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Environmental Center Newsletter Fall 2020

COVID-19 Updates

In an attempt to minimize the spread of COVID-19, UNF’s non-essential operating and instructional activity has been conducted remotely since mid-March. All courses and activity in spring semester were transitioned to 100% remote after spring break and the entire summer semesters were delivered remote across campus. All of the Environmental Center’s planned programs and activities were transitioned to remote as well. 


Although the University is reopening now for Fall 2020 semester, we are cognizant of safety first. There are many new procedures in place on campus to keep students, faculty and staff safe. The Environmental Center is applying all of those recommendations and guidelines and modifying our planned activities for this upcoming year. Because we have more student-focused programming planned than ever before and because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, much of our time and effort is going in to revising our student-focused programs. In the end, our goal is to provide our students the best educational and professional development experiences that we can safely, and in a constantly evolving environment.. 

For a thorough explanation and timeline of UNF’s COVID-19 response, please visit the Coronavirus Updates page. 

Welcome Kelly Rhoden

Kelly RhodenThe Environmental Center would like to welcome Kelly Rhoden to the team! Rhoden is the next student engagement and retention coordinator, a position previously held by Maria Mark, who retired in March 2020.

Rhoden will continue to manage the newly restructured Leadership Program, as well as lead the development of new programs focused on engaging students and increasing retention. One new program is the creation of a Student Chapter and Honor Society for the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association (IEA)

Before joining the Environmental Center staff, Rhoden worked at UNF in the office of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving as their Alumni Event Coordinator for three years. Being a past leadership program graduate, an alumnus of the university and a current master student, Rhoden brings a unique expertise to the Center.

Leadership Program - Welcoming the Largest Cohort Yet!

Project LeadersThe Environmental Center Leadership Program has been restructured to provide opportunities to a larger cohort of environmental scholars. The 2020-2021 cohort includes 26 academically talented and diverse students that represent all five UNF colleges. 

The restructured program also now includes a competitive, merit-based scholarship. The new cohort of students have a collective GPA of 3.6. The cohort also includes 12 students from the Hicks Honors College. 

Students will build upon their professional skills throughout the fall semester. The Environmental Center has partnered with the Taylor Leadership Institute to provide the students with a specialized leadership course that focuses on training and skills needed for their program implementation.

In the spring, each student will be paired with a community partner to plan, organize and implement an environmentally affiliated project. Students will complete 100 hours of program implementation while gaining real-world experience through their work with organizations in the Jacksonville Community.

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

Student Ricder Ricardo with their artworkThe fourth annual Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is scheduled to open Thursday, Sept. 10 in Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. The exhibition was originally scheduled to open in March but had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, the planning committee has decided to forego an opening reception. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to visit the gallery and respect current safety guidelines. 

The juried exhibition features works created by students and alumni that were inspired by the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre natural area located on the UNF campus. In addition to the exhibition, accepted works are also digitally archived through the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. Additionally, artists include the GPS coordinates for their “point of inspiration” within the Sawmill Slough Preserve and those points are used to create an interactive map of the artworks.

The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is a collaboration between the Environmental Center, Gallery of Art and Department of Art, Art History and Design. Additional support is provided by the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery and Cummer Family Foundation. 

Learn more about the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition and view past works.

Remote Internships Continue During COVID-19

2020: Remote InternshipsThe changes brought by COVID-19 made traditional internships difficult, but the Environmental Center responded to the challenge by creating a remote internship option. The flexible internship allowed students to continue developing their professional skills and expand their professional network while working remotely. 

During the internship, students created online educational resources for the Environmental Center’s Green Jax Blog. The blog was originally created Alane Ertel, a public health graduate student, during internship with the Environmental Center. Students selected a topic that related to their academic and professional interests, then used technology including ArcGIS, Adobe Creative Cloud, WordPress and Canva to create the educational materials. 

The remote internship was well received by students. They were grateful for the flexible opportunity and also felt they expanded their research and writing skills. Undergraduate public health student Savanna Ogilvie particularly enjoyed the experience, which helped her on deciding to apply to a master’s program on order to pursue her career goals. 

The Environmental Center will continue offering remote internships. If you are a student and interested in an internship, please contact Assistant Director James W. Taylor.

Student Spotlight - Elyse Brockman

Student Elyse BrockmanWhere are you from? After high school I moved from Pennsylvania to Fernandina Beach, FL. 

What is your major, and why did you choose it? My major is Health Science with a track in Public Health and a minor in Health Education. I chose this major because I have always had an interest in improving people’s health and overall quality of life. 
Describe your involvement with the Environmental Center? I completed a virtual Public Health Undergraduate Internship over the summer. This internship included creating educational and outreach materials about an environmental health topic for the UNF and Jacksonville communities.

What environmental issue are most passionate about? I am most passionate about pollution, especially plastic particles in our ocean and drinking water. Around 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year harming the aquatic life, plants and animals. The plastic breaks down into smaller particles called “microplastics” which can get into our groundwater and eventually our drinking water. The microplastics exude chemicals and harmful pollutants. It is essential to address this issue early, to prevent harmful effects on humans and the environment.

What is your favorite plant or animal, and why? My favorite animal is an elephant because of the symbolism they hold. They represent good luck, wisdom and protection.

What are your hobbies? Are you involved with any clubs or volunteer activities? I enjoy going to the beach and looking for shark teeth. In my free time, I like traveling, kayaking and skydiving. I am also in Eta Sigma Gamma. 
What are your plans after graduation? I will begin a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Epidemiology at UNF.

Faculty Spotlight - Alex Diaz

Photography by Alex DiazDepartment and title: Associate Professor of Photography in the Department of Art, Art History and Design

Where did you attend graduate school? I received my Master of Fine Arts from the University of Florida in 2006

When did you start working at UNF? I started to work at UNF in 2006

What does your research focus on? My research focuses on documentary photography and conceptual art. As a photographer, I do not attempt to work within the conventions of documentary photography, but I am highly influenced by the aesthetic and interested in the social relevance of the genre. The topics that I investigate are paramount to me as an artist. I utilize photography to express my concerns and to comment on issues surrounding the environment, consumerism, particulars of place and the veracity of photography. I am currently working on a project regarding the natural springs of Florida. I am particularly interested in human activities within the pristine waters and the ambiguous narratives that unfold below the surface.

How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I have served on the Pre[serve] committee since 2016. Pre[serve] is an academic collaboration between the Environmental Center, Department of Art, Art History and Design, Gallery of Art and Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. The committee is responsible for inviting guest speakers to campus, establishing and leading workshops, as well as organizing a student exhibition that is inspired by the Sawmill Slough Preserve that's located on campus.

Where is your favorite activity to enjoy nature? I have always enjoyed being outside and experiencing nature, from hiking in the woods to investigating tidal pools. It is difficult for me to select one activity in nature that I find the most pleasurable, but if I had to pick one it would have to be swimming/snorkeling. I love exploring the underwater habitats of Florida’s springs. Submerging myself in these springs is to enter another world and to escape reality, which is needed at times.