Public Relations Students Seek to Leave a Sustainable Legacy

Three St. John's students and Earth Day advocates
April 24, 2024

Concerned about creating a more eco-friendly campus, a group of St. John’s University Public Relations majors recently spoke before a cohort of employees to discuss their ideas for creating a more sustainable campus environment.

Francesca Cirielli, Jeramiah D. Lyons, and Christina Milo are all students in the seminar in Public Relations Campaigns taught by Tiffany L. Mohr, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director, Public Relations program, at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. Dr. Mohr tasked her students with pitching ideas for new initiatives to employees with a stake in campus sustainability.

Dr. Mohr noted that she teaches many of her courses in the project-based, academic service-learning style. “This allows students to apply their academic knowledge by practicing their skills in service to others—which in this case, is our very own campus.”

Students sought to address issues of sustainability at St. John’s on four fronts: reducing food waste, reducing water waste, creating sustainable landscaping, and enhancing transparent and trustworthy communication of green initiatives. Dr. Mohr said that students met with more than 40 stakeholders across the University, including students, faculty, administrators, and staff, to discuss these issues.

“The students have approached this course and project with a can-do attitude and eagerness to make a difference,” she stressed. “Most of them are graduating seniors and leaving our campus in a few short weeks. I think their sense of duty, desire to leave a legacy, and a touch of nostalgia have contributed to the success of the sustainability campaign. I hope that the conversations with campus stakeholders and initiatives proposed by the students will lead to actionable and positive change for our campus in perpetuity.”

Francesca, a sophomore, stressed that their purpose was intensifying and creating sustainability and green initiatives “while setting reasonable goals to achieve a safer and healthier environment.”

“We want St. John’s University to improve their sustainability through transparent marketing with investment in genuine, eco-friendly practices; clear messaging supported by data; and collaborations with other organizations on campus who are committed to reaching the same goal,” Christina, a senior, noted.

Jeramiah, also a senior, stressed that it was important to present to employees who can influence policy and messaging moving forward, including those working in Campus Facilities and Services, Marketing and Communications, and the Office of University Mission. “We want to discuss what’s important to us, but also what’s important to them as well,” he stressed.

“We want to support all of their passions and really change some of the behaviors at St. John’s,” he added. “And not just affect the messaging, but use that messaging to affect the way we live here on campus, and interact with the campus.”

Messaging transparency was one of students’ major goals by emphasizing clear wording, Francesca said. “We want to encourage students to participate and actually care and want to learn more about sustainability.”

“The purpose of our toolkit is to promote sustainability at St. John’s in a very clear way,” Jeramiah said. “There are many great things we have going on at St. John’s.”

Students suggested initiatives like green roofs and solar panels to continue the proactive sustainability practices the University has undertaken in the last decade. They hope to engage their fellow students and inform them about what St. John’s has already done so they will be inspired to act and collaborate themselves. The University has made several energy-efficient upgrades to its facilities that may not be on students’ radars, the trio noted.

“These issues are important to employees and students,” Jeramiah stressed, adding that he was pleased to see a group of employees discussing these issues in an informal setting.

They hope to continue the dialogue with more formal policy and implementation discussions. “Knowing that we can get people together to discuss solar panels, EV, and making the campus more sustainable is great.”

There will be a student-held Earth Day Celebration in the D’Angelo Center lobby on April 24 from 2 to 4 p.m.