Alex Lyakhov Receives Emerging Leader Award
SUNY Oneonta senior Alex Lyakhov has been selected to receive the SUNY Emerging Leader Award in recognition of his work to improve sustainability on campus. Lyakhov was one of 17 students chosen from throughout SUNY’s 64 campuses to receive the award, which was given for the first time this year.
The meteorology major from Brooklyn said he first became interested in environmental issues following the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The loss of animal life, 11 people killed…I was devastated by that. I started researching the oil industry, and the more I learned, the more I realized that things were worse than I’d thought. I began to realize that there’s an opportunity here on this campus where we could be the drivers of major social change that’s deeply needed at this time in history.”
In the past two years, Lyakhov has channeled his passion into collaborative efforts to effect change on the SUNY Oneonta campus. In spring 2011, he co-founded the Student Sustainability Committee and led an effort to develop a proposal calling for the establishment of a sustainability coordinator position and a sustainability fund, and for expanded efforts to reduce the college’s reliance on fossil fuels and increase renewable energy use. The committee presented a petition affirming its proposal—with more than 300 student signatures and support from over two dozen clubs—to the SUNY Oneonta administration.
The following semester, Lyakhov was a member of the search committee that led to the appointment of Hannah Morgan as the college’s first sustainability coordinator in October 2012. Lyakhov sees the position as a key step in bringing together “the pragmatism of staff and the idealism of students” to effect further change.
Incorporating sustainability into the campus culture is a priority for Lyakhov, who oversaw the creation of a report detailing the location and distribution of waste and recycling bins across campus last spring. The inventory, which was presented to the college’s Facilities department, showed a discrepancy between the number of waste bins and the number of recycling bins on campus. “It’s such a simple thing, but that alone is enough to make people look and say, `Hey, are we really sustainable?’” Lyakhov said.
In a broader effort to raise awareness, Lyakhov chaired the college’s Green Dragon Week committee last spring. Usually coordinated by the college’s Organization of Ancillary Services, the annual event series was organized by students for the first time in 2012. Activities included a talk by world-renowned author and biologist Sandra Steingraber, a climate change teach-in, film discussions and screenings of “Gasland” and “Avatar,” and a club expo on the quad. “It was a big team effort,” said Lyakhov. “It was very rewarding to see that come to fruition and be successful.”
Current efforts include representing the student body as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability and working with the Student Association to establish a fund for sustainability-related initiatives.
Beyond campus, Lyakhov is involved in the anti-fracking movement led by the community group Sustainable Otsego. After graduation in May 2013, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in environmental sociology.