Engineers for a Sustainable World host national environmental conference

Annie Bruce, Reporter

Northwestern will host the Engineers for a Sustainable World National Conference for the first time this weekend. The conference coincides with the NU branch of ESW’s annual NU Summit on Sustainability.

Laura Pettersen, co-project manager of the summit, said about 150 students from 27 different ESW branches across the country will be coming to attend the weekend’s events. Due to the national conference, NU’s Summit is attracting a much larger group of students than in the past. This group will have the opportunity to attend events for both sets of programming.

The theme of this year’s summit is “Innovation and the Environment,” and Pettersen said she hopes students leave feeling optimistic about the environmental future.

“Right now a lot of people have a pessimistic view about the future environmentally,” the McCormick junior said. “We’re kind of hoping that by coming to this conference, students are gonna be able to hear from professionals in different fields and what they’re doing to try to mitigate some of these not-so-great environmental problems that we are faced with.”

Pettersen is especially looking forward to hearing Mark Weick, director of the Sustainability Program Office at the Dow Chemical Company, speak about “Innovating for Sustainability” during the Friday afternoon summit keynote address.

“He’s from a very big company that, in the past, has not always had the greatest reputation,” Pettersen said. “He’s going to talk to us about what Dow is doing now in order to become a greener company.”

Rachel Scholes, outgoing co-president of NU’s chapter of ESW, said partnering with the ESW-National by hosting the conference at NU allowed them to expand the summit’s events, which were limited to three panels and one keynote speaker last year.

“(It’s) not something that we can usually put on just at the scale of having Northwestern students there,” Scholes said. “With the backing of the national ESW organization, they’re able to build that out a little bit more, so we can see what it’ll be like to have that big diversity of speakers all here on campus at the same time.”

This Friday’s summit events, which are free for NU students, will include panels that range from “Sustainability in Higher Education” to “The Power of Re-thinking and Pioneering Energy.” Jill Boughton, the president and CEO of W2Worth Innovations, will present the morning keynote address.

According to the ESW-National site, NU’s branch has always been one of the “strongest chapters” of the organization. Pettersen said the main events for the National Conference, which cost $30 for students to attend, will take place Friday and Saturday.

Scholes, a McCormick junior, said she hopes students learn about green strategies being used in the area during the events at the Summit.

“There are a lot of great ideas, particularly in the Chicago area, for new startups and new strategies by corporations, by nonprofits and in education that are really gonna lead the way to a more sustainable future,” she said. “I hope that they can come away with a hopeful feel for the future and inspiring many students to think about the field in new ways.”

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