At first glance, they might seem to be an unlikely duo—one, the son of retired U.S. military personnel, growing up in a suburb of D.C., and frequently visiting museums and other cultural venues that Washington has to offer; the other, not yet a U.S. citizen, growing up in Belgium near an agricultural area, and spending a lot of time in his grandparents’ garden. Bigger than their differences, however, are their similarities, and together they form an alliance aimed at changing the way the Randolph community views the environment. The two also hope to focus their passion towards promoting a new vision for the College, the state, the country, and one day, the world.
Ludovic Lemaitre and Karl Sakas first met while visiting Randolph as prospective students. “I remember that I just sat down with Professor Warren, and we talked for 40 minutes, not just about school but about everything environmental,” says Sakas. “I was seated next to Ludovic at the time. We started talking, and both of us decided to come here and to major in environmental studies. Ultimately we became really good friends.”
Together, the two first-years are already making a name for themselves on campus and across Virginia. In November, Ludovic and Karl, along with five other students from Randolph, traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend PowerShift 2007, an environmental conference that brought together more than 5,000 students from across the U.S. The conference was designed to allow students to share ideas, learn new skills, make new connections, and establish a voice which sends a united message to national leaders. Even though Lemaitre is not yet eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election, he is encouraged by the fact that the youth vote is more environmentally conscious.
“With all the news we hear, our generation is more aware of the issues,” says Lemaitre. “We realize we are all interconnected and are more aware of parameters.” Lemaitre believes that this generation is better positioned to advance a new vision for America.
Ludovic and Karl are already doing their part to advance this new vision. The two started a blog designed to share the details of their PowerShift experience and have also disseminated information to fellow students via webcasts. Recently, they helped to organize the screening of The 11 th Hour. Students from other Virginia colleges whom the two met at PowerShift also attended the screening. Both Lemaitre and Sakas say that one of the most valuable benefits from the conference was the network of contacts, which allows them to share information and ideas. “It’s not just about what we can do here, but what we can do across college campuses,” says Sakas. “None of us is as strong as all of us.”
Lamaitre and Sakas are doing more than just sharing ideas, they are translating their learning into immediate actions. Through the Environmental Club, the two are working with several other students to produce and sell all-natural, homemade, environmentally friendly laundry detergent. They credit Shahriar Abbassi, night supervisor at the Lipscomb Library and husband of Professor Jennifer Abbassi, with the recipe. The idea is to sell the detergent on campus, earning money to put towards other environmental projects.
One such project is an organic garden, located at the back of the campus near the soccer field. This garden will also be the source for lavender and other aromatic herbs that will provide fragrance for the detergent.
“The most challenging part of the selling process will be to convince students that our product is as effective as regular laundry detergents and that clothes smell as fresh and good when they come out of the machine,” says Lamaitre. “We hope the fact that the money would stay on campus and that the project would be environmentally friendly will add some weight in favor of our product.”
The detergent is just one small step in Ludovic and Karl’s overall march toward the “greening of Randolph.” This summer, both students and Megan Roberts ’10 will be working closely with Professors Warren and Rick Barnes on a summer research program designed to create a green master plan for the College. The goal of the plan is to make Randolph more energy efficient and carbon neutral over the next 20 years.
“Randolph was the first college in Virginia to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Change Commitment,” says Lemaitre. “This shows the College’s commitment both to exercising leadership in the community and to educating graduates on how to be better stewards of the environment.”
The ability to participate in a summer research program, working closely alongside their professors, is one of the distinctive attributes that attracted both students to Randolph. “Here, the professors are really dedicated, and they take the time get to know us,” says Sakas. “We have easy access to the faculty, the administration, and even the president, which is impossible at other schools.” Lemaitre agrees, “At the undergraduate level, I think this college is better than Harvard or Princeton because you have fewer students and therefore smaller class sizes that allow you to ask questions and speak to professors after class. That is very important to me as an international student, because it allows me to get more help.”
Hearing their passion and their future plans, it is hard to imagine that these two are only first-years, but it is clear that Randolph will benefit from their continued presence. And after college? Well, who knows. Lemaitre says he will figure it out as he gets there, but he is leaning toward graduate school. Sakas, however, has a much more specific plan. He hopes to graduate with a B.S. in environmental studies, a B.A. in economics, and a concentration in Chinese to go to work for a multinational company in China. Eventually, he wants to set up his own environmental consulting business—helping companies to facilitate necessary environmental changes that China will be forced to make in the future.
Both believe that their Randolph education will equip them with the tools they need to accomplish whatever they desire.
As Lemaitre put it, “If you are motivated, what you gain here will allow you to go anywhere, do anything, or be whatever you like.”