Apply by July 2 for early move-in to WashU Housing, deadline for general applications TBD.

Join the Office of Sustainability for SPARK: A Sustainability Leadership Training Program from August 18th – August 27th!

Program Overview

SPARK: Sustainability Leadership Training Program is a program hosted by the Office of Sustainability. The third cohort will take place August 18-27 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 WashU students. A two-day overnight retreat will take place at an off campus retreat site from Monday, August 21 – Tuesday, August 22. 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 as well as on-campus social activities.

In addition, participants will support the WashU Green Ambassadors (WUGA) program in which returning WashU students welcome new students during Fall Welcome 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. 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. 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*

*Program times are subject to change and times for off-campus activities include meeting and transportation time. 

Thursday, August 17: SPARK participants living in on-campus housing are scheduled for early move-in. Welcome back! 

Friday, August 18 – Sunday, August 20 (9:30a – 6p, shifts): Brief orientation to move-in for all; assist with waste sorting related to move-in and Share Our Stuff Sale; outreach via tabling; staff green event waste stations at Fall Welcome events and over meal times. Students will serve in shifts, 4-8 hours per day.  

Monday, August 21 (10a) – Tuesday, August 22 (7:30p)*: Overnight retreat at Shaw Nature Reserve. Sampled programming includes: 

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

Wednesday, August 23: Day trip to Cahokia Mounds* (12p – 3p), student led programming (6:30p – 8:30p) 

Thursday, August 24: Day trip to EarthDance Farms* (9a –1p), student-led programming (8p – 10p) 

Friday, August 25: Support returning student move-in (12p – 5p), Share Our Stuff Sale (1p – 5p), and/or waste sorting stations at Fall Welcome Tailgate dinner (5:30p – 9p) 

Saturday, August 26: Support returning student move-in (12p – 5p), Share Our Stuff Sale (11a – 4p), and waste stations at Party in the Park (8:30p – 10p) 

Sunday, August 27: Support Share Our Stuff Sale (Times TBD), waste stations at Sophomore Brunch (10a – 12p) 

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 1, 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. Meals will be provided over the duration of the program through a combination of meal points provided and meals overlapping with programming. 

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, and/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 participated in past year 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
  • Burning Kumquat
  • Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO)
  • Green Action
  • Net Impact – session host
  • Student Sustainability Board (SSB)
  • Tyson Conservation CorpsWilderness Project (WP)
  • WashU Vegan

Due to conflicts in scheduling during the program period, students who are participating in the following programs will not be able to enroll in SPARK: STC, WUSA, RA, CS40 exec. If you will be on campus for other programs (Ervin, Danforth, Langsdorf, Rodriguez scholar program retreats; supporting TRIO, Deneb STARS, or Beyond Boundaries; or fall varsity athletes) and anticipate having pockets of time to help with WUGA volunteering, please reach out to – we would welcome the extra hands!

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 18 – 20 and August 23 – 27 (with the possibility to add more engagements as events are scheduled). SPARK participants are expected to participate in volunteer efforts by signing up for shifts during the Fall Welcome 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 17 or, if necessary, Sunday, August 20. If you require early move-in to ResLife housing, the registration deadline for SPARK is July 2. 

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 2.

The general deadline to register is TBD.

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