UAlbany Office of Sustainability, Center for Leadership and Service Awarded SUNY Leadership Award

A graphic of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 28, 2022) – University at Albany faculty and administrators have been awarded a SUNY Leadership Award for “17 Rooms of Service,” a new activity during Welcome Week that centers around heightening awareness about the United Nations Global Goals through public and community service. 

The activity is based on a program called “Seventeen Rooms” that the Brookings Institute started. The idea is to split students into seventeen “global goals” rooms, each dedicated to one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

UAlbany’s 17 Rooms of Service is a collaboration among the Office of Sustainability, Center for Leadership and Service , Undergraduate Admissions and Student Activities and Orientation to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, along with community agencies.

Mary Ellen Mallia, director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, and Martha Asselin, director of the Center for Leadership and Service and assistant service professor in the School of Education, decided to bring a version of the activity to UAlbany this fall, after being approached by the orientation team about adding a service and sustainability element to Welcome Week. 

First-year students gather in the Campus Center Assembly Hall through the “17 Rooms of Service” program.
First-year students gathered during Welcome Week to support various community service projects through the new "17 Rooms of Service” program. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

“We thought this was a wonderful way to introduce our incoming freshmen to the values of sustainability and service that our campus holds,” Mallia said. 

There were at least 16 projects for freshman students to focus on during Welcome Week this fall. They were all based on global issues around sustainability, such as waste reduction, weatherization, clean energy, composting and recycling. The rooms were hosted by faculty and staff volunteers.

UAlbany’s welcome leaders also participated in this event to educate the students about the importance of these projects. 

“The Orientation assistants and the welcome leaders helping deliver the education and assist the projects was a vital piece for the students,” Mallia said. “It has helped a lot more students gain awareness and interest in how to be sustainable.”

“I loved seeing people passionate about community service explore the various volunteer opportunities available to them,” said UAlbany welcome leader Michelle George, a senior Business Administration major. “This was a great chance for freshmen to not only get to know the campus, but also gain real experience in helping the community." 

SUNY’s Council of Chief Student Affairs Officers and its Office of University Life offer awards to student affairs programs that demonstrate a positive effect on students. The 17 Rooms of Service program fell into three categories: Careers, Academic Advising and Support, Service-Learning, and Community Service; Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, Orientation, Parents, First-year, and Other-year; Student Union, Student Activities, Greek Life, and Leadership.

“We are incredibly proud to win this award from SUNY as a celebration of this new program and its impact on students,” said Pamela Alexander, UAlbany’s director of student activities and orientation. “What is perhaps most exciting about this initiative is its collaboration across campus and the community.”

“I am very proud of the partnership that came together to offer this unique program during Welcome Week,” added Asselin. “My colleagues, Mary Ellen Mallia, Pamela Alexander, Meghan Popcun and Holly Barker-Flynn are the absolute best. They show deep level care for our students and their development.”