: Megan Bush - Campus Life Editor, Date: September 14, 2017

In April 1990, the Robert A. Macoskey Center held its first Earth Day celebration for the Slippery Rock campus and community.  27 years later, the Center has welcomed an entirely new staff, with the exception of Interim Director of the Center and Director for Academic Resources Mary Ann King, and the Center continues to provide education and sustainability for the community and students alike.
Graduate assistant and student in the environmental education master’s and park resource management programs, Sami Laurence described the Macoskey Center as a bridge builder between campus and the Slippery Rock community.
“It’s really a place to develop this community working towards a better future and a healthier environment,” Laurence said.
According to Laurence, the unofficial historian of the Center, and King, the property started as a 1920’s farmhouse infested with poison ivy, groundhogs and rats when Robert Macoskey and the Alter project decided it would be the perfect place for their center for sustainable systems education and research.  Laurence said the Alter Project was a group that formed to work on sustainability projects that included community members and campus members.
“A lot of people would think, ‘why would you ever choose a place like that to be your main clubhouse or core point of doing this sustainable work,'” Laurence said.  “But for Bob and for the Alter Project, instead of seeing it as this place that was hopeless and destitute, it was actually very hope-filled with a lot of potential.”
Laurence said Macoskey’s vision for the Center was to make it a kind of “Disney World of Sustainability” and she believes the current staff is continuing on that “magical journey” in his place.
The Macoskey Center hosts a number of events about the environment, sustainability and conservation, both at the Center on Harmony Road and on campus.  These projects include the annual Earth Day celebration, the weekly farm stand, which is held outside the Smith Student Center every Thursday from noon until 2 p.m., and a weekly newsletter with recipes, sustainability articles and future dates for different workshops.
Assistant professor of parks and conservation and co-director of programming for the Center Dr. Becky Thomas also mentioned events and projects coming up that will be presented by the Center.  One such project will be a week-long event series beginning with an on-campus screening of the documentary “No-Impact Man.”  Following the screening, the week will be filled with campus-wide programs focused on different themes, like consumption, waste and where food comes from, and some specific events include a clothing swap, a local cooking night and a bike to campus.  The bike to campus, which will take place on September 26 from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m., is a partnership with a new SRU-based coffee company Rock Roast.  People will be encouraged to stop by the tent outside the Smith Student Center to get free refreshments and a free cup of coffee.
Another event planned for the future is the World Cafe, which was discussed in a leadership-training/team-building exercise by Thomas and her colleague Dr. Shawn Davis, who is also an assistant professor of parks and conservation and a co-director of programming.  Thomas said they plan on opening the invitation for this event to the entire campus and community.
“All perspectives are welcome, and needed,” Thomas said.  “It’ll allow us to better understand the ideas that others see as opportunities for this facility.”
Laurence, along with fellow graduate assistant and student in environmental education master’s program Jacob Smith, said the Center is constantly looking for more volunteers to help spread awareness of the Center as well as maintain the property.  Smith works with the many trail systems, which are open to everyone, and he said volunteers get a lot of hands-on and training experience.  Dr. Thomas said she feels that the hands-on opportunities are invaluable, and she hopes that volunteers who work on the trails or the property get the chance to come back in years’ time and think, “I did this.”
“We’re working to make more and more students aware [of the Macoskey Center],” King said.  “It’s the best-kept secret on campus.”


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