UTPA teams with German university to promote sustainability
Posted: 09/04/2013
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Incorporating habits that help the environment is something about which Laura Perez, a senior at The University of Texas-Pan American majoring in business management, said she and fellow Broncs have much to learn.

UT Pan American's mascot Bucky practices his recycling skills with the help of the City of Pharr during the University's first Trans-Atlantic Sustainability Seminar that addressed numerous initiatives including those in energy, transportation, waste and water management and public policy. UTPA teamed up with Leuphana University, based in Lüneberg, Germany, to host the event.

"It's something that we don't know enough about especially with our Mexican American culture," Perez said. "I wasn't raised with the idea that sustainability is something we have to incorporate in our daily lives."

Perez was one of about a dozen UTPA students who attended the University's first Trans-Atlantic Sustainability Seminar (TASS) with Leuphana University -- based in Lüneberg, Germany -- that addressed numerous initiatives including those in energy, transportation, waste and water management and public policy.

Perez said the seminar -- held from July 29-Aug. 9 -- and involved UTPA students presenting their research to German students and working with them to develop strategies that focus on these concerns. On Aug. 6, UTPA hosted a daylong TASS Forum that included presentations by students and faculty members from UTPA and Leuphana University, as well as officials from Edinburg, McAllen and Pharr and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

"This is so important because it has given me a new awareness about the environment," Perez said.

Christian Maly, a graduate student from Leuphana, said he and fellow students look forward to collaborating with UTPA students.

"We are really excited about visiting UTPA because we want to exchange ideas from Germany and from Texas with our students and faculty members to see what we can learn from each other," Maly said. "We discovered very interesting things here. We have different systems but we have one planet and we are on the same boat and to create a better world we need to work together."

The seminar was a culmination of a relationship UT Pan American and its College of Business Administration have had with the Leuphana University. For the past 15 years, the institutions have organized study abroad opportunities for students from their respective universities, and for the past year, students from UTPA and Leuphana University have been working together in a course that addresses sustainability initiatives.

Marianella Quiroga-Quintanilla, UTPA director for Sustainability, called the partnership a wonderful experience on an international level and said the Office for Sustainability was proud to assist the UTPA College of Business Administration with this program.

"The interaction between our students and the German students has been amazing," Quiroga-Quintanilla said. "As we begin our journey in sustainability and sustainability practices they get to share and exchange ideas. That is such an amazing opportunity."

Quiroga-Quintanilla said she already has received positive feedback from UTPA's German partners about the Rio Grande Valley's efforts to promote a lifestyle that supports sustainability.

"They are impressed with the fact that we do so much outreach and that we work with our local municipalities," she said. "They understand that partnering is helping us. Sustainability is a regional effort."

Learn more about the TASS in this video: