University of Arizona MBA graduate student Lon Huber is the chair of the Green Fund committee. The 10-member student committee was formed to decide how to spend the $24 annual per-student fee that will pay for environmentally sustainable projects on campus. The group is in charge of allocating $400,000 from 2010-2011 and a similar amount from 2011-2012; the new fund was approved by the Board of Regents in March 2010. The deadline for project proposals is Feb. 7. For information on the fund, go to www.studentaffairs.arizona.edu/greenfund.
How was this fund approved?
Technically, it's a tuition add-on that costs each student $12 a semester. It wasn't created through a student referendum.
What is the point of the fund?
It's to provide seed money for campus-sustainability projects, not only to decrease the campus' carbon footprint, but also to save the campus money and provide educational opportunities for students.
Is it a formal request-for-proposals process?
Yes, it was first announced in early December, and we tried hard to get the word out and encourage students and faculty to apply.
What's your role with the fund?
I'm chair of the Green Fund, which is governed by a board, a 10-member board, all students. (The board includes) appointed students, and then (we had) a call-at-large of the student body for a portion of the remaining board.
What do you hope to see in the proposals?
We really want to find projects that triple the bottom line—projects that have a strong student component, that enhance student educational opportunities and save the campus money.
Is there anything specific you hope to see?
I really don't want to have expectations. We want to be agnostic, as long as we hit the main principle—giving back to the student body in more ways than one. What I can say is that we are looking for some out-of-the-box ideas—something new, something that we can display on campus and show the community a new model of sustainability, a new working system, a new solar or energy system. But we don't have expectations. We do want to see some out-of-the-box ideas that could help bring awareness of these new technologies that are coming out.
Do you have any idea on the number of projects?
We're not sure yet; it all depends on what comes back to us. We'll see the options, and we'll do a full analysis on what's the best way to be stewards of students' money. We may invest in two large capital projects, or disperse the money in 10 smaller projects. Once we dive into the proposals and weigh the options, we may decide we're only going to fund part of this large project, and require one group to get matching funds for the rest, or we'll give a loan and ask that they pay it back in five years. We will stretch the money as far as we can.
Do you see this fund sticking around?
Going through a tuition add-on is not the standard way to do things, so it could move to a regular fee structure to make it a little more transparent. There's also a Campus Sustainability Office, and we have a coordinator, Joe Abraham. That is another great feature of this and why the fund is so vital.
How did you get involved?
I'm the co-founder of a student sustainability group on campus. We were finding that we had such passionate students who wanted to get involved, but the projects require an investment, which is not necessarily bad, but there are upfront costs. The students didn't have the money. We realized it would be great if we could skip that fundraising round, and students could have a little bit of seed money to work with and see their vision take hold; that's how it got ignited. We worked on it for several years and honed in on a structure that has accountability to the student body and uses resources effectively.
When do you think we'll see the first projects?
We want to get these projects off the ground as soon as possible, and we'll have groups that help market the projects. We'll work with the marketing department at the UA and the business school to showcase the ideas that come out and help the campus be aware of what could be projects that have a lot of promise.