June 2018 PROFILE: TRACI FERDOLAGE

July 16, 2018

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Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. This month we had the privilege to interview Traci Ferdolage, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Physical Planning, Development & Operations (PPDO) –– hired in September 2017. Her position forms connections between other departments to uphold the campus mission, keep construction projects on track, and make sure our buildings operate well and stay clean. PPDO is comprised of Real Estate, Physical & Environmental Planning, Design & Construction, Engineering, Physical Plant, and Capital Project Business Operations. Together, these PPDO units work closely with Capital Planning, Sustainability Office, Colleges, Housing & Educational Services, TAPS, and all academic divisions...just to name a few!

 

The following interview was conducted by first-year student and Sustainability Office Assistant Diana Sarabia, and Sustainability Office Manager & Events Coordinator Genoa Faber on June 4, 2018.


What does sustainability mean to you?

"It's being associated with three pillars: environmental, social and economic justice. It's about finding a balance...ultimately, as you go through trying to implement sustainability, you have to have some consideration of how to go about doing it to benefit the greater good. The best end result isn't just about mother earth, the best end result is also about how we set up students to be successful when they walk out of here.”


What sustainable practices do you live by in your daily life?

“I am the light switcher-offer in my house; however, I try to do a variety of things in my daily life…it's about the way we use energy and recycle. I also try really hard to make good choices with my purchases. So it's not just about a sustainable product. We eat mostly organic at home – I feel very fortunate that I'm able to do that – but we also grow things in our garden, and it's also about buying things that will last me a long time. It's about trying to find a balance based on my life.


When It comes to food justice issues, I like to travel and...really have a local experience. And I think it helps me to be a better citizen through that understanding…it's super important to expose yourself to see and experience other cultures, see how people live in different areas of the world, what their place is on the earth and bringing this understanding.”


What is your long-term vision for sustainability at UCSC?

“My mid-term vision is that the Campus Sustainability Plan is implemented. And I don't say fully implemented because over the next few years we will continue to modify it to the right size to best suit main achievement in the long term. My vision is that we, UCSC, will be the leader in sustainability for higher education. And I think UC Santa Cruz also has a long history that is steeped in sustainability and has a lot to be proud of, like down at the farm.I also see a tremendous amount of work to do, if we actually want to consider ourselves to be one of the preeminent sustainability leaders. And what I mean by that is overall, across the spectrum, whether it be environmental, social or economic issues… in my opinion, there are various major shifts we have to do in order to get there. In terms of how we reinvest utility savings, that needs to be a massive shift. There are a lot of things that I think that we can just go out and do, “snap!”, like bottle fillers on drinking fountains. But when you're talking about something like food waste and composting/recycling, and what is standing in the way of progress is a large capital project...we should be questioning ourselves on how we can make some progress right NOW.


I think that sometimes our current thinking stands in our way when the solution doesn't match up to the resources we have available. If solving the problem is our priority but the resources don't align with what we've identified as a solution, nothing is going to get done. And so the biggest barrier is to ensure that solutions consider resources available or identify a pathway toward attaining the resources needed in a timely manner. Because once you've got that, then you've got energy, and when you've got energy, you've got possibilities, you've got creativity, and you’ve got initiative to be able to find ways to do things.”


Do you think UC campuses should collaborate with each other to become more sustainable? How can your department connect with other UC’s and create change?

“Absolutely, I think that each UC campus is unique. I think that we all work really hard and do amazing work. When you learn from your colleagues about how they are solving problems on their campus, you may get four or five ways people are solving food waste and recycling. And then we think, "how do we UC Santa Cruz it"? Sustainability is beyond the UC. We also need to expose ourselves to the way people are tackling the problems that we face and figure out our own solution from the innovation that others are already achieving….The UC has a broad spread across the state. [When] lobbying for policy changes across the system mandates a much larger voice on campuses, we can wield our influence as a system.”


What are your thoughts on environmental justice?

“I think we have a very special place at UCSC, and we need to continue being good stewards recognizing the role the environment plays in our culture as an institution. How we hold ourselves translates into what we value. I think that it's fairly obvious how it does, but it's also very easy to forget and take it for granted. So we need to continue to update current practices regarding building, construction, transportation, infrastructure as well as adopt solutions that take into account this 'specialness' of where we are.  There is absolutely no doubt that we have the need to better support our students with things like housing and appropriate academic facilities. We have a lot of work to do in those areas but need to balance that with the community we are trying to create.”


What is your role in UCSC Student Housing West project? What are your thoughts on the role that project plays in campus sustainability?

“My role is to actually serve as the owner's representative through the project and through the development team and the other various stakeholders involved. We have a high demand for student housing. We have an obligation, a social justice obligation, to try to provide affordable and student-appropriate housing, to restore the lounges, to provide you with better places to live. Before we started this project, the demand was a little over 3,000 beds. The demand [has grown to over 4,000 since then], so this issue is not going away.Developing a project of this size will also provide opportunities to advance our sustainability vision for the campus.  As an example, this project has the ability to advance our long record of success in water conservation through installation of a wastewater treatment facility. This will take all the waste and greywater from the site and recycle it put back into the site for things like toilet flushing, irrigation and such. With this new wastewater treatment facility, it is estimated the project will use 50 to 60  percent less water per student than current housing facilities.”


Is there a message you would like UCSC students to know?

“I want to know what [students] need. I want to get to know students better. I want to understand where you're coming from and what your experience is like because your experience is very different than my experience walking through campus, and I know that. But ultimately we're all only here for a distinct purpose, and that's to support you in your goals with regards to your education and to help you grow personally...I want you to be involved and help us provide a campus environment that contributes to your success. If I understand your needs and thoughts, the better I'm going to be at my job...and come up with solutions for the long haul, not just short term.”