Focus the Nation conference coming to campus


Puget Sound students may feel there is little they can do to affect change when it comes to the environment. The Feb. 26 clean energy conference, taking place on campus, aims to convince them otherwise.

The Focus the Nation Clean Energy Forum will bring career ideas, local sustainability projects and inspiration to college and high school students from throughout the Puget Sound region. It aims to provide “information and fresh, cooperative outlooks in the topic of sustainable employment, and can potentially serve as a starting point for networking and future connections in our Tacoma community.”

The Portland-based non-profit organization Focus the Nation (FtN) is sponsoring conferences like this on college campuses across the country. Twenty-two forums will take place between Feb. 19 and March 9 in 18 states.

“Focus the Nation’s goal is to use these forums to launch the careers of young leaders who are interested in clean energy,” FtN Business and Community Relations Coordinator Anne Bertucio said. “The forums are meant to identify the next step students can take towards a clean energy future.”

Students for a Sustainable Campus (SSC) President Annie Bigalke, along with Emerson Sample, Brooke Jangard and Nikki Polozzitto have been working since Nov. 2010 to bring the conference to Puget Sound. Although they have been in contact with an FtN representative, the majority of this student-oriented event has been organized by the students themselves.

“The conference is really geared toward students,” Sample said. “We are focusing on what is applicable to them in terms of environmental activism and we want them to be engaged and interested the whole way through.”
So far, the event has created a buzz within the green community on campus, securing sponsorship from ASUPS, SSC, The Environmental Policy department and the Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC). Conference organizers are hoping for a similar student response.

Judging by SSC’s lengthy email list and regrettably low meeting attendance, high interest and low participation in environmental activism seems to characterize the student body at Puget Sound. Bigalke hopes the conference will turn them around.

“It’s understandable. We’re all busy,” Bigalke said. “We really hope the conference helps students realize that their interest in environmental justice can have tangible results. We want to create agents of change.”

Focus the Nation and Puget Sound forum organizers believe the best place to cultivate environmental activism is at the student level. “Enthusiasm and drive are unique to younger generations,” Sample said. “We need this grass-roots style inspiration so students like us can be encouraged to play off of each other’s energy and really make changes.”

The morning portion of the conference will consist of a green jobs panel, on which representatives from local sustainability-related businesses will share their career stories. Next, students will participate in a green energy workshop, which will introduce them to current, local sustainability projects.

The event’s highly anticipated keynote speech will be given by Terry Tamminen, an environmental author and strategist. Tamminen is the former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and has received recognition in multiple publications including The Guardian, which ranked him number one in its 2008 “Top 50 People Who Can Save the Planet.”

A “speed dating” event will give attendees the opportunity to meet each other, discuss common interests and make connections. Later in the afternoon, student organizers will facilitate a discussion between attendees and presenters, giving students the opportunity to ask questions and get involved in discussion.

To register for the Puget Sound conference and learn more about Focus the Nation’s efforts, visit focusthenation.org or email Annie Bigalke at abigalke@pugetsound.edu.