Michael MacMiller, a senior psychology major with a minor is sustainability studies, has certainly made the most of his four years at Christian Brothers University. He has organized and reinvigorated a number of student organizations, worked to clean-up McKellar Lake and city parks, donated his hair to Locks of Love in honor of his uncle who passed away from cancer (which meant not cutting his hair for a year), served as a mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and worked tirelessly to promote sustainability initiatives and events on campus.
Most recently, this semester he and three other students (Shanice Oliver, Sara Swisher, and Johnathan Mosley) co-founded CBU’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network, a program that “unites students on college campuses to fight waste and feed people by collecting the surplus unsold food from their colleges and donating it to hungry Americans.”
Within just the first month of the program they have coordinated with campus dining and other student organizations to recover over 300lbs of food which they have donated to the Memphis Union Mission, the Juvenile Intervention and Faith-Based Follow-Up, the St. Vincent DePaul Food Mission, and FirstWorks, a non-denominational, faith-based, non-profit organization that strives to meet the needs of inner city children.
Michael is also a co-founder of the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC), for which he has served as President during the past two years. The SSC was created three years ago from one of the many student-lead projects born out of Dr. Ben Jordan’s Intro to Sustainability class. The SSC’s mission is to promote the advancement of sustainable projects on campus and in the community, serve as a campus voice for sustainability issues, and engage with and promote sustainability within other student organizations.
“Michael is one of our key student difference-makers in recent years,” says Dr. Jordan. “He stands out at CBU for his leadership and his ability to encourage other students to get involved in campus and city vibrancy projects. He’s a great ambassador for CBU and its Lasallian mission.”
As Michael explains, Dr. Jordan and his sustainability class were the inspiration for his future endeavors. “When I first arrived at Christian Brothers University, Dr. Jordan was one of the first professors I met. He sparked my interest in sustainability and exposed me to some core notions, namely how interdependent the world really is, how some corporations don’t take the social cost of their business plans into consideration, and what it means to be a responsible citizen in society and to really appreciate the earth’s natural beauty and remedies. In short, I reevaluated my place in nature and my responsibilities toward it.”
As part of his presidential duties for the SSC, Michael sits on the university’s Sustainability Committee. In service of the committee’s mission, Michael has helped promote committee sponsored events, including a lecture by Reverend Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith, the Mid-South Farm to Table Conference, and the Livable Campus, Livable City workshop CBU co-hosted with Livable Memphis, in which he spoke about the Sustainability Coalition. He has also been a strong advocate for the university’s recycling program, which has seen its material collection double in recent months from a previous average of 1.5 tons a month to 3 tons a month.
But that’s not all. This past summer, he was one of only two undergraduates chosen to participate with graduate students and young professionals from across the country in the week-long Byron Fellowship, “an interdisciplinary course in leadership and sustainable community development that uniquely engages participants through place-based learning” that takes place in Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana.
“When I went to Byron, the program wasn’t about race, prestige, class, or place of origin. It was about action and being impactful in the places and spaces we dwell in. That meant a lot to me. In six days, I went from feeling I was just doing cool projects at CBU to understanding that I was one part of a global initiative, and that no matter your color, place you’re from, or station in life, we all want the same things – to breath clean air, drink clean water, and eat good food with the people we care about the most. That is our common bond.”