December 8, 2003
Student activist pursues environmental sustainability
By Jennifer McNulty
Youll have to forgive Marcia Winslade if she seems a bit scattered.
Not every undergraduate is juggling a full load of classes, a senior
project at an elementary school an hours drive away, and a full-time
jobs worth of environmental activism.
This article is part of Profiles in Excellence, an ongoing series
highlighting the outstanding educational opportunities and achievements
of UCSC students and graduates. Other profiles are posted on the
in Excellence web page.
|As cochair of the UCSC Student
Environmental Center, Marcia Winslade has helped bring together
students, faculty, staff, and community members to draft campus
goals for waste reduction, transportation, and renewable energy.
Photo: Jennifer McNulty
But Winslade is not your average college senior. A Texas native, she
came to Santa Cruz for the surf but has stayed for the opportunities,
which include designing an independent major in agriculture, ecology,
and political economy, and spending a month in Europe studying human
I spent my first year at UCSC learning about whats wrong
in the world, and I spent my second year thinking about what I was going
to do about it, said Winslade.
By developing her own leadership skills, Winslade has helped to fill
the void she saw around her. She traces her interest in energy conservation
and environmental preservation to the lessons she learned in the classroom
about global warming.
All of the solutions simply arent being implemented,
she said, recalling the frustration that sparked her into action.
A three-month tour of Canada gave Winslade the opportunity to visit
several communities that were trying to put into action the principles
of living gently on the Earth that she had studied in school.
People were doing it, she said, smiling broadly at the
memory. I saw it. And I came back to school ready to be a part
of building that on campus and in the community.
As cochair of the UCSC Student Environmental Center (SEC), Winslade
has helped bring together students, faculty, staff, and community members
to draft campus goals for waste reduction, transportation, renewable
energy, and other areas. She also helped establish a permanent committee
of the Student Union Assembly that oversees funding allocations for
student projects, including the so-called Blueprint for a Sustainable
The SEC received a major endorsement last spring when UCSC students
voted to increase student fees by $3 per quarter to support the centers
work. With permanent funding, we know the work will continue even
after current student leaders graduate, said Winslade. Thats
Winslade also collaborated with students across the UC system to prepare
sustainable construction and energy guidelines for new university buildings.
The guidelines were approved by the UC Regents and are being implemented
at UCSC and other campuses.
Its new for me to work with administrators, but the UCSC
administration has been really responsive and excited about what were
doing, said Winslade. Were all in this together.
A varsity athlete and champion diver, Winslade still loves to surf
when she has time. But her activism and athletic accomplishments havent
diminished her academic work. Winslade designed her own major to tap
the expertise of professors in several disciplines, including environmental
studies, Latin American and Latino studies, and community studies.
Its more difficult to make your own major, but I wanted
to force myself to explore the issues of social justice in organic agriculture,
and I didnt feel any one major would let me do that, said
Winslades faculty adviser, John Borrego, professor of Latin American
and Latino studies, says Winslade is organized, tenacious, and an extraordinarily
I first met her when she took my course Global Political Economy
in the summer of 2002, and she wrote an exceptional final paper for
that class, he said. She didnt believe me, though,
and showed the paper to another professor. I liked that about her. She
always double-checks everything, including the quality of the evaluation.
Last summer, Winslade spent a month in Europe studying human rights
under the sponsorship of Humanity in Action Foundation (HIA), an organization
that provides educational opportunities for student leaders. Her research
paper, A Survival Guide for Illegal Immigrants in Germany,
coauthored with a student from East Berlin, was published in the HIA
For her senior project, Winslade is building a school garden with fourth
graders at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Salinas. Once
a week, she drives to the agricultural heartland of the Salinas Valley
to dig garden beds, plant seedlings, and teach the children of farmworkers
about the water cycle, weather patterns, and soil nutrients. The curriculum
she has developed integrates science and gardening, and involves parents,
The school reminds her of her hometown in Texas, where the largely
Latino student population attends underfunded schools. Her project is
supported by a $10,000 grant from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation,
which provides funding for special projects by California college students.
I cant be satisfied with myself if Im not using this
wonderful life Ive been given to contribute to improvement,
said Winslade. When you look around, people are so eager to accumulate
status, but happiness is not rising. Happiness is not about material
wealth. What we really need is to take care of our basic needs, build
community and meaningful relationships that work, and self-respect.
The campus community is invited to offer input on the UCSC Blueprint
for a Sustainble Campus at the next Campus Earth Summit on January 30
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Bay Tree Conference Center. Advance registration
by e-mail is required.
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