2018 WSRA Student Guests Reflect on Conference Experience

With the support from The Recycling Foundation, WSRA was proud to award eight Student Guest scholarships for our 2018 Annual Conference, held at Semiahmoo Resort in May. These scholarships were awarded to undergraduate and graduate students from across Washington and beyond. The WSRA Student Guest program provides an outstanding opportunity for future leaders in the industry to network with leading industry professionals, expand their knowledge of recycling and waste reduction, and prepare themselves for a career in a rewarding and innovative field.

As a part of the program requirements for each student, we ask that after the conclusion of the conference, they provide a write up of their experiences to share about what they learned. Here are the experiences from our 2018 Student Guests:

Trevor Alkire | Washington State University | Environmental Science

“The 2018 WSRA, Navigating the Waves of Change, conference in Blaine WA was a fantastic experience. The content of the conference was timely and incredibly useful. Much of the information revolved around the effects and repercussions of the new Chinese National Sword (Blue Sky) program that seriously affected the global recycling commodities markets. The solutions put forward were realistic and relied on all parties involved in the recycling industry from the consumer to the processor including everyone in-between. The ability to meet the industry professionals and network was also a great opportunity. The structure of the conference allowed lots of opportunities to meet several new groups of people during breaks and during meals. The members and staff were incredibly welcoming to the student guests and the whole experience was phenomenal.”

Stephanie Bradshaw | Graduate 2017, Calvin College | Geography and Writing

“The WSRA Conference was a great opportunity for learning more about the careers in waste management. I have been working in environmental outreach, mainly with waste reduction tips for the public, in Clark County as an AmeriCorps. My term ends in just a few months, so it was a very valuable experience to talk to so many professionals about their careers at the conference and get advice as I look for longer-term employment. I was particularly interested in the environmental consultants and the different outreach programs that were done in schools, food banks, and diverse ethnic communities. Some of the ideas discussed I was able to bring back to my current program, Clark County Green Neighbors, for possible use in the future.”

Maika Bui | University of Washington | Bioresource Science and Engineering

" The WSRA conference was an experience that I did not expect – it was so much better. From other industry-oriented conferences I have attended, people usually come in with purpose. Selling a product. Buying equipment. Or in my case as a student guest, find a job in the industry after graduating. Although these occurred, the conference felt like a big reunion with the Washington state solid waste family. Conversations progressed naturally during sessions as well as outside the seminar rooms. I greatly appreciated the passion and perspective of various WSRA members across the industry about the status of the industry. Meeting professionals on an individual basis was such a rewarding experience because everyone was genuinely interested with any of the happenings within the industry. It was not hard to find a topic to delve into and talk about for hours on end. This is how we grow as an industry, by having conversations about those hard-hitting issues without getting lost in the disagreement. My experience at the WSRA was phenomenal. I hope to attend again next year as a professional in the industry myself.”

Jessie Dirks | Seattle University | Environmental Studies

““YOU HAVE TO APPLY FOR THIS” was the subject of my advisor’s email about the Washington State Recycling Association’s student scholarship. When she learned about the conference, she immediately thought I would be interested. In the weeks leading up to the conference, something more challenging for me to explain to my friends was, well, what exactly happens at a recycling conference, and why I was so excited to attend. I had never attended a professional conference before, so I had no idea what to expect.

The first night we met in a circle. All the first-time attendees met and played icebreakers, giving us a chance to relax a bit in this new environment. After a brief student orientation, we went to dinner and immediately tried to find people we had never met or talked to before. Throughout the conference, everyone was incredibly open and welcoming. I felt like I was visiting a friend’s extended family reunion, and I got to meet so many amazing new people.

Like the name of the conference, ‘navigating the waves of change,’ it was fascinating to see how the industry is adapting to both social change and changing markets. Rather than placing blame on consumers and markets, it seems we have been given an incredible opportunity to change the game. In a sustainable materials management presentation, this was illustrated by shifting focus to product stewardship, lifecycle analysis, and overall impact of products. In workshops on multicultural outreach, I saw different groups celebrating equity, diversity and inclusion in a variety of different ways. 
Sometimes distracting doom and gloom headlines can convince a person that nothing is being done to address an issue. At the Washington State Recycling Association conference, I saw a group of individuals coming together to find solutions for complex issues. Seeing so many people who dedicate their lives to this work every day was inspiring for me and gave me hope and motivation to carry the creativity and welcoming into my own life and community. “

Lyndsay Gordon | University of Washington, Evans School of Public Affairs & Governance | Environmental Policy & Management

“Attending the 2018 Washington State Recycling Association conference as a student guest was an amazing opportunity to network and learn about the exciting trends in the field. The sessions were informative, engaging, and a great way to see how the industry is continuing to adapt to a changing world. Even more importantly, the networking opportunities at the event were invaluable. Professionals from across the industry offered critical insight regarding choosing a career path and how to manage more complex applica

tion processes. The advice provided directly resulted in being able to submit several applications that lead to interviews and potentially even the beginning of the next step of my career. As a student finishing the second and final year of my Master’s degree in Public Policy and Governance the conference offered a unique opportunity and helped me advance toward the next step in my career.”

Thea Hutchinson | Presidio Graduate School | MBA in Sustainable Systems ‘19

“Attending the 2018 WSRA conference was an eye-opening experience. As a guest student, I found the lectures, the demonstrations, and the group of professionals stimulating and exciting. The opportunity to attend came as I am completing me MBA program in Sustainable Systems at Presidio Graduate School. As I reflect back there were two moments that stood out to me during the conference.

The presentation “Beyond Waste Prevention” by Babe O’Sullivan and Tim Asp, created a powerful argument for looking further upstream to create change through consumption and design. I came away both inspired and feeling the incredible opportunity for further work in this area.

Another highlight was the facility tour of Recycle BC. This on-the ground tour brought us into the action. I appreciated the background that we received from Allen Langdon, their Managing Director, as well as how the management structure and financing was presented clearly demonstrating that it is possible to directly affect the disposal of consumer packaging through brands.

The four days at Semiahmoo Resort was stunningly beautiful and the perfect reminder of why recycling and materials management is important to preserve and maintain our natural environment. I walked away from the conference having had dozens of personal conversations with industry leaders and the possibility of seeing myself involved in furthering this work.”

Audrey Taber | University of Washington | Environmental Science & Terrestrial Resource Management

“Walking into a room with the intention of not sitting next to anyone you know is intimidating. However, when I walked out under the bright white canopy at Semiahmoo lodge a few weeks ago, at the first dinner of the WSRA Conference, there wasn't anything intimidating about the smiling, happily chatting people who greeted me. Most were strangers and I chose to sit at a table where I knew no one, but quickly, people saw my student guest name tag and began asking me friendly questions and drawing me into the conversation.

I am incredibly thankful to have experienced the WSRA Conference, and to have met so many kind and talented people. The entire experience felt like going to a family reunion of a family I didn't know I had, but that I am excited to become a part of. After attending interesting and informative breakout sessions, and listening to inspiring keynote speakers, I look forward to learning more about the waste and recycling industries and I hope to continue my membership with WSRA.”

Andre Turner | Cascadia College | Bachelor of Applied Science in Sustainable Practice

“Thank you for the honor of attending the WSRA 2018 conference as a student guest. I felt the conference was extremely valuable and complimented my learning in school. One of the highlights for me was the, “How Did We Get into This Mess” session. I was in an economics class and the information provided during the session has been used in my class and complimented the supply and demand curve. I feel that there is much we can learn from other countries and how they address issues. Earlier this year, I did a presentation on England’s Plastic Pact program with WRAP and how they are working with manufacturers to improve their recycling in the U.K. (I would also be interested in what it would take to do this in the USA) and thus I found the opening plenary session with Allen from British Columbia extremely interesting on how they approach recycling in BC.”

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