Apply by July 18th for early move-in to WashU Housing, August 1st for general applications.

Join the Office of Sustainability and the Student Environmental Council for SPARK: A Sustainability Leadership Training Program from August 20th – August 27th!

Program Overview

SPARK: A Sustainability Leadership Training Program is a new program hosted by the Office of Sustainability in partnership with the Student Environmental Council (SEC). It will take place August 20th-August 27th on campus and at select locations across St. Louis and Illinois. The program will bring together student delegates from a range of green groups to learn and network with other environmentally-minded students on campus. A two-day overnight retreat will take place at an off-campus retreat site 40 minutes west of St. Louis on Monday, August 22nd – Tuesday August 23rd. The rest of the week will include half-day trips to several carefully selected locations to learn more about local historical and contemporary environmental and social issues, and on-campus social activities. 

In addition, participants are invited to support the WashU Green Ambassadors (WUGA) program in which returning WashU students welcome new students during Bear Beginnings and ResLife move-in, introducing them to the sustainability culture as WashU. Participation in the program is a keystone in sustainability programming, providing early exposure to practices like waste reduction, waste sorting, utilizing reusable water bottles and dishes, and seeking out alternative transportation options. In addition, these first interactions help new students find and connect with current student leaders and a wide array of sustainability-related programming and communities.

The SPARK training program centers on the student leadership experience and is designed to provide a foundation of skills and competencies to deepen, expedite, and coordinate effective action on campus and beyond. In its foundational year, coming off of the fragmentation, disengagement, and regression brought on by COVID-related constraints, the program aims to rebuild relationships, enhance collaboration, and ignite actions that will enable students and student groups to come back stronger than ever. The four themes of the program include: 

  • Leadership training and networking
  • On-campus recruitment and engagement targeting new students
  • Healing and reflection through time in nature
  • Foundational concepts and context for future community engagement in the St. Louis region

IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) principles will frame the program and have been incorporated into the program’s development. Participants will undergo intersectional training by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion that connects these priorities to sustainability issues.

The retreat is required training for those signed up as a WashU Green Ambassadors and replaces previous retreat models.

Schedule Overview*

Friday, August 20th – Sunday, August 22nd: Brief orientation to move-in; assist with waste sorting related to move-in and the Swamp Sale run by SWAP; outreach via tabling; staff green event waste stations at welcome events. Students will serve in shifts, 4-8 hours per day. 

Monday, August 23rd (10a) – Tuesday, August 24th (5:30p): Overnight retreat at Wyman Center

  • IDEA + Social Justice & Activism training from Center for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Hiking
  • Grassroots organizing 101 and leadership training 
  • Campfire and group bonding 
  • Sustainability on Campus orientation
  • Networking among student groups
  • And much more!

Wednesday, August 25th: Urban farm day trip (12p – 4p), sustainable crafting night (8p – 10p)

Thursday, August 26th: Assist with move-in (10a – 5p), movie night (8p – 10p)

Friday, August 27th: Cahokia Mounds day trip and closing ceremony (12p – 5p) and Waste Sorting Station at Bear Beginnings Tailgate dinner (5:30p – 7p)

Saturday, August 28th: Voluntary support of waste stations at Sophomore Dinner in the Village (6:30p – 8:30p) and Party in the Park (for first-years and sophomores, 8:30p – 10:00p)

*Schedule subject to change.

Program Fees

Returning WashU students that meet eligibility criteria (below) will be able to participate in the program at no charge.

While retreat attendance will come at no cost, attendees are expected to participate in the WUGA-led move-in efforts, incorporated into the program’s scheduled activities. Students who apply by July 18th, are accepted into the program, and will be living in WashU housing will receive housing assistance and approval for early move-in (coinciding with the start of the program). Meals, lodging, and transportation are provided for the retreat. On August 20th and 21st, meals overlapping with move-in volunteering will be provided. Expenses related to excursions will be covered as well, but meals outside of programming will be the responsibility of the student (we are confirming meal plan start dates). 

Who Can Apply

Limit: 40 participants

The SPARK program is open to all returning WashU students invested in sustainability, the environment, or St. Louis social justice efforts. We encourage students to apply who: are a part of green groups on campus, are pursuing degrees in an environmental field, or engage in environmental or social justice work in their communities. Students do not need to hold a current leadership role in an organization to be eligible to attend.

In addition to open applications, we are encouraging campus green groups to appoint two delegates from their organization to participate in the program. Groups who have already committed to program participation are listed below. If your group is interested in sending delegates or getting involved, please reach out to Cassie Hage at

  • Student Environmental Council (SEC) – cohost
  • WashU Green Ambassadors (WUGA) – cohost
  • Sharing With A Purpose (SWAP) – sponsor
  • Net Impact – session host (pending)
  • Student Sustainability Board (SSB)
  • Wilderness Project (WP)
  • Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO)
  • Green Action
Commitment and Availability

The Office of Sustainability works with the WUGA team to orient new students to campus sustainability culture, and reduce and recycle waste related to student move-in and Bear Beginnings. WUGA activities are planned for August 20th – 22nd and August 26th – 28th. SPARK participants are expected to participate in volunteer efforts by signing up for shifts during the Bear Beginnings period. The Office of Sustainability will pay for early move-in to ResLife housing for all students coming to campus early for WUGA volunteering and for the SPARK program. The early move-in date for ResLife housing students will be Thursday, August 19th or, if necessary, Sunday, August 22nd. If you require early move-in to ResLife housing, the registration deadline for SPARK is Sunday, July 18th. 

Students are strongly encouraged to attend every program throughout the week and sign up for a portion of the volunteer shifts, though we can be flexible in certain circumstances. Please be transparent in your application so we can adequately consider your ability to fully engage in the program. Students able to commit to the full week may receive preference in the application process. Students will not be allowed to arrive late to or leave early from the overnight retreat component. 

Application deadlines:

The deadline to register for students requesting early ResLife move-in is July 18th.

The general deadline to register is August 1st.

Applications are considered on a rolling basis. If your application is accepted, we will reach out to you by email by August 9th.