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  • Genevieve Fontana

Sustainable leadership: Spotlight on Dr. Fields

Advocating for student success on our eco-conscious campus

By: Genevieve Fontana, Contributor

Dr. Harold Fields, who was appointed vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students at Canisius University in 2022, plays a central role in championing student advocacy. His position involves overseeing a multitude of dynamic projects, encompassing both short-term and long-term initiatives. In his fast-paced role, Dr. Fields firmly believes in the significance of having an environmental advocate present for all Canisius projects. He emphasizes the importance of promoting equity and inclusion, sustainability and civic involvement, and he recognizes the need for these values to be integrated into every aspect of the university's endeavors.

Drawing from his diverse experience at five different colleges, Fields brings a unique perspective to Canisius University, enabling him to assimilate the best ideas from these institutions, and integrate them into the University's framework. According to Fields, all projects stem from the students’ passion, making their active involvement and interests the driving force behind these initiatives. Fields has actively participated in several sustainable projects, two of which are pretty noteworthy. 

Firstly, the “Reducing Landfill” initiative involved a dedicated group of volunteers who sorted through discarded items, creating a “flea market” where the proceeds sustained the project's efforts. Secondly, addressing the pressing issue of food waste and insecurity, volunteers established a notification system to alert others about surplus food from events, which eventually evolved into a pantry. Moreover, Canisius University has established a food insecurity notification on the dining app, further promoting sustainability and reducing food waste.

In 2023-24, Canisius University has introduced a new addition — water filters in the freshman dorms. The primary goal behind this initiative is to minimize the usage of single-use plastics while ensuring that the students have access to filtered water. Dr. Fields emphasized the significance of this project, which was influenced by both student demands and his own personal commitment to sustainability, as was evident by his use of a reusable water cup during the interview.  

According to Dr. Fields, it is crucial for us to actively engage with our natural environment, because the earth will respond to our actions. He deeply values the preservation of the planet for future generations, particularly his three young daughters, whom he describes as enthusiastic recyclers at home. Dr. Fields actively supports Laudato Si’, a Vatican-led initiative that offers guidance to Catholic institutions on achieving an eco-sustainable environment. 

He believes it is essential to be mindful of the impact we have on our surroundings, and he emphasizes that equity and sustainability are interconnected concepts. Additionally, he highly recommends the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which he finds exceptional and thought-provoking. The book provides a profound perspective on race, identity and the Black experience in America, with the last chapter delving into the theme of sustainability. He emphasizes that President Stoute holds similar values regarding environmental concerns.

Opportunities for our students to grow arise when we connect Canisius University projects with the neighboring community. Instituting environmental concerns as an integral part of all our classrooms is a vital aspect of driving change. According to Dr. Fields, Canisius University can play a significant role in addressing environmental concerns by carefully examining its interactions with patrons and partnerships. Dr. Fields encourages keeping the environment at the forefront of our minds and urges us to think more critically. By working together, we can celebrate our successes in this endeavor. Some of the initiatives include the adoption of the OZZI Box system, which eliminates traditional disposable take-out containers. Additionally, Chartwells will provide information on the sourcing of our food, promoting transparency and sustainability. Furthermore, the move to Enterprise for Public Safety vehicles signifies a transition towards more sustainable fuel sources.

Dr. Fields is wholeheartedly committed to championing student advocacy at Canisius University. With his extensive experience and unique perspectives from working at various colleges, he brings a wealth of knowledge to integrate the best ideas from different institutions. Driven by his passion for sustainability and a desire to protect the environment for future generations, he actively promotes initiatives that connect the University with the neighboring community. By emphasizing the importance of environmental considerations in classrooms and university operations, he aims to drive positive change and foster a more sustainable campus. 

With Dr. Fields’ leadership, Canisius University is on a path to creating a more inclusive, equitable and environmentally conscious setting, where students’ voices and passions are at the heart of all endeavors.

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