First-year students Kelly Lorenz and Nicole Bastian took the initiative to coordinate this year’s spring High Impact Leadership Trip. Because HILTs are entirely planned and led by students, trip leaders Lorenz and Bastian were responsible for choosing a sustainability-related theme for the trip, creating an itinerary, and budgeting all costs with guidance from Jackie Maahs, Concordia’s sustainability coordinator. Lorenz and Bastian ultimately decided to organize travels to Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado with a focus on environmental policy.
“I chose to lead the HILT trip because I thought it would be a great experience to see new places and be a great opportunity to learn more about environmental policy and sustainability,” Lorenz said.
Throughout the journey, students met with municipal governments and nonprofits to discuss many issues relating to the theme of sustainability in local policy. These meetings consisted of conversations regarding how different cities and organizations address environmental issues such as air quality, public transportation, food waste, and environmental justice through policy, educational programs, and community outreach. Meetings were held with several individuals, including Heather Higinbotham, energy conservation technician with the City of Bozeman; Ted Stout, national park ranger at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve; and Mariah Shell, director of tenant services at The Alliance Center.
“This trip really opened my eyes to how different parks departments and cities work together to help get rid of invasive species and try to keep the habitat as natural as possible,” Lorenz said.
In addition to meeting with leaders in sustainability at municipal governments and nonprofits, HILT participants had opportunities to explore nature through various outdoor activities. These excursions allowed the students a chance to relax and have fun with one another, but they also were inspired to develop personal connections to the environment, which emphasized the importance of the climate and sustainability issues discussed throughout the trip. Participants hiked mountain trails in Montana and Colorado, snowshoed at Craters of the Moon in Idaho, and reveled in the beauty of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
As a result of the experiences during the HILT, students expanded their capacities for leadership, advocacy, and critical thinking about environmental policy and sustainability while making long-lasting memories and friendships. They plan to meet with one another to discuss how their advocacy will take shape and what specific environmental issues they will focus on. Going forward, the students intend to present what they have learned to the Concordia community about what is possible for campus sustainability and share goals for policies relating to environmental issues.