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UH Manoa graduate student and student sustainability coordinator Shanah Trevenna receives President's "Making the Elephant Dance" Award

Trevenna honored for leadership in initiating UH Manoa campus sustainability efforts

University of Hawaiʻi
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-8109
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Sep 18, 2008

HONOLULU — University of Hawaiʻi President David McClain has selected UH Mānoa graduate student and Student Sustainability Coordinator Shanah Trevenna as the recipient of the President‘s "Making the Elephant Dance" Award for the third quarter of 2008. The award was created this year by McClain to acknowledge individuals who successfully develop innovative ways to improve the university‘s service to students and the community.

The award is named after the book "Who Says Elephants Can‘t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise Through Dramatic Change," by the former CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner, who chronicles his efforts to make IBM‘s very large corporate bureaucracy more responsive to customers and the marketplace.

"Shanah has demonstrated that, just as an elephant can be taught to dance, our university can be made more responsive to the issues confronting the communities we serve," said McClain.

The Sustainable Saunders initiative is a project to evolve UH Mānoa‘s Saunders Hall into a model of sustainability for the campus, Hawaiʻi and beyond. Its goal is to pilot sustainable solutions at Saunders Hall, measure the results and roll out successful projects to the rest of the Mānoa campus. Trevenna coordinates nearly a dozen projects of the initiative, which include alternative energy, water catchment, xeriscaping, recycling and worm composting.

The initiative has seen much success thanks to Trevenna and HUB (Help Us Bridge), an interdisciplinary student group, and is already attracting the attention of many organizations that are pitching in to help out. Together with the UH Mānoa Facilities Management Office, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, HECO, the Board of Water Supply, and others, the students have designed projects that will reduce the electricity use in Saunders Hall by 30 percent in the first year of the program, which is four years ahead of campus goals.

"The Sustainable Saunders initiative at UH Mānoa is an inspiring case study of how the passion of students can lead the way for sustainability statewide," said Trevenna. "With their commitment to rigorous scientific assessments in the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental prosperity, students provide an unbiased perspective on potential solutions."

So impressive are the groundbreaking efforts being undertaken by the student-led group that Trevenna was invited to represent UH Mānoa and the Sustainable Saunders initiative at a gathering of sustainability coordinators at Harvard University earlier this year to share what is being done in Hawaiʻi.

For more information about the Sustainable Saunders initiative and what has been accomplished so far, visit