Daily Iowan: Just Advocates for Sustainability

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daily Iowan
by Alan Toussaint 

Craig Just has not only raised awareness about sustainability in Iowa City, he’s also reached the small villages of Ghana.

Just, a University of Iowa associate research scientist and coordinator of sustainability in the College of Engineering, has pictures displayed around his office of his previous trips to the African country, where he’s helped fight polluted water.

This semester, Just is teaching Introduction to Sustainability and Engineers for a Sustainable World. He also works with UI Facilities Management and focuses on river and water-quality research — an issue, he said, he’s been interested in since he was a young boy.

“Well, I went fishing as a kid and always thought the water was clean,” Just said. “It just brought me to that.”

Just is preparing to make his second trip to Ghana in January, where he is going on a mission program called Engineers Without Borders USA to partner up with villages in the Ejura/Sekyedumase district.

The 41-year-old has been at the UI for 18 years. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a chemistry degree and later obtained an environmental engineering Ph.D. in 2001 from the UI.

“When I got to the UI, the faculty that I was exposed to were dedicated and smart,” he said.

But the students motivated him to take a deeper look at the greener side of the university.

“Students put me on the path to sustainability,” he said.

And his students say the same.

“When I took Environmental Science, it inspired me as a writer,” said UI senior Ryan Stanley, a current student of Just and double major in American studies and journalism. “It’s important to understand these systems so that people can change their lifestyles and to change our ways.”

Around 40 students at Mayflower are living in sustainability living-learning communities, an idea that can be partially accredited to Just.

“The living-learning community was meant to transform residence-hall living to an academic experience,” Just said.

Just is planning on speaking to the University of Northern Iowa about sustainability living-learning communities, and he said school officials hope to test it out next year.

Jonathan Carlson, the senior associate to the UI president and a professor of law and international studies, said that although he has never worked directly with Just, he’s seen the effect Just has on the UI campus.

“I’ve personally benefited from Craig’s advice, mentoring, and, especially, his leadership,” Carlson wrote in an e-mail.

Carlson, who is also the chairman of the UI Sustainability Steering Group, said the sustainability living-learning communities was a huge accomplishment.

“It is a wonderful example of what can happen when you combine big dreams with energy and commitment,” Carlson said.