Professor of Geosciences Erin Argyilan spearheads the campus’s sustainability initiatives
Environmentalism is no passing fad. In fact, the push for sustainable solutions and reduced waste is more forceful (and perhaps more important) than ever. At IU Northwest, Professor of Geosciences Erin Argyilan is happy to spearhead the campus’s sustainability initiatives.
Thanks to her work, the Office of Sustainability opened on campus in 2020.
One of the first sustainability initiatives to come to IU Northwest started as a collaboration between all IU campuses.
“Our first real project (alongside other regional campuses) was to get IU Northwest designated as a 'Tree Campus USA' by the Arbor Day Foundation,” Argyilan said. This designation means more than just scenic landscapes dotted with oaks and elms—it signals an intention initiative. Tree Campuses must plant trees annually, organize an advisory board, and embed trees and their essential ecosystem services into the curriculum.
Beyond preserving trees on campus, Argyilan and the Office of Sustainability are working with the City of Gary to identify needs, goals, and partnerships. “The City of Gary has been generously sharing their priorities and expressing how we can dovetail with them,” Argyilan said. “They’re doing amazing things in terms of green infrastructure and their concern for air pollution and air quality.”
Above all else, Argyilan is committed to student and community engagement in conjunction with sustainability. Recently, she’s been awarded a $10,179 grant by the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council for her efforts. She said these funds will go toward student interns.
“Our undergraduate intern, Natalie Atkosh, is doing remarkable work. She has created a learning module to educate people on a range of topics including watersheds, green infrastructure, and action we can take on campus to increase campus resilience to ongoing climate change.”
Caroline Loughren, an environmental policy student, is also working within the Office of Sustainability. Having grown up with an aunt who was heavily involved in environmental law, it only makes sense for Loughren to be so committed to sustainability.
“I’m excited to have conversations with fellow IU Northwest students and make them aware that they can make a difference. Having a conversation is the first step to being more sustainable,” she said.
Last semester Loughren’s work focused on incorporating sustainability topics into the curriculum for all majors. Her go-to example: the criminal justice field.
“The climate disasters and flooding we’re seeing locally, nationally and internationally—that’s not normal,” Loughren said. “Criminal justice students need be aware of why disasters are happening and how to respond to them.”
A Sustainable Future
The Office of Sustainability continues to set goals, take action, and help more people. Plans for the future include growing the office, continued partnerships with the City of Gary and the Nature Conservancy, and plenty of opportunities for student input and involvement.
If students can voice what they’d like to see on campus in terms of sustainability, that would help guide our priorities and initiatives,” Argyilan said. “At the simplest level, we need students to immediately focus on recycling properly and managing the waste they generate on campus. There is no system in place to sort clean recyclables if they become mixed with garbage, so we are experiencing a missed opportunity to minimize our environmental impact through simple best practices and behaviors. Effective recycling is one of the biggest sustainability issues facing our campus.”
The truth is that sustainability is a personal goal, but one that we must all choose together. The Office of Sustainability continues to work with faculty, facilities, and students to create a greener, more environmentally-friendly campus. But it’s on all of us to make their initiatives a success.
Perhaps Loughren sums it up it best: “At the end of the day, we can help each other. The possibilities are endless, but it just all comes back to community.