By Shirley Shuman
A 2022 graduate of Braxton County High School, Eliza Keener recently attended a workshop on Campus and Community-Scale Climate Change Solutions co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the University of Washington.
A freshman at Fairmont University, Keener was invited to attend the conference by Dr. Erica Harvey. Also an attendee at the conference, Dr. Harvey teaches a class in campus sustainability. Keener, a mechanical engineering major, was one of only seven students at the conference. Dr. Harvey emphasized that Keener “did a wonderful job of networking and representing Fairmont State and West Virginia.”
The purpose of the conference, attended by individuals from the entire United States, was “to determine what is being done by colleges and universities throughout the country to sustain the earth,” Keener noted. Along with the other student attendees, she acted as a moderator and recorder for the meetings, as did the other six.
Keener explained, “Smaller group meetings were held in breakout rooms, with as few as 20 in some. Our job was to guide the college/university representatives onto the subjects they were supposed to cover and to ask questions to obtain further information.” As the conference members reported any steps toward sustainability happening on their campuses or made suggestions about possible ways to achieve sustainability, the students recorded what was said. The information student representatives recorded will be reported to conference organizers who will compile, summarize, and distribute it.
Asked about her experience, Keener noted that she enjoyed learning about the efforts to attain sustainability colleges and universities are making. She mentioned especially that she and Dr. Harvey found discussion on geothermal energy interesting, although they also noted that this method of obtaining energy would be highly impractical at Fairmont State. “Our campus wouldn’t produce enough geothermal energy to sustain a power plant,” she said.
Keener, a student in Dr. Harvey’s class in campus sustainability, said that class members “put together a proposal to begin use of solar energy on Fairmont’s campus.” She noted that the work on that project was complex and “took a long time.”
The daughter of Mike and Melissa Keener, this young woman will continue to pursue her mechanical engineering degree, of course, but with renewed effort will strive to be more aware of climate change and what she as one individual can do.