Liz Doane campaigned for a greener campus after being named president of the Class of 2010 last year, and the next thing she knew, she was in China tossing toys to chimpanzees at the Shanghai Zoo.
Well, not exactly, but close.
Liz, a biology major , joined the Doane College Roots & Shoots club at the invitation of Dr. Brad Elder, assistant biology professor at Doane.
The club seeks to involve students in their communities and environmental efforts.
“It’s not necessarily just environmental issues,” Elder said.
Last spring, Elder notified Liz and other Roots & Shoots club members via e-mail about another way to get involved, through a leadership exchange opportunity to China through the Jane Goodall Institute.
Liz remembers thinking, “Wow that would be fun!” “When I read that paragraph telling about it, I saw so many opportunities.”
Her excitement grew after she and members of the Doane Roots & Shoots group got to speak with Jane Goodall before her presentation on the Crete campus last spring.
Liz was impressed by the renowned researcher’s, poise and calm, relaxed manner.
"And all that she’s done is just phenomenal,” Liz said.
Not long after Goodall’s visit, Liz learned that she was one of five U.S. students selected by the Jane Goodall Institute to spend two weeks in China (May 27-June 6) as part of the Roots & Shoots Leadership Exchange. The purpose of exchange -- the first of its kind -- was to learn about China’s Roots & Shoots groups and exchange ideas.
Liz, now a sophomore, worked with Chinese students in Beijing and Shanghai involved in Roots & Shoots to design programs that could be carried out in both countries.
"What I found on my trip is there are many people there (in China) that are trying to make a difference,” Liz said. “I was able to see all these people that cared so much about making China a healthier place to live for people and animals alike.”
While in China Liz helped with different projects in Beijing and Shanghai, including working in an organic garden that a middle school group had planted. She felt right at home when they showed her some corn, along with strawberries, eggplant and flaxseed. “All of the organic food they grow is served to students,” Liz said.
At the Shanghai Zoo she helped stuff paper towel tubes with straw, peanuts and sunflower seeds to serve as enrichment toys for chimpanzees.
At a hospital in Shanghai Liz joined a local Roots & Shoots group that was making necklaces and origami hearts to give to children in the cancer ward. They then delivered the gifts, visited with the children and took pictures.
Liz also helped at a gated U.S. community, where migrant worker’s children were brought in for a special celebration at an international school.
“All around the world, we have one main view, to make the world a better place,” Liz learned. “And we’re all going about it in a different way, but we’re working together.”
She said she felt like she got the “real” China experience, staying in a hostel in Beijing and a hotel in Shanghai -- both in the heart of the city.
“Everything was traditional, original and unique.”
“It was such an amazing opportunity that was given to me,” Liz said.
Now that she’s back at Doane, Liz’s assignment is to put into action a project that she adapted from the Beijing Roots & Shoots group. She’s calling it an Eco-Campus evaluation, and it’s a way for Doane to challenge other campuses to be as green as possible after examining several “green” factors.
As vice president of the Doane Roots & Shoots group this year, Liz continues to help with the campus recycling program. And she has established a Facebook network for Roots & Shoots members to help them stay on top of their various projects.
“Her biggest quality is just her energy,” said Elder. “She changes the tone of the room when she walks in.”
“She’s just that kind of person, really gung-ho, really excited to get it done.”
Liz said she would love to help host a group of Chinese students in New York or Los Angeles this summer to keep the Roots & Shoots exchange going.
“I’ve learned so much, that there’s always something that you can be doing. And all of these groups have their own unique ideas,” Liz said.
“We’re all just taking a little chunk out of these things at a time.”