New director at Sinkin Eco Center plans community involvement

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Center hopes to expand outreach through student ambassador program.

By Alison Graef

agraef@student.alamo.edu

Meredith Miller, former senior program coordinator at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University-San Marcos, was hired this semester as director of Sinkin Eco Centro.

Miller received a Master of Science degree in biology and natural resource management from Texas State University-San Marcos in 2008. She has more than 10 years of experience working first as a graduate student and then as a coordinator at the Meadows Center.

“I have a history of taking small organizations to the next level,” Miller said.

At the Meadows Center, Miller developed, implemented and managed programs. She was instrumental in the creation of many initiatives and departments, she said.

“You know the old adage where you have an idea on the back of a cocktail napkin,” Miller said. “I had several programs that we took from an idea ‘on a napkin’ to a fully functioning, staffed, income-generating, grant- and revenue-generating program. So from an idea on a ‘cocktail napkin’ to a million-dollar-a-year program.”

The Texas Stream Team, a program dedicated to protecting Texas waterways, was one of the programs that benefited from Miller’s guidance. Miller said she doubled the number of volunteers and tripled the number of program partners while temporarily in charge of the program.

At this college, Miller said she wants to both refine current programming at the center and create new programs to better involve the surrounding neighborhood, business and college community.

Miller intends to reach people who are not yet involved in environmental sustainability or educated on how they can apply it in their lives. She said the center has previously been very active in the community but primarily with people who are already interested in and practicing sustainability.

“In some ways, Eco Centro has been really visible, but kind of ‘preach to the choir,’” Miller said. “But there are people who may not yet know that they are interested in sustainability, and we may not be reaching those people.”

Miller said she plans to increase outreach for the center in the community and on campus. Miller said it was impossible for the center’s staff to both run the programs and care for the garden at the center and additionally go out into the community.

“Having a new director will provide the guidance and direction that Eco Centro needs to grow,” Eco Centro Coordinator Julie Cornelius said.

Miller said she and academic program specialist Jess Mayes are hoping to develop a student ambassador program this fall. Students could receive stipends for completing sustainability training at the center and serving as ambassadors for the center by promoting sustainability on campus and in their communities.

In addition, Miller said she intends to increase the center’s reach by developing relationships and partnerships with other sustainability organizations in this city and making more time to talk with people at this campus and in the community.

“It’ll be a lot of boots on the ground,” Miller said. “It’ll be our boots. It’ll be our ambassadors’ boots. It’ll be folks hopefully in the college and in the district.”

Miller said the center is planning to install more demonstrations on the property, such as low-impact development and green infrastructure. She said there are plans to retrofit some shipping containers as a demo residence.

Miller said Eco Centro primarily focused on water and landscape, but she wants to expand the focus to include things such as urban farming, social justice, air sustainability and green building. She said programs and demonstration installations at the center should equip people with practical ways to apply sustainability to their lives after leaving the center.

“Have you ever been to a seminar and somebody’s telling you about water conservation, and then the seminar is over, and you’re like, “Well, what do I do? What does this mean to me?” Miller said.

Additionally, Miller said she would like to install gardens on this campus. She said she could think of 10-15 places she would like to put pocket gardens, and she would like to include some edible plants such as pomegranate trees. She said gardens naturally foster community and connection.

“There is something really powerful about nature and playing in the dirt and understanding where your food comes from,” Miller said.

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