Ken Bradford '76 | July 13, 2018
For Emily Clements ’18, reality set in one summer evening in 2017 when she heard a theology professor talking about the benefits of solar power. Our Lady of the Road didn’t need her advice. It needed cheaper electricity.
A mission supported by South Bend Catholic Worker and Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, OLR is a place near downtown South Bend where street folks are welcome to take a shower, do their laundry and get a meal.
Its donations come in small denominations. Every nickel counts. Clements, who graduated in May with a chemical engineering degree, was looking for a project to satisfy the capstone requirement for her sustainability minor. Her epiphany came during one of her volunteer shifts at the shelter, when she heard Notre Dame theologian Margaret Pfeil, an OLR co-founder, musing about how solar power would nearly eliminate the shelter’s energy expenses.
That’s why Clements’ project, instead of simply being typed and double-spaced, will result in a rooftop array of solar panels.
The sustainability capstone at Notre Dame has academic and research components but is also expected to provide recommendations for solving a real-world problem. Rachel Novick, the biology professor who directs the program, says part of her challenge is to help students narrow a lofty goal — like solving world hunger — into something that might actually be achieved.
The final report needs to include an action plan that can be taken to an appropriate agency. In that way, the research and ideas don’t just sit in a professor’s file cabinet once they are submitted, Novick says.
Rarely does a student go the extra step and actually put a crew together to get the job done. “Emily’s project is unique because of the scope of change she is trying to create,” Novick says. “She’s put a tremendous amount of work into this.”
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