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Faculty-Staff Giving Campaign: Changing the environment changed her life

Posted by on Thursday, June 17, 2010 in News.

[originally appeared on myVU]

by Missy Pankake

Leslie LaBruto models an eco-friendly dress as part of the Eco Fashion Show in fall 2009. Photo courtesy of SustainVU.

It’s not often that a writing assignment from your freshman year can have a lasting impact on your life, but that is exactly what happened to rising Vanderbilt senior Leslie LaBruto.

A civil and environmental engineering major, LaBruto was asked to pen a rebuttal article for The Hustler to a scathing story in The Torch about the LEED-certified buildings (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) at The Commons.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about sustainable building, so I did it,” said LaBruto.

Her work on the article led to her joining the student organization SPEAR (Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility) as a freshman. Each meeting focused on a new topic.

“As an engineering student, a lot of it is equations and formulas,” said LaBruto. “With SPEAR, I had the opportunity to learn more about what the equations are actually doing.”

While LaBruto has been part of SPEAR, most recently finishing a year as president, the organization has had a big impact on Vanderbilt and the environment, including advocating for recycling containers in all buildings and getting hydration stations established to refill reusable water bottles.

LaBruto also credits SPEAR with helping her reach a personal decision to become a vegetarian.

“It takes 1,860 gallons of water to produce one pound of ground beef,” says LaBruto. “To me, the numbers were staggering.”

SPEAR has also changed the career path LaBruto might have followed. After completing a “typical” engineering internship the summer after her freshman year that involved sitting at a desk all day, she can’t wait for her internship this summer. She’ll be working with the Sustainability Institute in South Africa on a study she proposed.

“I’ll be studying how to get renewable energy in monsoon countries by installing turbines in rain water pipes,” says LaBruto. “I want to help find local solutions to renewable energy.”

Your gift to the Faculty-Staff Giving Campaign can be designated for special programs like SPEAR that help students and help the environment.

Giving to the Faculty-Staff Campaign, “With Every Gift, Another Life is Touched,” is easy and convenient.

Donations may be made through payroll deduction, credit card or cash/check. If the program you wish to support is not listed on the “Choose Area” portion of the form, select “Other” and write it in the name of the program in the Special Comments sections.

For questions or more information, contact (615) 343-8759 and or e-mail

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