Congratulations to the 2019 Recipients of the Champions for Change Awards

The following people and programs were selected in 2019 to receive Champions for Change awards for their significant contributions in the areas of Sustainability or Health & Well-Being.

Sustainability: Sheila Noel

Sheila Noel is a maintenance specialist in the Reitz Union. Her work in managing the Reitz’s building automation system and HVAC plant has had a huge impact, saving over 1.35 million kilowatt hours in the past 2 years. That is the equivalent to the amount of energy used by 90 average Florida homes annually. Sheila is constantly monitoring plant operations, is an expert at diagnosing problems as they arise, and tackles them with creative and innovative solutions. She is credited with saving the Reitz $50,000 in energy costs just in the period from December 2018 to January 2019. Whether or not you realize it, when you enter the Reitz Union, you have Sheila to thank for creating such a comfortable, energy-efficient environment.

Sustainability: LiveGreen Development Team

This group is led by undergraduate students Brian De Souza and Pablo Garces who developed LiveGreen, a mobile app that empowers anyone with a smart phone to do their part in reducing their carbon footprint. This effort was months in the making, but as of January the LiveGreen app is available on the iTunes AppStore for free.  It already has over 400 downloads and has saved over 12 tons of CO2. The app helps users track their daily emissions by allowing users to log everything from food consumption to utilities. It also connects users with options to offset their carbon footprints. The LiveGreen team is an ambitious group.  They’ve already been recognized by Facebook for their innovation who awarded them “Best App” at a Coding for Social Good Challenge at Duke last year. We’re excited to root for them at the 2019 e-Fest challenge, where the team is competing for up to $350,000 in awards to fund its growth and future offset projects.

Sustainability: Sam Jenkins

Sam Jenkins, an undergraduate student in Political Science and Student Senator, is credited with developing partnerships between UF’s Office of Sustainability and the Student Government.  He has advocated for sustainable practices within Student Government operations and invited the Office of Sustainability to present about their work on campus in hopes of fostering potential for future collaboration. Additionally, Sam has spearheaded a number of student senate resolutions relating to sustainable practices such as the campus plastic straw ban, advocating for independent solar installations on campus, and encouraging the UF Administration to join the Paris Climate Accords. Sam is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to organizing for sustainability and his rallying emails have reached over 15,000 people.

Sustainability: Assembly for Action

Assembly for Action is a student organization with the goal to leverage UF students and resources to benefit the Gainesville community. Through their student-run community service and leadership conference (aptly named the Assembly for Action) led in October 2018, they educated and encouraged students to identify societal issues, develop grant-writing skills, and they funded four student-led community-service projects.  They also connected 50 of their “Action Scholars” with 10 local non-profits to complete a Day of Service. They fundraised over $20,000 through their vast network to support their efforts, including a large sum provided by UF’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Charlie Lane. Assembly for Action is taking steps to be incorporated into UF’s Strategic Development Plan, become a member of the Greater Gainesville Collaborative Initiative, and they have partnered with the UF Active Learning program.

Sustainability: Gator Dining Food Service

Led by sustainability manager Kayla Caselli-Bido, Gator Dining Food Service has done an amazing job increasing composting and decreasing food waste in all units across campus. By utilizing a program called Leanpath to measure and record food waste, Gator Dining was able to develop targeted initiatives to help increase composting. Now, over 35 units on campus compost their food waste, some of which benefits the Student Organic Gardens as well as the Field and Fork program. Kayla’s team also introduced compostable, plant-based straws to campus as well a number of other items for on-campus dining.  They are responsible for the “Bring Your Own Mug” campaign, where patrons are incentivized to act more sustainably through a discount off their beverage purchase when they bring a personal cup. This team has also implemented the Fresh from Florida program, highlighting produce items sourced within 250 miles or less from campus.

Health & Well-Being: UF/IFAS Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Palm Beach County

This program’s community-based, relationship-driven approach has had amazing success in Palm Beach County due to the collaborative support of a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Palm Beach County Food Bank and County representation.  The EFNEP seeks to empower parents and children to improve their nutrition practices, stretch their food dollars, practice food safety, and increase their physical activity. With the leadership of Program Agent Danielle De Vries-Navarro, the EFNEP created a Hunger Relief Plan and established the Marjorie S. Fisher Nutrition Driven collaborative partnership. They’ve started a mobile food pantry as a way to reach low-income community members, facilitated nutrition education lessons available in multiple languages, and founded and education and incentives program called MSFND Gets Cooking. Out of over 740 program participants surveyed, 94% had improved their diet and 81% were more successfully managing their food resources.

Health & Well-Being: Cecilia Luna

Cecilia Luna is a communications specialist in UF’s Student Health Care Center. Cecilia was charged with the formidable task of renovating the Center’s dispensing area where free health products are offered to students.  Recognizing the type of socioeconomic barriers that make being a university student just that much harder and recollecting her own experiences, Cecilia realized that access to menstrual products could make a huge difference in the daily lives of UF’s students. These products are often expensive and being able to access them reliably takes stress off of students, giving them the time and energy to focus on their educational outcomes instead. Despite the fact that there weren’t any options for dispensers, Cecilia went above and beyond to brainstorm creative solutions and ended up leading an effort to create the blueprints for a specially-designed dispenser!

Health & Well-Being: Christine Winget

Christine Winget is an Associate Director of Housing in the Learning and Development Office. Christine created a health and wellness program for the learning and development curriculum totally from scratch to provide employees with resources for their health and well-being.  She developed monthly wellness challenges, authored employee wellness spotlight articles for newsletters, and made financial wellness courses available for employees. Christine accomplished all of this while battling cancer, too, and we’re happy to share that she has been cancer free since May 2018. She has been at the center of promoting a supportive and engaging work environment for her co-workers, and for that we recognize her with this award.

Health & Well-Being: Dr. Liva LaMontagne

Over the past year and a half, Dr. Liva LaMontagne has been helping hundreds of couples in Alachua County improve their relationship skills and engage in brief mindfulness practices while facilitating ELEVATE workshops as part of the SMART Couples program at UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Liva has the unique ability to communicate scientific research in an accessible way and creates a warm, trusting environment in her classes. She goes above and beyond to help her students apply the topics to their lives and has taught make-up classes during holidays. Liva’s efforts have certainly bettered our community, but have also contributed to the SMART Couples program continuing receiving grant funding and potentially be expanded to other counties in Florida in the future. She has been recognized by the FYCS department for her work and has been accepted into a doctoral program with them beginning this Fall.

Health & Well-Being: Megan Engel

Megan Engel is a graduate student in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department. Megan has been instrumental in fostering a grassroots movement to support UF becoming a campus partner in the Partnership for a Healthier America organization. She is also serving on a committee within GatorWell charged with developing and testing a new campus-wide nutrition campaign. Megan has taken on major leadership roles in both initiatives and is lauded by her collaborators for her laser-focus and contagious positivity. She is a team player who not only “walks the walk,” but also “talks to talk.” Thanks to her leadership and emphasis on building relationships, UF joined the Partnership for a Healthier America and kicked off the Healthier Campus Initiative in November 2018.

Published: April 30th, 2019

Category: News