Pledging for progress

(CU Independent illustration/Adam Milner)

Some CU seniors and post-grads are pledging to be more socially and environmentally conscious in their career pursuits and aspiring to make a difference, through an initiative called the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility.

According to the Web site, those who volunteer to sign the Graduation Pledge are committing to the following statement: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

Anna Chase, a member of the Senior Class Council and a 22-year-old senior biochemistry major, said she signed the pledge last semester.  She described the project as promoting the individual to affect change.

“The essence of the pledge is recognizing that one person can make a difference,” Chase said. “If you see something that is not environmentally or socially conscious in the workplace, the pledge recognizes that you can take action and you’re not forced to take it.”

According to the SCC Web site, CU has been involved with the Graduation Pledge for the last three years.

Approximately 100 graduating seniors at CU have recently pledged, and approximately 400 have in the past, Chase said.

Those who pledge are encouraged to take into consideration the ethical practices of their potential job, according to the Web site. If deemed unethical, some may attempt to advocate change at the company, while others may even turn the job down.

Rachel Fahrenholtz, a 22-year-old senior majoring in applied mathematics, said she isn’t rushing to sign up just yet.

“I wouldn’t sign up for it, because I know I wouldn’t forgo a job in this economy,” Fahrenholtz said. “But I am still going to be environmentally and socially mindful when I graduate.”

The Graduation Pledge was founded in 1987 at Humboldt State University. A group of socially and environmentally-conscious students at the Arcat, Calif. school helped create the Pledge, according to the Web site.

William Ihne, a co-founder of the Pledge at Humbolt, describes it in his essay, (Starting a Campus Tradition: A Graduation Pledge of Responsibility– as a social and environmental movement.

“…the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility, has become a ceremonial tradition on quite a few U.S. university campuses, and has turned into somewhat of a movement,” Ihne said. “Where it’s all going is anybody’s guess. I guess it’s up to those who participate.”

CU is one of hundreds of universities involved in the Graduation Pledge, according to the Web site.

Kimberly Keffeler, a 23-year-old senior majoring in integrative physiology said she appreciates the concept, but isn’t sure if people are going to follow through with the Pledge.

“It’s a good idea, but I don’t think people are actually going to do it,” Keffeler said. “It doesn’t make sense for everyone.”

Anthony Buono, a professor at the Graduation Pledge headquarters, Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., said students take the Pledge very seriously at Bentley.  Civic leadership and service learning programs are even offered to help students actively serve the community, Buono said.

Buono said he believes that the social and environmental lessons that students learn at Bentley University will stay with them after graduation.

“A very strong social and environmental orientation holds well beyond someone’s academic career,” Buono said.

Students across the nation are working at applying the principles of the Pledge to their education and into the work force.

Chase said she signed the Pledge because she felt that the mission corresponds to her goal of promoting more social and environmental awareness in the sciences.

“For me, as a science major, the Pledge is in sync with what I think science should be used for,” Chase said. “It should be used for promoting social and environmental consciousness.”

Chase said that the SCC hopes to get the Alumni Association involved in following up with CU alumni who have pledged, to see how they might have applied the Pledge to the workforce.

The Web site offers tips on how to get a campaign started at another university, as well as resources for jobs and internships.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jennifer De Falco at

Molly Mahar

Molly is in her eighth and final semester at CU, having worked with the CU Independent since sophomore year. Previously serving as Assistant Photo Editor, Copy Editor, Speak Out! Editor, a reporter and photographer, she is now the first to take on the position of Marketing Director (slash Brand Ninja). The Michigan native will graduate with a degree in News-editorial Journalism, a Digital Media Certificate and an emphasis in African Studies completed abroad in Dakar, Senegal. Molly is an avid volunteer, (very) amateur musician, conversational in French and a March Madness champ interested in travel, good food, new media, street photography and witty people.

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