KU News Release

March 18, 2010
Contact: Jennifer Kinnard, William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, (785) 864-7644

Students install solar panels as part of environmental journalism class

LAWRENCE — Twelve University of Kansas students enrolled in a new advanced journalism class on environmental and sustainability stories are observing green practices firsthand during spring break.

Working with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit housing agency, the KU students are installing solar panels on a Habitat for Humanity house in East Oakland, Calif.

Kristina Beverlin shoots footage on a Flip camera and Tweets on her cell phone.

The class is Tweeting about their experiences as part of a green jobs series for the sustainability Web site triplepundit.com. To read their Tweets, scroll to and click on “University of Kansas Green Jobs Tweets.”

Offered for the first time this spring, the course Green Reporting, Green Building, Green Justice was designed by Simran Sethi, associate professor of journalism. The course is cross listed with KU’s architecture and environmental studies programs.

Through previous contacts with GRID Alternatives in her environmental journalism research, Sethi arranged for her students to volunteer with the nonprofit housing agency and to visit other area organizations focused on sustainability.

On site with her students, Sethi noted, “By the end of the day, one more family will be hooked into renewable power. The best part is that GRID works exclusively with low-income families. Residents will get one utility bill for the year and are able to sell the excess energy they create back to the power company PG&E.” She added that GRID officials estimate that Californians spend about 10 percent of their income on electricity.

KU students install solar panels on the roof of a Habitat for Humanity house in Oakland, Calif.

GRID Alternatives has trained more than 2,000 community volunteers and job trainees on the theory and practice of solar electric installation and provided them with opportunities to gain hands-on experience with real-world solar installation projects and help build broad-based, grassroots leadership and support for renewable energy. The nonprofit has installed energy efficiency upgrades for more than 290 low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

While in Oakland, the KU students will meet with environmental justice advocates representing Green for All, Center for Environmental Health, Grind for the Green and the Green Youth and Arts Media Center; visit green business and design firms McDonough and Partners, fusespace, EcoHome Improvement, PACT, Mission Motors and Lemnis Lighting; convene with hyperlocal media outlet Oakland Local, green public relations firm Blue Practice and the Oakland Chamber of Commerce; attend construction rehabilitation classes as part of Laney College’s Green Jobs Corp program; and participate in a greywater installation with Greywater Alliance. They also might join a “Toxic Tour” of Oakland with Communities for a Better Environment.

Joshua Hafner cuts pipe for the converter box with help from a GRID Alternatives staffer.

Amanda Schwegler, associate director of KU’s Center for Service Learning, joined Sethi and her students in Oakland.

More information is available on KU’s Environmental Studies Program Web page; on the class Facebook page “KU J500: Green Jobs, Green Reporting, Green Justice”; or through the Twitter hashtags #KUJ500 and #greenjobsKU.

KU students volunteering in Oakland are listed below by hometown, level in school, major(s), parents’ names and high schools.

From Great Bend 67530
Joshua William Hafner, junior in journalism; son of Joni and William Hafner; Great Bend High School.

From Concordia 66901
Devin A. Lowell, senior in political science and journalism; son of Jim and Lori Lowell; Concordia High School.

From Overland Park 66213
Nicholas Gregory Mott, senior in philosophy and sociology; son of Gregory and Lisa Mott; Blue Valley Northwest High School.

From Olathe 66062
Ariday Alejandra Guerrero Santamaria, senior in architectural studies; daughter of Rudolfo D. Guerrero and Yadira Santamaria; Kearney (Neb.) High School.

From Westwood 66205
Bryan Steven Dykman, senior in English; son of Marjorie and Steven Dykman; Shawnee Mission East High School.

From Leavenworth 66048
Zachary S. White, senior in journalism; son of Jonathan and Susan White; Immaculata High School.

From Paola 66071
Kristina Nan Beverlin, senior in environmental studies and linguistics; daughter of Donna and Greg Beverlin; Paola High School.

From Wichita 67206
Jordan James Walters, senior in journalism; son of James Walters; Kapaun Mount Carmel High School.

From Wichita 67212
Lauren R. Keith, senior in journalism and environmental studies; daughter of David and Billie Keith; Maize High School.

From Parker 80134
Megan Nicole Ruggieri, junior in journalism; daughter of James and Jana Ruggieri; Ponderosa High School.

From Eldridge 65463
Laura Elizabeth Lockton Santora, senior in architectural studies; Notre Dame De Sion, Kansas City, Mo.

From Independence 64057
Elizabeth Louise Beavers, senior in journalism; daughter of Lawrence and Barbara Beavers.

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