We’re introducing a new series in which we peer a bit deeper into the lives of UF employees to find out their motivations, aspirations and passions. In other words, we ask the questions that reveal what makes our faculty and staff tick.
Dr. Michael Reed, Ph.D., Professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics Program, has been at UF since 1987. Dr. Reed, who likes to “read a lot, garden a lot and engage in sports such as tennis, biking and disc golf,” recently retired from UF, but his fingerprint remains as the founder of the Findlay Green Campus Initiative. Supporting a sustainable lifestyle is something Dr. Reed remains very clearly passionate about.
So, how did you get here?
I grew up in a middle-class family near Baltimore, Maryland. After college, I served for one and a half years in the Peace Corps in Venezuela. This set the direction for my professional career as my fluency in Spanish and interest in different cultures eventually led to studies in bilingual education and English and Spanish linguistics.
How would you hope that someone might describe you?
Honest, engaged and straight-forward.
Okay, so in an honest, engaging and straightforward way, tell us what you wish other people knew about the Findlay Green Campus Initiative?
I wish that people understood that the sustainability issues we promote, such as energy efficiency and conservation, and partially supplying energy to UF through sustainable energy sources is in the long term economic well-being of the school. These are not just fad issues.
Some people, though, might think it’s a hassle or too much work to regularly recycle. What would you say to them?
Once you start thinking sustainably, it becomes a way of life that is not a hassle, but brings huge benefits to you and the environment.
What kinds of benefits?
Well, for instance, my wife Colleen and I wouldn’t consider buying a car with less than 33 MPG, so as gas prices rise we save even more money. I have three heavy-duty shopping bags, so I bring everything from the grocery store home in three bags instead of ten plastic bags which have to be thrown away. We had our house energy evaluated and insulated which cost a bit up front but pays off every year.
Someone or something important must have influenced you to think in this way, right?
Two things influenced my decision to start this organization. One was a trip to my alma mater, Allegheny College, during which I attended a presentation on how they were ensuring that each new building constructed was powered by geothermal energy. They also had other sustainability efforts under way. When I returned to UF, I noticed that there was no dialogue and no organization on campus even beginning to discuss such issues. That prompted me to call Dr. Dwight Moody, a retired professor of biology, who agreed to co-sponsor a group, eventually known as FGCI.
So, thankfully, you and others have changed the thought process at UF regarding sustainable living. Tell us a bit about how UF has changed over the years in other ways.
The two biggest changes are the size of the faculty and the size of the physical plant. When I came in 1987, I knew almost everyone on the faculty, but today, you might never come to know a faculty member in another department unless you serve on the same committee. The growth of the physical plant means a positive increase in exercise opportunities for faculty, staff and students.
It’s clear that you’re impassioned about sustainability, but what might someone be surprised to know about you?
I have worked all my adult life to be a less temperamental and more pleasant competitor in sports activities.
If you could’ve chosen another career or path in life what would you have done, or what would your life be like?
Maybe urban planning or sustainability studies.