We are delighted to welcome Nueva’s new Director of Environmental Citizenship Sarah Koning, who can’t wait to share her innovative ideas with the community. In the following Q&A, Sarah shares her enthusiasm and vision for the months ahead. Welcome, Sarah!
Q: What attracted you to the director of environmental citizenship position?
A: First, the kindness and creative energy that I encountered during the interview process was amazing. Everyone I met—including, faculty, staff, students, and parents—made me feel so welcomed, included, and excited to join such a vibrant intellectual community. Second, what specifically attracted me to this position is the ability to integrate environmental citizenship at such an early age.
Q: What is unique about teaching students about environmental issues in today’s world?
A: I believe that we are at a pivotal moment in the anthropocene of how we will choose to engage with and think about the future of the climate crisis. Rather than position this as a time of uncertainty and anxiety, especially for those under 25, I see the potential role of this position to bring about a sense of optimism and resilience to students and to provide them with the knowledge and understanding of climate change, the language to explain it, and tools to successfully combat it. The earlier we can integrate environmental citizenship into the curriculum, the more confident and prepared Nueva students will be to make a substantial difference.
Q: How has your background prepared you for this new role?
A: I come to Nueva with 15 years of experience in higher education. This includes teaching a variety of sustainability/environmental courses and the development, implementation, and management of students’ environmental projects. The Nueva campuses offer so many opportunities for me to work directly with students on their project ideas, and I look forward to implementing and adapting project ideas to the northern California landscape.
Q: April is environmental awareness month. What activities/topics will you and your team discuss with students?
A: This year’s worldwide Earth Day theme is “Restore our Earth.” It is important for students to think about this theme in the context of Nueva’s campuses and community. Given how chaotic and uncertain this past year has felt for many, I am hoping we can provide students age-appropriate and tangible action items to immediately help them feel more connected to the community and their role in combating climate change. I am currently working with faculty and teachers at all three schools on a series of events and opportunities for students during the month of April. Stay tuned . . .
Q: What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
A: I spent my younger years living, swimming, and exploring in Sequoia National Park. My father worked for the National Park Service and he was brought in at the tail end of a long, protracted legal battle between Walt Disney/National Forest Service and Sierra Club/National Park Service. I believe these formative years in nature instilled a deep love, appreciation, and desire to protect our amazing planet.
More information about this fascinating, yet unknown part of California history can be found here.
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: Pre-COVID, my family and I loved to regularly travel internationally. We are having fun planning our next big trip to Egypt, once the travel landscape is less chaotic. I also love to hike, renegade garden, bike, forage for mushrooms, and watch the English Premier League—go Gunners! Once I arrive in the Bay Area, I plan to learn to surf.