A Sustainable Leader

Robert George

Dr. Leege paces across the stage, her hands desperately trying to keep up with her words as she speaks about sustainability at Georgia Southern University to the students sitting before her. Her voice wavers at times, more from excitement than nervousness.

She is speaking at an SGA event, telling the students how their “green fees” are being used on campus. She has been the leading force in making Georgia Southern one of the greenest campuses in the country.

But who exactly is Dr. Lissa Leege?

Growing up in South Bend, Ind., science and biology were things that always came easy to her. From a young age, she was always interested in the natural world.

She completed her graduate work at Michigan State University in plant ecology. After a brief job at Ohio State, she saw an opening at Georgia Southern and became excited about the opportunities she would have here, including getting to work with graduate students and having the opportunity to conduct research year round.

She came to Southern in 1997 and was able to convince the Dean to create a Center for Sustainability that would help educate students about sustainability as well as enact programs on campus that would make it a greener place.

She has been the driving force behind many sustainability awareness programs. GSU has been able to hold educational seminars, show environmental documentaries, and a student favorite, the No Impact Week, which Dr. Leege describes as a “huge week of sustainability focus.” The idea of the week is to cumulatively reduce your impact on earth until it’s almost nothing.

Another major goal for Dr. Leege is to educate young children about how to live in a more sustainable way. Georgia Southern has been able to provide students who are teaching these kids about sustainability in every day after school programs. She thinks it is important that Georgia Southern remain a role model in the community, and programs like this have given the university a chance to connect to the public.

“The younger we start, the more it’s just a habit. It’s not a choice, it’s just something that you do,” Dr. Leege said.

Dr. Leege wants GSU to be the greenest campus it can possibly be. She wants people to realize that there are solutions to solve the environmental problems we face today. She hopes to educate and empower students to live and think in ways that will both limit their impact on the environment and help raise a new generation that will continue sustainable practices.

“My hope is that students in all fields will feel empowered to create a more sustainable world – whether they are researching alternative energy, contributing to policy decisions that protect clean water, or simply making sustainable choices in their daily lives. If Georgia Southern creates a culture of sustainability and serves as a role model for the region, we can’t help but give students a great start in solving environmental problems as they become our future leaders and lawmakers, CEO’s and engineers.”

-Dr. Leege