Campus Gardens Play Big Role in Education and Helping an Imperiled Planet

April 30, 2021

Next UP Panel Discussion on May 11 to Focus on Campus Gardens as a Sustainable Solution to Food Insecurity

A summer of increased drought and wildfires is looming, reminding everyone of the damaging effects of climate change and the need for all of us to take some form of action.  

Campus gardens are one hands-on option that not only address food insecurity by providing produce for students and community members in need but can help to instill students with the sense of place necessary for them to live sustainable lives and advocate for sustainable policies.

Those ideas are the subject of “Hearts and Hands in Soil: Instilling a Sense of Place,” the Next UP: Forward Thinking @ Stan State Zoom presentation planned for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11. Register to attend. Moderated by Sustainability Coordinator Wendy Olmstead, the one-hour panel discussion will feature Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies Cueponcaxochitl Moreno Sandoval, Jennifer Sturtevant, care manager for Basic Needs and Stan State alumnus Jeff Rivero, an award-winning high school teacher and ambassador for the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals initiative.  


Join our panelists as they lend their expertise to a discussion about how campus gardens can be a tool for breaking down barriers that impede social justice and provide a common language that transcends perceived differences by providing education in the growth of nutritious, affordable food and green space.

Wendy Olmstead

Wendy Olmstead, moderator

Stanislaus State’s first sustainability coordinator, Olmstead is responsible for developing and initiating programs to strengthen and establish sustainability principles and practices across campus. She works to foster collaborations that meld teaching, research, sustainable campus and vendor operations, student life and community service.  

Campus gardens are a particular passion for Olmstead, as she saw their value when she was a student at Modesto Junior College and Stan State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural science and dual master’s degrees in ecology and sustainability and in public administration. She sees gardens as a powerful tool that can help people understand their connection to nature and to each other. Both are basic tenets of sustainability: everything is interconnected; without social justice, there is no environmental sustainability. Her dream is to see gardens at all community colleges and university campuses across the county and beyond.

Cueponcaxochitl Moreno Sandoval

Cueponcaxochitl Moreno Sandoval

Sandoval created a community garden at Stan State and invites students in her Native American and Mexican indigenous studies courses and members of the Indigenous Students and Activism Club, for which she serves as an advisor, to work in it.

Her research examines how ancestral knowledge systems can inform/be informed by Nahuatl language and cultural practices, son jarocho and fandango culture, and as applied to computer science education. Her goal is to increase student voices and community engagement toward the co-liberation of all life forms, including Mother Earth, Black, Indigenous, People of Color and the oppressors.

Jennifer Sturtevant

Jennifer Sturtevant

As the person who oversees Stan State’s Basic Needs programs, Sturtevant seest he needs of Stan State students every day. Her areas of responsibility include the Warrior Food Pantry, Food Distribution, CalFresh and the Campus Cares Emergency Fund.  She provides direct support to students experiencing distress, hearing their personal stories.  

She currently serves as the co-chair for the California State University’s systemwide Basic Needs meetings. A Turlock native and Stan State alumna, Sturtevant is committed to supporting students and uplifting the region.  

Jeff Rivero

Jeff Rivero

Stan State alumnus Rivero (’91, history) incorporates environmental education into his curriculum at Yosemite High School in Merced. He created an after-school program at the alternative high school, teaching composting, recycling and organic gardening. Produce from the school garden is donated to communities in economic distress that otherwise would not have access to organic vegetables. During the pandemic, Rivero has taken on the responsibility of dispersing produce and delivering food and recently hit a milestone of 25 tons.

He received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education in 2016.  He also served as chairperson for his school’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award and received the California Department of Education’s Green Achiever Award for excellence in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education. As a United Nations Ambassador for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, he is committed to inspiring students, teachers and community members to take action to curb the devastating effects of climate change.