Freshman Senator Julia Nicolls was unanimously confirmed by the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate last month to lead the Environmental Protection and Conservation Commission (EPACC) following a nomination from SGA Vice President Darby Debonis who in a letter to the Senate, called Nicolls “one of the greatest assets the student body has when striving to make Seton Hall a greener place.”
EPACC, which was the brainchild of Nicolls and fellow SGA Senator Arthur Adriano, has a primary goal of heading up Seton Hall’s student-led environmental protection, conservation and sustainability practices and uniting some of the already existing green initiatives on campus.
Now settling into her new role as commissioner of the first ever SGA executive agency, Nicolls is optimistic about what lies ahead for her and EPACC.
“It feels really great to be a part of this,” Nicolls said. “It’s really been a long time coming with [the] Blue Goes Green [initiative], it’s just been a lot of baby steps and I feel like this is a really big one in the right direction.”
In her new role, Nicolls hopes to use EPACC’s elevated platform to reach beyond just the confines of Seton Hall’s South Orange campus to find ways to improve the carbon footprint of the University which she hopes will include people from South Orange Village and possibly other universities. “We currently have really great people involved,” Nicolls added, “but I’m really interested in bringing in as many new perspectives and ideas as I possibly can.”
Nicolls, an Oregonian, reflected on the stark differences between her experiences growing up in Portland, one of the greenest cities in the United States according to the Scientific American, and the East Coast. Though before she never considered herself to be an environmental activist per-say, seeing the ways in which New Jersey and Seton Hall fell behind in environmental education and sustainability struck a chord with her and inspired her to get more involved with environmental activism.
“Activism wasn’t something I was particularly involved in before I got to Seton Hall because composting and doing all of those types of things was really just the norm where I grew up,” Nicolls said. “It’s just such a commonality between everyone. However, here I really noticed an absence of that. After coming here, I felt we need to change some things and improve this community because it can be better.”
In addition to continuing the projects of Blue Goes Green, the student-led SGA-based sustainability initiative absorbed by EPACC, Nicolls said that she also hopes to also create a stronger bond between the environmental studies program and ecology club on campus.
“We’re looking forward to working more with the environmental studies department,” she said. “We try to meet with them at least once a week just to give them updates and hear their ideas. They’ve been here a lot longer than we have so they just really provide some extra insight.”
Nicolls also encouraged any students who have an interest in sustainability or the environment to reach out to her about joining EPACC.
“My goal is to try and get this [EPACC] out there as much as possible,” she said.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.