Professor Maria Anna Rafac Honored for Sustainability Work in the Community

JJC Professor and Advisor Maria Anna Rafac recently received an extraordinary honor for her commitment to promoting and improving sustainability in the local community; she was named the 2016 winner of the Will County Land Use Department’s Amicus Terrae – Friends of the Land Award.

Professor Rafac pictured with cardboard she collected and saved from going into a landfill.

“I am both honored and humbled to be recognized,” said Rafac. “I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to serve as Sustainability Coordinator here at JJC; I know I would not have received this award without the support and encouragement of the college. This is just one more reason JJC is a leader in sustainability throughout the community and among our peers.”

Rafac added that her sustainability accomplishments were not solely her own efforts, but were the result of working together with other like-minded people and organizations.

“I am proud to accept this award on behalf of all the hard-working individuals in the local community who are committed to sustainability,” she said.

The Will County Land Use Department stated that Rafac was chosen because of her exceptional leadership in sustainability.

The department created the Amicus Terrae, or Friends of the Land, award in 2009 to recognize public servants of Will County who go above and beyond to effectively protect the local ecosystems of plants, animals, soils, waterways and mankind.

“Professor Rafac is a true example of good citizenship,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh, whose office oversees the Land Use Department. “Her dedication to protecting our natural resources exemplifies the purpose of this award.”

In addition to her duties as a fulltime professor and advisor at JJC, Rafac serves as the first sustainability coordinator for the institution since 2010. She has also served on the college’s Sustainability Initiates committee since its inception in 2008, including co-chairing for a few years. Some of her other sustainability projects include:

  • Leading the PepsiCo Recycling initiative, a nationwide competition which the college won second place and third place in consecutive years earning a total of $18,000
  • Co-creating and teaching a Sustainability in Construction course for several years and now teaching JJC’s first transferable Introduction to Sustainability class in fall 2016.
  • Co-founding and conducting the Grand Prairie Sustainability Leadership Project, which helps faculty across the college “green” their curriculum and bring sustainably into their classrooms.
  • Helping lead and working on the submission for the college’s first ever rating by the prestigious AASHE STARS organization
  • Piloting the college’s pen and marker recycling program, which spared more than 250 pounds of the writing instruments from landfills and earned the college rewards points from Terracycle that were donated to help water, carbon reduction, tree planting, and sustainable education initiatives across the county and around the globe.
  • Organizing and hosting events such as Celebrating Sustainability and the record breaking Recyclepalooza at JJC, for the community.
  • And many more

“Maria is the epitome of sustainability at Joliet Junior College,” said Dr. Jeff Bradford, chair of the technical department and colleague of Rafac. “During her 20 years at the college, she has taken her passion from the personal to the professional.  She had donated dozens of hours towards environmental initiatives at the college and was instrumental in the college adopting sustainability as a core value.  I know of no one more deserving of this recognition.  I hope this is just the beginning of the accolades.”

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