Laura Leben is a senior at Drake University studying Environmental Science with a minor in Sociology. She has used her talents to become a strong student leader in environmental justice with a social justice flair. Since her first day on campus she has been active in creating and implementing environmental initiatives on Drake’s campus such as an extensive composting program and a ban on plastic bags in the convenience store. Most notably, Laura has founded a food recovery program to rescue all surplus food from campus dining and catering and deliver it to local homeless shelters and community partners. Laura’s relentless drive and dedication to the interrelated issues of social justice, environmental integrity, and food captures the attention of her peers and inspires those around her to join in. She has particular talent for seeing areas of potential growth and progress in her community and tapping into them by connecting existing agencies and individuals and opening spaces for civil discussion. Her hardworking lead-by-example style has already left a legacy at Drake among future student leaders and she plans to continue actively engaging the communities she finds herself in throughout her life.
My first experience with civic work was as a Girl Scout, volunteering to collect native prairie seed with a conservation group in the Chicago suburbs. The peace and community found in these environments piqued my interest and only grew as I matured and gained experience. I have since immersed myself into the issues of social and environmental justice with my academic and professional work and accompanying research. Notably, I am conducting independent research on the effects of wetland restoration for Odonate populations within an urban environment, which has strong underlying implications for creating a sustainable environment for the benefit of society. In my time at Drake, my drive has manifested in several environmental initiatives including a food recovery program, Next Course, set up to tackle the duel issues of food waste and food insecurity. With my work in community involvement, service learning, and various student organizations on campus, I have quickly emerged as a leader among my peers. The impact of my entrepreneurship can be traced by numbers and figures, but I believe the real measure is the precedent I have set to continually question, improve and engage with the society we live in for the betterment of all.