Sustainability Champion

The Office for Sustainability celebrates our friends and colleagues who work tirelessly to advance sustainability on campus and in the community. We call such individuals Sustainability Champions, because they are champions helping us create a culture of sustainability while improving quality of life for all. 

Jenna otten, sustainability chair, Western Student Association    

Jenna Otten, WMU Senior, serves as the Western Student Association Sustainability Chair. As the Sustainability Chair, she represents all Western students on any issues related to sustainability on campus, serving as a liaison between students and administrators.

Otten’s personal passion for sustainability began with a class she took in high school through the Kalamazoo Nature Center. The class inspired a general interest for the outdoors which led her to teach herself how to camp and backpack. Her hope that future generations will be able to enjoy the outdoors in the same way she does today motivates her to make change toward a more sustainable future. She sees the Sustainability chair position as an opportunity to impact behavior through policy change. Otten believes that her time is better spent changing institutions, organizations, and companies than changing behavior on a personal level.

“I don’t want to be the person who’s 80 years old and says they didn’t do anything.”

Each semester, she takes on projects which can be passed as resolutions through the Western Student Association, similar to how bills are passed in government. The first resolution passed in the fall of 2018 included support for a bike shop located in central campus in order to increase student access to bike tools and mechanics. Otten worked to pass a second resolution to encourage WMU to install bird safe windows in select campus locations. This technique for reducing the hazardous effects of windows on birds could then be adopted by WMU on buildings across campus.

Otten hopes that the restructuring of the Student Sustainability Grant will be the legacy that her time in office leaves behind. Through updating the handbook, she hopes that future grants will fund projects which directly impact campus as a whole, rather than impacting only a small group of students. She envisions more grants which make physical changes to Main Campus, Parkview, or East Campus. She recognizes that each student pays the sustainability fee each semester, and wants to be intentional and responsible with that money by deeply impacting students while they are here.

“The goal is to make some changes so that we do have just more impact, and the grant’s money is having more impact per dollar spent.”

Otten encourages any student interested in getting involved with the Western Student Association to attend their meetings, which are held on Wednesday’s in room 157 of the Bernhard Center from 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Interested students can register online to be a senator and represent their college or RSO. She welcomes any student to meet with her and talk about what they can do to increase sustainability on campus.